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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) - OWSD Early Career Fellowship

Below you can find a list of answers to the most commonly asked questions about the OWSD Early Career Fellowship.

Should you have any doubts regarding the application process, the eligibility criteria, or need any further clarification, please refer to the FAQs before contacting the OWSD Secretariat. Due to a high volume of queries received, we cannot always guarantee a prompt response.

If your questions have not been answered, please contact us at

Q: What is the profile of an ideal candidate for the OWSD Early Career Fellowship?

A: The ideal candidate is a woman scientist at the beginning of her scientific career who wants to build up and develop a research team at her home institution (i.e. the institution where she is employed) with the long-term goal of creating a centre of innovation and specialist research recognized at national, regional and international levels, which can eventually attract internationally recognized researchers. She should also demonstrate commitment to capacity building and leadership, by emphasizing her supervisory roles and mentorship, as well the as show the ability and willingness to become a role model for the next generation of women leaders in STEM. She should also demonstrate a willingness and capacity to link with industry, the private sector or other partners in order to foster the long-term sustainability of the project.


Q: How are applications evaluated?

A: The applications are evaluated based on two main aspects: the quality of the research proposal and the applicant’s profile.

The following criteria will be taken into consideration while evaluating the research proposal: how original, relevant and feasible the proposal is; the potential of the proposal to strengthen links and collaboration opportunities between researchers, industry and other sectors; its direct impact on the local communities, with an emphasis on its inclusiveness; its ability to secure funds and partners once the fellowship has ended.

The applicant’s profile will be evaluated based on: scientific excellence based on evidence of her scientific activities; leadership skills; outreach skills based on evidence of engagement in community activities.

A more comprehensive and detailed list of the evaluation criteria can be found here.


Q: You state that in order to be eligible, an applicant must have a ‘PhD awarded not more than 10 years prior to application.’  I defended my PhD thesis and got the PhD certificate in 2009. Am I eligible for the 2019 call for applications?

A:  If you defended your PhD thesis and obtained your PhD certificate in 2009, i.e. within the 10-year maximum limit for the application (independently of the month), you are still eligible to apply in 2019, but you will not be next year (2020). Regrettably, no exceptions can be made to the 10-year requirement.


Q: There is a list of 61 eligible countries. Why is my country not included?

A: The list has been agreed on by the TWAS-OWSD Coordinating Committee and is non-negotiable. The OWSD Early Career Fellowship is open to applicants residing in one of the 47 Least Developed Countries identified by the United Nations, plus 14 countries selected because of their low income levels and specific needs for support in building research capacity.

Please note that some countries that used to be included for OWSD PhD Fellowship support (e.g. Botswana, Gabon, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa) are no longer considered 'science and technology-lagging'. Applicants employed at a university or research institute in any of these countries are not eligible for this grant.

In addition, in 2019, Eritrea, South Sudan, Yemen and Zimbabwe (despite being qualified as Technology and Science Lagging Countries and eligible for the OWSD PhD Fellowship programme) are not listed as eligible countries due to Canada’s financial prohibition provisions applied to them. Regrettably, exceptions cannot be made.


Q: Why are Canada’s sanctions applied to some Least Developed Countries which could be eligible for the OWSD Early Career fellowship programme?

A: Canada’s sanctions apply because funds for the OWSD Early Career Fellowship Programme are generously provided by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), a Crown Corporation of the Government of Canada.


Q: Do I have to be a resident in one of the eligible countries?

A: Yes, in order to apply for the OWSD Early Career Fellowship, you must have been a resident in one of the eligible countries for at least 5 years. This residency requirement does not have to be consecutive.


Q: I fulfil the 5-year residence requirement in one of the eligible countries, but I am currently living in another non-eligible country. Can I still apply?

A: It depends. If you plan to undertake the proposed research project in an eligible country and have proof of employment there (i.e. commitment to stay and contribute to capacity building of the institution you will be based at), you can apply.

However, if you fulfil the 5-year residence requirement but cannot demonstrate your intention and commitment to return and stay in an eligible country, you would not be considered for the fellowship.


Q: I am a citizen of one of the eligible countries, is this enough to apply?

A: No, you must fulfil the 5-year residency requirement in one of the eligible countries. This residency requirement does not have to be consecutive. Therefore, applicants can be citizens of any country, provided that the residence requirement is fulfilled.


Q: If I am a citizen of a non-eligible country but residing and working in an eligible country, can I apply?

A: Yes, you can apply (provided that all the additional requirements are fulfilled).


Q: I do not have an official certificate of residency proving that I have been resident in one of the eligible countries for at least 5 years. Can I still apply?

A: If you cannot submit an official certificate of residency, the following documents can be submitted as proof of residence as long as the address and your name appear clearly: statement from the local police office or municipality, population registry office, rental agreement, utilities bills, employment contract. This list is not exhaustive and alternative documents can be considered. Please note that certificates must be provided in English, or a translation into English attached. 


Q: I have a PhD in one of the eligible STEM study fields, but the awarding institution is not from one of the eligible countries. Can I still apply?

A: Yes, you can still apply as the awarding institution does not have to be in one of the eligible countries. The eligible countries refer to residency and the institution where the research project will be carried out.


Q: Are there any age limits?

A: No, there is no age limit to apply for the fellowship but there is a time limit, i.e. the PhD was awarded not more than 10 years prior to application. However, please refer to the question on the ideal profile of the applicant to understand the target for the Early Career Fellowship programme.  


Q: Can a university/research institute/entity apply for the OWSD Early Career Fellowship?

A: No, entities cannot apply for the OWSD Early Career Fellowship programme. The programme has been created for early career women scientists (individuals) who have completed their PhDs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects and are employed at an academic or scientific research institute in one of the eligible Science and Technology Lagging Countries (STLCs). Early Career fellows will be supported to continue their research at an international level while based at their home institutes and to build up research groups that will attract international visitors. However, the individual needs to demonstrate that she has the necessary support of her department and/or research institute (and there is a form that must be signed by the institute to this effect).  


Q: I am already the recipient of a grant / I have applied for a grant to fund my research project. Can I apply for the OWSD Early Career Fellowship as well?

A: If you are funding your research project from other sources or you have applied for additional funds, you can still apply for the OWSD Early Career Fellowship (the only exception to this are funds received from TWAS). In general, funding from other sources is seen as a positive demonstration of concept and feasibility as long as resources requested expand and supplement activities and resources rather than duplicate them. Therefore, in your research proposal, you would need to explain/demonstrate how the OWSD Early Career funds will expand and supplement your research activities.


Q: I have received an employment offer from the institution, but I have not signed the contract yet / the employment starts after the application deadline has passed. Am I still eligible?

A: Yes, if you can provide a letter confirming your appointment and position at the institution, as well as the start date, and specifying that you will receive a salary for at least two years starting from the year of application.


Q: I have submitted my PhD thesis and now I am waiting for my viva exam. Can I apply?

A: No, if you do not have a PhD certificate or an official document confirming that you have been awarded a PhD degree, you cannot apply.


Q: I have defended my PhD thesis and I have received an official document confirming that I have been awarded a PhD degree, but I am still waiting for my PhD certificate. Can I apply?

A: Yes, you can apply: in the online application form, you will be asked to upload “your PhD certificate or proof of PhD issued by the university/awarding institute”.


Q: I have been awarded a TWAS fellowship / grant. Can I apply for the OWSD Early Career Fellowship as well?

A: No, grants from TWAS/OWSD cannot be held simultaneously. You can apply for an OWSD Early Career Fellowship only once your contract with TWAS has expired. So, if you are receiving funds from TWAS at the time of the application, regrettably you will not be deemed eligible. As stated in the call for applications: “Please note that an applicant, at the time of application, must NOT have an active research grant or fellowship with The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) or have already submitted an application for a TWAS programme within the same given year. Only one application per year is possible across all TWAS and OWSD programmes.


Q: Can I apply for the OWSD-Elsevier Foundation awards and the OWSD Early Career Fellowship in the same year?

A: Please note that there are no applications for the OWSD-EF awards - you must be nominated. However, it is possible to receive a nomination for the OWSD-EF awards AND apply for the Early Career Fellowship.


Q: I am only looking for funds to cover costs for publishing/attending conferences/ exchange visits, etc. Can I apply?

A: The OWSD Early Career Fellowship is conceived of as support to a research project. Therefore, only activities that are submitted as elements within the framework of the research project can be accepted.


Q: I see that the call for the 2019 applications closes on 2 May 2019. At what time exactly does the call close? What about different time zones?

A: The 2019 call for applications will close on 2 May 2019 at midnight GMT+1.


Q: The supporting documents that I need to submit are not in English. Can I apply anyway?

A: The supporting documents should be in English given that the official application language is English and therefore all application content generated must be in English. If you are submitting any supporting documents (such as residency certificate, degree certificate, etc.) in your (local) language, you must attach at least an informal translation into English and upload it along with the scanned original in the online application form. Documents without any English translation will not be considered.


Q: I have an MD (Doctor of Medicine) degree in Medical and Health Sciences field. Can I apply?

A:  It depends. As per our call for applications, the applicant must have a PhD or equivalent (Doctor of Science) in one of the eligible STEM fields in order to apply. This reasoning is based on the assumption that PhDs advance knowledge, whereas MDs primarily apply existing knowledge. However, if you have an MD and can demonstrate that your research project will advance scientific knowledge in a given field (address new and innovative research questions), you are invited to apply. It will be up to the Selection Committee to judge if your application is in line with the programme guidelines and therefore eligible for the fellowship funding.


Q: I have an employment offer at a university/research institute, but with no confirmed salary. Am I eligible?

A: You must provide evidence that you will receive a salary from your university/research institute for the duration of the two-year fellowship, or provide proof and explanation of how you are planning to support yourself through other sources for the duration of the fellowship.

Please note that the salary requirement is based on the following:

  • The fellow should not depend on the fellowship to cover basic living costs;
  • The fellow should demonstrate that their university/research institute is committed to retaining them beyond the fellowship duration and is invested in the long-term 'capacity-building' of the institution and its staff.

According to the call for applications, in order to be eligible, you must be already employed at the university or research institute where your research project will be carried out (if employment has not been undertaken yet, a proof of employment offer and confirmation of acceptance can be submitted).


Q: To whom should the reference letters be addressed?

A: The two letters should be addressed to “The Organization for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD)” with the subject “OWSD Early Career Fellowship programme”.


Q: I do not have the required reference letters yet. In order to submit my application on time, can my referees send these letters separately and directly to OWSD?

A: No, ALL required documents must be uploaded within the online application. You must collect the reference letters and upload them directly to the online platform before submitting the application. No documents should be emailed to OWSD and will not be considered. Please ensure you have checked the list of all mandatory documents to upload (these include your PhD certificate/proof of PhD, CV, list of publications, proof of employment, proof of residence, reference letters, and the supporting statement of head of applicant’s institution). 


Q: I am facing some difficulties in obtaining the dean’s/vice-dean’s/head of institution’s signature on the supporting statement. Can the head of department sign it instead?

A: Yes, but the head of institution’s signature is required if at all possible, since, if granted the award, the head of institution would need to sign the Memorandum of Understanding with OWSD/UNESCO, not the head of department. Therefore, this would be a good opportunity for you to secure the head of institution’s support already at the application stage. Also, the reviewers of applications will look favourably on applications which have the highest level of endorsement.


Q: The head of institution has some reservations about some of the content in the Supporting Statement. Can I change/delete it?

A: No, the head of institution’s Supporting Statement cannot be amended – it must be used and signed as it is.



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