The Estonian Science Foundation (ETF) is an expert research-funding organisation. Its main goal is to support the most promising research initiatives in all fields of basic and applied research.
The objectives of the ETF are:
to foster the development of basic and applied research in the main areas of scientific strength and in fields of special importance for the Estonian economy and society
to support the most qualified and successful researchers and research groups
to involve post-graduate and doctoral students in active research
to facilitate international cooperation and mobility of researchers
THE FUNDING OF HIGH-LEVEL RESEARCH The ETF allocates more than 130 million EEK (more than 8,3 million euros) to high-level research annually. This represents about one-fifth of the total of the Estonian government’s research funding. Every year over 2000 professional researchers, as well as post-graduate and doctoral students at universities and research institutions, work on more than 650 ETF-funded projects.
The ETF uses state budget appropriations to award research grants on a competitive basis to individuals and to research groups. The funding decisions are based on careful scientific evaluation of the applicant and of the research project.
Once a year, the ETF announces a call for research project proposals by Estonian researchers or by foreign researchers working permanently in Estonia. The duration of a project may be up to four years. Every proposal is reviewed by at least two Estonian and/or foreign referees. Expert commissions and panels rank the projects, based on the referees’ reports. The final decisions on funding are made by the ETF Council.
The 2008 ETF research grant budget was 130 million EEK (about 8,3 million euros). 321 new project proposals were submitted to the ETF, and 101 of these received funding. In addition, there were 440 continuing projects that received funding.
SUPPORT FOR YOUNG RESEARCHERS To ensure that science in Estonia retains a continuously high quality, it is important to have well-qualified young researchers. Involving students in active research and supporting promising young scholars have always been among ETF’s main objects.
Involving postgraduate and doctoral students in active research The involvement of postgraduate and doctoral students in research projects has always played an important role in ETF funding decisions. ETF research grants can be used to cover a part of the costs necessary for training successful students and for paying scholarships to them, thereby fostering the participation of students in research groups led by experienced scholars. Since 1999, the participation of students in ETF-funded projects has been growing steadily, as has the number of successfully defended Master’s and PhD theses.
Postdoctoral research grants In 2005 ETF became responsible for the task of funding postdoctoral research. ETF was allotted 5.75 million EEK (approximately 370 thousand euros) to that end and 24 postdoctoral grants were awarded.
Awarding most promising young scholars My First Grant is a call for project proposals by young researchers up to 35 years of age, from all fields of scholarship, who have not been supported by the ETF previously. The aim of this scheme is to support good projects by young scholars who would find it hard to compete with renowned scientists, and thus help them to start their academic career. The scheme was first launched in 2002, and in 2005 23 young scholars received their “first grant”. In 2008 11 new projects received funding.
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION The Estonian Science Foundation represents the Estonian research community at the international level, including cooperation with European organisations and in bilateral agreements. The ETF has signed cooperation agreements with the Academy of Finland, the Russian Foundation for Basic Research and the Lithuanian State Foundation for Science and Studies. According to a bilateral agreement, ETF is a partner organisation of the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science and acts as its representative in Estonia. ETF has also been involved in a travel grant scheme supported by the Embassy of the United States, aiming to facilitate cooperation between Estonian and American researchers. In addition, ETF has established close cooperation with many other research councils and foundations across the world.
The Estonian Science Foundation is a member of the European Science Foundation (ESF). ESF membership has improved the international cooperation of Estonian scientists via participation in networks and programmes. In 2005, Estonian researchers were participant in seven ESF scientific programmes in different fields of research. ETF has also joined several EUROCORES initiatives. Since 2004, ETF is a member of the EUROHORCs.
The ETF is actively involved in the ERA-NET scheme of the EU’s framework programme for research. In 2005, ETF participates in seven ERA-NET projects.
The ETF represents Estonia in the PARROT programme, which is a bilateral research and technology programme between France and Estonia. The aim of PARROT is to foster cooperation between Estonian and French researchers by supporting mobility. For that purpose, travel grants are awarded to collaborative research projects on a competitive basis.
ORGANISATION The highest decision-making body of ETF is its seven-member Council. The Council includes four eminent scholars elected by the previous Council for a term of three years. The scholarly members of the Council act as the heads of expert commissions dealing with physical sciences and engineering; health; environment and biosciences; culture and society respectively. The other members of the Council represent the Ministry of Education and Research, the universities, the Estonian Academy of Sciences and the Union of Scientists. The members of the Council elect a chair from amongst the heads of the expert commissions for a term of 3 years. The Chair is empowered to represent the ETF concerning any issue and at any level.
The ETF Council appoints four expert commissions, covering different areas of scholarship. A Chair – an ETF Council member – heads each commission.
The ETF’s everyday activities are managed by a 2-member Board, which organises the work of the ETF office and which is responsible for implementing the decisions of the Council.