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Information für die Wissenschaft Nr. 20 | 10. Mai 2012
“Nachwuchsakademie OFFSPRing” offers Scientific Perspectives in Reproduction

The “Nachwuchsakademie OFFSPRing – OFFering Scientific Perspectives in Reproduction” is a DFG-funded programme that supports selected young researchers in the compilation of their first full DFG proposal. The idea of the programme, coordinated and designed by a number of group leaders of DFG-funded Research Units and the Priority Programme, is based on the fruitful cooperation of their research groups in reproductive science in local and nationwide networks. Many young scientists are attracted to enter these programmes as they will be trained to perform cutting edge research in reproduction sciences. The Nachwuchsakademie aims to enable young researchers a mid- to long term perspective in reproduction science and to generate their own academic identity as well as to strengthen the field in reproductive science and to create a sustainable scientific environment. Up to twelve participants will selected for OFFSPRing.

Outline of OFFSPRing

OFFSPRing is a two-year programme in which the coordinator, Professor Stefan Schlatt, Centre of Reproductive Medicine and Andrology, University of Münster, and the supporting partners will form the core group of mentors. They will act as referees for the selection of candidates and as scientific advisors at the planned meetings. Based on their expertise each partner will also act as a mentor for one or two OFFSPRing participants during the entire funding period. In addition, each OFFSPRing participant will have a second mentor, which will be selected in consideration of the specific scientific background of the project. These additional mentors will be outstanding national or international specialists with expertise for the proposed project. Thus, each OFFSPRing participant will have at least two specific mentors, giving support and advice during the meetings as well as for compilation and execution of the scientific projects. This concept will provide valuable contacts and generate a network among mentors and participants considered to be crucial for the future research career of the participants.

Application criteria and process

Young scientists and clinicians who are at an early postdoc level (up to six years after their doctorate), can apply for the participation in the OFFSPRing programme by providing a full CV, list of publications and a short two to three pages draft of their pilot project by e-mail. The target group consists of young scientists/clinicians who have compiled their doctorate degrees in the field of reproductive sciences, ideally in the areas of physiology, cell biology, endocrinology or embryology. The participant should have experience in research laboratories and be familiar with common laboratory procedures and methods. Ideally participants should have performed independent experimental research projects focussing on in vitro or in vivo model systems using animals or humans.

The decision for participation in OFFSPRing will be based on the applicants’ CV as well as the quality and potential of the submitted research proposal. Selection criteria will strictly rely on the scientific standing of the candidates. Excluded are candidates who already have obtained individual DFG grants. DFG funded fellowships are no exclusion criteria. Deadline for applications is 15 June 2012. Successful applicants will be informed in July 2012.

Timeline and content of OFFSPRing

The workshop for OFFSPRing participants and academy on basic and clinical principles in reproduction in Münster (10–14 September 2012) will be the centrepiece of the OFFSPRing activities in the first year. The five-day scientific meeting includes a 2.5-day academy providing all participants with an update on current reproductive research. Participation in this programme will generate a high and shared cutting edge of knowledge among all participants. The academy is then immediately followed by a 2.5-day workshop to provide the participants in collaboration with their mentors’ intense opportunities to rehearse the (pilot) project, perform a scientific evaluation and compile an innovative and competitive grant application. Within this five-day meeting essential tools such as funding possibilities by the DFG and structural requirements of grant applications will also be provided.

Much time will be given on intensive exchange of participants and those experts familiar with the specific scientific topics proposed by the participants. The national and international experts will perform a detailed SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis of each research proposal to judge the quality of the application in an objective fashion. Depending on the outcome of the SWOT analysis, the application will be eventually modified and the experiments necessary for a full application will be designed.

Participants of OFFSPRing can apply for their own position (postdoctoral level) and consumables for up to a total of €50,000 for up to one year when the project is considered a pilot project. Pilot project applications will be evaluated in accordance with the rules of the DFG for research grants (Sachbeihilfen). Scientific projects that are fully developed and are considered already to be suitable for a full DFG grant application will also be supported in case the applicant and mentors consider that no additional experimental work is required.

The pilot project review process by the DFG and experimental work will take place from January to October 2013. It is expected that the reviewing process at the DFG will need three to six months, which should be followed by a phase of up to six months of experimental work by the successful applicants of the pilot projects. The application phase and the experimental phase will be crucial to the long term success of the OFFSPRing programme. Thus, it is mandatory that the OFFSPRing participant will receive support in terms of experimental design and interpretation of results by their corresponding mentors through e.g. continuous Skype conferences to ensure close interactions in this phase of the application.

The second meeting will take place at Castle Arnsburg in November 2013, after the project was reviewed and granted and a reasonable time of three to six months of practical work has passed. The primary goal of this three-day meeting is to present and evaluate the outcome of the pilot projects. It should be evaluated whether the research outcome provides the foundation for follow-up DFG grant applications.

At the termination of this meeting participants will have been provided with valuable support as well as the necessary networks and instruments to compile an excellent DFG grant application. Those participants receiving funding through the Nachwuchsakademie OFFSPRing will have significantly improved their perspectives and will have managed to overcome the first and significant hurdle of a scientific career, which is to obtain initial independent DFG grant support. It will also have provided them with contacts to highly competitive researchers in their field and therefore they will be connected to an active network of excellence in reproductive sciences. In this phase of the programme the OFFSPRing members will apply for a full application. The fate and success of these applications will be followed and critically evaluated after the OFFSPRing programme is terminated.

Further information

For further information on the OFFSPRing programme please refer to the website:

Detailed information can also be obtained from the coordinator of OFFSPRing:

  • Prof. Dr. Stefan Schlatt,
    Centre of Reproductive Medicine and Andrology,
    University of Münster,
    Albert-Schweitzer-Campus 1, D11,
    48129 Münster, Germany,
    Phone: +49 251 83-56099,
    Fax: +49 251 83-54800,
    Stefan.Schlatt@ukmuenster.de

The “Nachwuchsakademie OFFSPRing – OFFering Scientific Perspectives in Reproduction” will be coordinated by

  • Prof. Dr. Stefan Schlatt,
    Centre of Reproductive Medicine and Andrology,
    University of Münster

    together with

  • Prof. Dr. Martin Bergmann,
    University of Gießen,

  • Prof. Dr. Jörg Gromoll,
    University of Münster,

  • Prof. Dr. Rolf Jessberger,
    Technical University of Dresden,

  • Prof. Dr. Klaus Steger,
    University of Gießen,

  • Prof. Dr. Thomas Strowitzki,
    University of Heidelberg and

  • Prof. Dr. Peter Wieacker,
    University of Münster.

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