Report Open Access
Seus, Sarah; Heckl, Eva; Bührer, Susanne
In October 2014, the Fraunhofer ISI and KMU Forschung Austria were commissioned by the FWF to evaluate the START Programme and the Wittgenstein Award, both created in 1996 and managed by the FWF. The evaluation used a mixed-method approach with quantitative and qualitative data and analytical methods. The core methods used were a bibliometric analysis of research outputs of the START grantees in comparison to a control group; online surveys of the START grantees, the control group and unsuccessful applicants; interviews and case studies; a literature research and analysis of monitoring data. A validation workshop complemented the approach.
The START programme and the Wittgenstein Award both show unique features within the Austrian funding landscape: The START Programme is the only programme in Austria which provides a kind of "starter kit" for a research career. And the Wittgenstein Award is the only FWF programme which follows the principle "fund people, not projects".
The START Programme has a considerable positive effect on the scientific performance of START grantees who perform better than the control group across all of the bibliometric indicators that were taken into consideration. There is also evidence that the START Programme enables new and unconventional research fields to be tested. Additionally, the START Programme contributes strongly to the career development of START grantees. All START grantees stay in the research system, the majority in an Austrian institution. A START project group is also an effective instrument to enhance the qualifications of young researchers.
The Wittgenstein Award has undoubtedly facilitated the pursuit of unconventional and creative research streams and high risk projects, an increase in the scientific
performance and enhanced visibility of Austrian research and researchers. The
research freedom has been used to develop new methods, conduct interdisciplinary research and focus on new research questions. The exploration of new avenues of research is evidenced by the many successful applications for further funding and the publication analysis. These kinds of projects would not have been funded by other programmes. The Wittgenstein groups have been able to expand and maintain their leading role in cutting-edge research and represent a favourable and stimulating environment for young researchers. Both programmes are very well managed with reasonable administrative requirements.
Based on the numerous positive impacts on the Austrian research system, there are no reservations in recommending a continuation of both the START Programme and the Wittgenstein Award.