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Postdoctoral Fellowships

2019 Awardees Meeting Toronto - poster session


The HFSP fellowship program supports proposals for frontier, potentially transformative research in the life sciences. Applications for high-risk projects are particularly encouraged. The projects should be interdisciplinary in nature and should challenge existing paradigms by using novel approaches and techniques. Scientifically, they should address an important problem or a barrier to progress in the field.

HFSP postdoctoral fellowships encourage early career scientists to broaden their research skills by moving into new areas of study while working in a new country.

Two different fellowships are available:

Long-Term Fellowships (LTF) are for applicants with a PhD in a biological discipline, who will broaden their expertise by proposing a project in the life sciences which is significantly different from their previous PhD or postdoctoral work.

Cross-Disciplinary Fellowships (CDF) are for applicants with a PhD from outside the life sciences (e.g. in physics, chemistry, mathematics, engineering or computer sciences).

Applications for the 2022 HFSP Long-Term and Cross-Disciplinary Fellowships (to start in 2022) will follow a new two-step submission process via the online submission platform ProposalCentral.

For questions about registration in ProposalCentral please use the following contact:

E-mail: Click here to show mail address

Phone:  +1 703 964 5840

Firstly, applicants will be asked to submit a Letter of Intent from which the review committee will select the best proposals. In a second step, successful applicants will be invited to submit a full application.


(NB, host supervisor(s) and referees must have submitted their sections before the applicant can submit their application).

The application guidelines for the 2022 HFSP Long-Term Fellowships can be found here.

The application guidelines for the 2022 HFSP Cross-Disciplinary Fellowships can be found here.

The following information is intended for applicants who are concerned about international travel and mobility due to the COVID-19 pandemic: HFSPO is monitoring the development of the pandemic very closely and will provide assistance and flexibility in case of circumstances that may prevent an awardee picking up the fellowship as anticipated.

Before submitting an application, applicants should check with their proposed host institution whether it is willing to accept an HFSP award.

The HFSP fellowships are for 3 years, with no possibility for renewal. Fellows may interrupt HFSP support after the second year, for up to two years, while continuing their postdoctoral research funded through other sources (deferral period).

Fellows are granted a living allowance as well as a research and travel allowance. Depending on their specific situation fellows may also qualify to receive a child allowance, a parental leave allowance and a relocation allowance.

Allowances differ depending on the host country. The complete overview of HFSP fellowship allowances is available in the application guidelines.

HFSP fellows cannot concurrently hold an HFSP Fellowship and another paid employment position (i.e., a position supported by a salary) or another paid fellowship from another organization. However, the HFSP Fellowship can be supplemented from other sources (e.g., from a host supervisor’s grant or from institutional funds). HFSP fellows may apply for and hold additional research grants themselves, provided those funds will not be used as a salary for the fellows and are to assist their conduct of the Fellowship research project as presented in the fellow’s successful application. HFSP fellows must devote themselves entirely to their research project in the host institution and may not engage in any other paid activity without prior agreement of HFSPO.

At the start of the fellowship, the fellow must not have been working for more than 12 months (for LTFs) or 24 months (for CDFs) in the host institution/host country. The PhD must have been conferred when the fellowship is activated.

HFSP fellows can either use the third fellowship year to continue to work in the host laboratory, to return to their or their spouse's/partner's home country, or to move to another HFSP member country.

There is only one competition per year for HFSP fellowships. Before applying please read carefully the 2022 LTF application guidelines or the 2022 CDF application guidelines which list the eligibility criteria. Should you have any question as to your eligibility, please contact the fellowship office.

Tutorials on how to open an account and to submit a Letter of Intent via ProposalCentral can be found here:

When applying via the ProposalCentral website you will be able to provide information in your Professional Profile section. Please note that you do not need to provide all the information that is asked for in the Professional Profile section, as some of it can also be directly provided in the application. For example, you do not need to upload a biosketch. Information that you do provide in the Professional Profile will, however, be carried over to your application, for example publications that you register via your ORCID ID in the Professional Profile section.


Please refer to the application guidelines for the complete information on eligibility.

Important eligibility criteria:

1) Nationality

A candidate who is not a national from one of the HFSP members (see list below) may apply to work only in a research institution in one of the member countries. A candidate who is a national of one of the member countries can apply to work in a research institution in any country.

HFSP member countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus (EU part only), Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Republic of Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Applicants must propose to work in a country different to the one where they did their previous PhD work or first post-doctoral studies. For those institutions that are not classified as national, i.e. international or extraterritorial institutions such as EMBL, ICPT or ICGEB, the country in which the laboratory is located will be considered the host country.

2) Doctoral degree

A research doctorate (PhD) or a doctoral-level degree comparable to a PhD with equivalent experience in basic research (e.g. a research based MD or medical PhD) must be conferred by the start of the fellowship. It is not required at the time of submission. By “conferred degree” we mean you have received your diploma for the degree. The “conferral date” is the date on the official PhD document. Please refer to the application guidelines for information in case you were not yet awarded the PhD.

3) Research publications

Applicants must have at least one lead author publication by the submission deadline of the Letter of Intent which can be a manuscript (i) published in a recognized OA preprint repository, or, (ii) accepted for publication, (iii) in press or (iv) already published by a peer reviewed journal.

Submission of a fellowship proposal at the full application stage however is only possible with a published research article according to points (ii) to (iv) above. HFSP only accepts full-length original research publications in English that were peer reviewed and for which the applicant must either be the single author, first author or joint first author. In a joint first author paper the applicant does not need to be listed in the first position, but the equal contribution of the authors must be clearly stated in all cases.

In some cases the standard publication practice makes first authorship impossible (e.g. alphabetical listing of authors); these circumstances must be explained in the the application.

Eligibility assessments

All Letters of Intent are checked for compliance with formal eligibility criteria by HFSP in accord with the criteria above. In addition, LOIs are screened by the three scientific directors of HFSP and members of the fellowship review committee for alignment with the objectives of HFSP and its Fellowship schemes (e.g. basic, interdisciplinary research).

Ineligible LOIs or those with research proposals that do not align with the scientific scope of HFSP will not be sent for review and the applicant will be informed accordingly.

Eligible LOIs will then be peer-reviewed by the HFSP Fellowship Review Committee. See HERE for current members of the Fellowship Review Committee.

Please contact the Fellowship Office prior to submitting your application with any questions regarding eligibility or on the alignment of the proposed research with the scientific scope of the HFSP Fellowship program. You may also consult the FAQ section.

Scientific review

Review of Letters of Intent

Eligible LOIs will initially be assessed by two Fellowship Review Committee members. This will establish a first ranking that will result in a first cut-off. HFSP then invites the top LOIs to submit a full application. Approximately the top 15-20% of eligible LOIs will be invited.

Review of Full Applications

The full applications will be confirmed for eligibility. Eligible applications will then be sent to the same Review Committee members who reviewed the Letter of Intent, plus to 2-3 external mail reviewers with suitable expertise. The Review Committee members will rate each of the applications assigned to them again, now also taking into account the reviews from the mail reviewers.

The Fellowship Review Committee then meets in late January or early February 2022. At the meeting, each full application will be discussed, and each of the original reviewers defends or revises their rating before all Review Committee members provide their own scores for each application. An average score for each proposal is then calculated, to generate a ranked list of proposals recommended for funding.

For details on the review process and the assessment criteria and scoring guidelines please refer to the document called ‘HFSP Postdoctoral Fellowships: Information on review process and assessment criteria’, which can be found here.


Notification of outcome

Applicants are notified of the outcome of their applications once internal HFSP formalities are complete (usually towards the end of March).


If you have never worked in the host country before and started working in the host laboratory on or after April 1 this year, you can submit your application for this year’s August deadline.

HFSPO does not support scientists who wish to return to work with someone they have done research with before. HFSPO’s goal is to support scientists to work with someone new, on a project that will broaden their expertise. There are cases where an applicant may have visited the host lab for a short period (i.e. to learn a technique), and in these types of cases HFSPO may accept your application depending on the reason of your initial stay. Please contact the HFSPO Office prior to submitting an application to make sure you are eligible and to request an exception.

Yes, you may apply however you must hold the fellowship in one of the HFSPO member countries.

A candidate can apply for the HFSP fellowship even if he/she has another financial support. If awarded the HFSP fellowship, the other financial support will have to be terminated by the start of the HFSP fellowship.

There is only one competition per year. Should your application be unsuccessful, you may submit an application in another competition year provided you still meet all the eligibility criteria listed in the guidelines. A candidate can only submit one fellowship application per year.

No, you must choose the program that best suits your research background and proposed research project. In case of doubt, please contact the Fellowship Office for guidance. A candidate can only submit one fellowship application per year.

No, your host supervisor can only endorse one application each year, either for a LTF or for a CDF.

Yes, if the project entails collaboration between two laboratories, you may register two host supervisors. Note that only one host institution can be registered in the application form. We recommend that the collaborating laboratories be relatively close together to enable regular visits during the tenure of the fellowship.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to submit material after the deadline. You will have to select another referee.

The online system allows applicants to change a referee or the host supervisor up to the submission deadline.

Degrees are awarded by one university, even if the training was done in a multi-institutional or even international context. Indicate the degree-awarding institution in the degrees section. You can add further details about the other training institutions and training periods in the CV section.

Yes. In cases where PhD students do their research in one country and get the degree in another country, they can apply to go to this country provided they have never worked or lived there.

No. The supervisor you plan to return to in the 3rd year of the fellowship should not be indicated in the application. Only indicate the supervisor at the proposed host institution. Administrative details for the final year of the fellowship will be arranged at a later stage.

No, this does not count as a first author publication. You must have at least one lead author paper in an international, peer-reviewed journal or published on a pre-print server such as bioRxiv to be eligible to apply. However, if the scholarly tradition in your discipline puts more emphasis on publishing in conference proceedings, you may apply and explain this in the “additional comments” section of your application. If you are not sure whether your publication record fits HFSP requirements, please contact the HFSP Fellowship Office at

No, you must have at least one manuscript accepted for publication to be eligible. Submitted papers are not taken into account.

Yes, but the PhD must have been conferred by the time the fellowship is activated.

Maybe. Applicants who were conferred a degree in Europe should consult the online database of EURYDICE at to confirm degree equivalency. This is the official database of European Higher Education Degrees, and is used by HFSPO. All other applicants should consult the Fellowship Office.

Applicants with doctoral degrees in the medical sciences (clinical context) must have an equivalent level of research experience as expected from a research based PhD prior to applying. This should be stated clearly in the online application by listing years of experience in basic research and/or publications in international peer reviewed journals.

You should apply for a Cross-Disciplinary Fellowship (CDF). CDFs are for applicants with a PhD from outside the life sciences (e.g. in physics, chemistry, mathematics, engineering or computer sciences), while Long-Term Fellowships (LTFs) are for applicants with a PhD in a biological discipline.

A degree is conferred when you receive your diploma for the degree. The “conferral date” is the date on the official PhD document.

Yes. It is very important to explain any breaks in the CV section of the application so that the reviewers can take this into consideration when assessing productivity. The review committee will not be biased against applicants who have taken breaks to have and care for children.

No, we only take into account career interruptions such as illness, parental leave, providing full time care for an immediate family member, military or civil service when calculating eligibility to apply. You cannot be more than 3 years post-PhD by the submission deadline.

No. The fact that you worked as a university lecturer did not prevent you from submitting an application to HFSP at the time when you were still eligible to do so. Exemptions can only be claimed because of personal circumstances such as illness, parental leave, providing full time care for an immediate family member, military or civil service, etc.

You are eligible because you received your most recent doctoral degree last year.

If it is a research-based MD obtained within the three years prior to the submission deadline and if you have the equivalent research experience as a PhD holder (i.e. you have a publication record in international peer reviewed journals), you are eligible to apply. However, depending on your research experience, your publication record and your change in research direction, the review committee may consider your application less competitive than those of PhD holders. In case of doubt, contact the Secretariat to make sure your application is competitive.

Candidates who have more research experience and publications are not privileged over recent PhDs. The selection process takes career stage into account when evaluating productivity and the scientific merit of the candidate’s accomplishments. In the evaluation process, the fellowship review committee may favor proposals that better meet the objective of providing international opportunities to top-notch candidates who are recent doctoral graduates with minimal research experience.

HFSP believes that broad training is excellent preparation for postdoctoral researchers to establish novel, interdisciplinary research programs. Therefore preference is given to applicants who add new ideas or unique approaches to their research. This may involve learning new methods, changing study system, or exposure to new theory or literature.

Applications were mostly ineligible for formal reasons. Others were ineligible because the proposed projects were outside the scientific scope of HFSPO:

  • clinically oriented research,
  • projects with the sole emphasis on searching for new compounds with a potential impact for drug development,
  • environmental projects such as monitoring ecosystem/species diversity,
  • projects related to disease and/or drug development and projects in agriculture.

You can increase your chances of success if your proposal has a clear and concise research plan, contains sufficient detail for peer review purposes and demonstrates an obvious fit with the mandate of HFSP. We support innovative, even high-risk research that provides an opportunity for the candidate to branch out in a new research direction. A misalignment with the objectives of the HFSP fellowship program or a poorly written proposal are among the most common reasons why a proposal is not successful. Every year HFSP receives more excellent fellowship applications than the number that can be funded.

Given budget limitations, only applications that clearly reflect the scientific objectives of the HFSP fellowship program and that receive excellent to outstanding marks by the reviewers are funded. Consideration is not given to other factors such as country of origin, gender, etc.

The proposed fellowship project will be evaluated based on the criteria set out for the program. The research project should contain an original and innovative idea that holds promise to advance knowledge in the field. Successful HFSP awardees are outstanding researchers with a demonstrated record of excellent research and a commitment to exploring new approaches to basic research questions.

While there are many ways to put together a highly competitive application, in the past, successful applications have demonstrated that the candidates have made significant intellectual contributions to the published work (the reference letters should elaborate on this aspect) as well as to the proposed research (the host supervisor letter should mention this).

The most competitive applications propose unique research projects that mark a departure from the applicant’s previous research. Projects that expose the applicant to new theory and methodology, that propose a new approach to a research problem and that can potentially make a major contribution to the research field are favored. High risk research is supported.

No. Journal impact factors do not play a role in the evaluation or selection process.

Reviewers do not rely solely on the publication venue to determine the quality or impact of a paper. The quality of the research is assessed, independent of where it was published. Increasingly, researchers are obliged or choose to publish in open access journals. You can find HFSP’s Open Access policy here.

Abstracts of funded fellowship projects from previous years are available on the HFSPO website at

All eligible applications are evaluated by members of the HFSP fellowship review committee.

First verify that the email addresses entered in the “Host Supervisor 1” (plus “Host Supervisor 2”, if applicable) and “Referees” sections are correct in your online application form. If this information is correct, the email from the HFSP application server may have been sent to a spam filter on the receiving end. Inform your host and referees to check their spam filter for messages with “HFSP” in the subject line.

The HFSP online interface ensures consistency between applications by automatically formatting information (e.g., bold titles, page breaks). You can download a PDF copy of your application from the HFSP extranet (in the preview section of the online application) to see the formatted version of your application.

Figures or tables rarely add significant insight to the proposed project. Outstanding fellowship applications are carefully crafted research proposals in which applicants put their innovative ideas and vision in writing.

The review committee members rely on these publications to assess the quality of your past research. In addition, the publication of at least one first author/co-author paper is required and the fellowship office looks at your publication(s) to confirm your eligibility.

The ORCID number is invaluable in distinguishing between applicants with the same name, which is a frequent issue at HFSPO. At this point the ORCID number is only used by HFSPO for this purpose, however other functions may be explored when the use of the ORCID number becomes more established with the scientific community (