The Turkish government is heavily investing in its science and research, partnering with international groups to create funding opportunities for scientists.
Contributor Diana Cai
The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) is on a mission to recruit talented scientists around the world and reverse the “brain drain,” or the emigration of well-educated people to other countries. Since the mid-1960s, after Turkey experienced its first military coup d’état in 1960, talented researchers have fled the country in search for more security and better opportunities. Over the past decade, the Turkish government has become vigilant of the trend, increasing research funds to help address the problem.
According to a press release issued by the Turkish Statistical Institute in November 2014, research and development expenditures grew from 0.48% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2003 to 0.95% in 2013. In 2013, the GDP of Turkey was $822.1 billion, with an average annual inflation-adjusted growth rate of 4.9% from 2003-2013. As a result, Turkey hopes to position itself as an attractive option for both Turkish nationals and foreign citizens wishing to conduct cutting-edge research.
At the 2015 Naturejobs Career Expo in Boston, TURBITAK representatives Asli Vural and Tuğba Arslan Kantarcioğlu, presented funding opportunities available for researchers interested in carrying out their work in Turkey. These include bilateral grants between the US and Turkey, national grants from TUBITAK as well as ~€80 billion (~US$87.5 billion) from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme. These opportunities are described below:
European Research Council (ERC)
The ERC, part of the Horizon 2020 programme, aims to fund groundbreaking research and awards grants to research teams led by a Principle Investigator (PI). Whereas the PI can be from anywhere in the world, the research must be conducted at a host institution in the European Union (EU) or associated countries like Turkey.
The ERC funds three types of grants: the starting grant, consolidator grant, and advanced grant. The starting grant funds PIs who are two to seven years out of their PhD and provides up to €2 million (~US$2.2 million) over five years. The consolidator grant funds PIs who are seven to twelve years out of their PhD program and provides up to €2.75 million (~US$3 million) over five years. The advanced grant funds PIs who are more advanced in their careers and provides up to €3.5 million (~US$3.8 million) over five years.
Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA)
The MSCA, also part of the Horizon 2020 programme, aims to encourage international and interdisciplinary research. MSCA offers Individual Fellowships (IFs), which are open to researchers with either a PhD or at least four years of full-time research experience. They provide €4,650 (~US$5,000) of living allowance per month over the course of two years, as well as relocation support and additional support for individuals with families.
Turkey-US Bilateral Cooperation Programs
For researchers in the US and Turkey who wish to collaborate with one another, TUBITAK has partnered with the National Science Foundation and the National Cancer Institute to fund collaborative projects. The maximum research budget for proposed projects is 360,000 TL (~US$137,000). TUBITAK has also partnered with the National Institutes of Health to set up workshops on biomedical research as well as with the Department of Defense to provide researchers in the US and Turkey with the opportunity to have exchange visits.
Additional funding opportunities in Turkey
TUBITAK provides further funding opportunities for individuals wishing to conduct research in Turkey. The Research Fellowship Programme for Foreign Citizens, for instance, provides one year of support for foreign PhD students and researchers. The Re-integration Research Fellowship Programme offers two-year funding for Turkish researchers outside Turkey wishing to permanently return to Turkey. Highly experienced individuals wishing to spend 20-24 months as a researcher in Turkey may be interested in the Co-Funded Brain Circulation Scheme. This grant aims to bring experts across different fields to Turkey to foster an environment that embraces exchange of ideas and reverses the brain drain.
More information can be found by emailing the TUBITAK office.
According to Kantarcioğlu, with the large number of funding opportunities available, Turkey hopes to “increase the number of high quality researchers” and encourage “brain circulation,” meaning dialogue and collaboration, between researchers in Turkey and abroad.