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Comments of the FWF on the Evaluation of the START Programme and Wittgenstein Award

Austrian Science Fund (FWF)

Contact person(s)
Zinöcker, Klaus

The START Programme and Wittgenstein Award were added to the FWF's funding portfolio in 1996. The START Programme is designed to enable highly promising young researchers from all disciplines to plan their research on a long-term basis and with sufficient financial security. By assuming responsibility for the establishment/expansion and management of a research group, the programme allows principal investigators to gain the qualifications necessary for leading positions in the science and research system. The Wittgenstein Award aims to ensure that top-notch researchers who have reached outstanding achievements in all disciplines are provided with a maximum of freedom and flexibility in carrying out their research work. The award therefore aims to enable an extraordinary increase in the recipients' research output.
Between 1996 and 2014, a total of 114 START projects with an overall funding volume of EUR 132.6 million were awarded. 16% of the projects were awarded to women. The approval rate in the START Programme is approximately 13% (based on 2002–2014 results), and the amount of grants awarded is up to EUR 1.2 million per project.
Between 1996 and 2014, the Wittgenstein Award was conferred upon 30 researchers (including 4 women), who received EUR 42.4 million in overall funding. During that period, a total of 278 researchers were nominated for the prize. The award carries an endowment of up to EUR 1.5 million. In anticipation of the 20th anniversary of these two programmes, the FWF commissioned a team from the Fraunhofer ISI (Karlsruhe, Germany) and the Austrian Institute for SME Research (Vienna, Austria) to conduct an evaluation of the START Programme and the Wittgenstein Award. The evaluation project was led by Susanne Bührer. The goal of the evaluation was to assess the effects of these programmes and to lay the groundwork for a decision on how to run them in the future.
The evaluation was based on a mixed-methods approach consisting of bibliometric analysis with a control group comparison,1 online surveys of various target groups, expert interviews, case studies, an analysis of programme and monitoring data, and a validation workshop with key stakeholders.
The evaluation team's assessment of the two programmes is highly positive, and the evaluators recommend that the two programmes be continued in their current forms:

  •  "A continuation of the START Programme in its present form is recommended without any reservations."
  • "The Wittgenstein Award seems tailor-made to its target group and has an added value to the scientific system in Austria.”

Evaluation of the START Programme and the Wittgenstein Award. Sarah Seus, Eva Heckl, Susanne Bührer; with the participation of Niclas Meyer, Sonia Conchi, Tobias Burst, Christina Schmedes and Barbara Sinnemann. Karlsruhe, 2016. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.50610 is supplemented by this upload.

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