Do you want to conduct a study or research on climate protection in German setting, mentored by an expert, while also being funded?
The Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung/Foundation (AvH) is the answer. The International Climate Protection Fellowship (ICF) of the AvH each year provides opportunities to up to 20 young climate leaders from emerging and developing economies to spend over a year in Germany and complete individual research projects on climate change with relevance to the participants' home countries.
As international collaboration is indispensable to limit global warming and fulfill other climate goals, this fellowship intends to spearhead knowledge transfer to the future leaders on climate protection and aid their development, hence laying out a foundation for them to lead climate protection, both in their home countries and internationally.
This fellowship is highly prestigious and provides access to experts from the academia, private sectors and think tanks in Germany.
The ICF programme also enables climate change fellows to delve deeper into the broader spectrum of climate change - starting from climate change adaptation and mitigation, to resource efficiency and conservation.
Fellows may also work on, among other things, renewable energy and locally led solutions vis-à-vis climate change. In carrying out research projects, fellows may consider deepening their skills from economic, technical or legal aspects of climate change. Nevertheless, success factors hinge on the interest and expertise of the fellows.
While conducting a research project of own interest in Germany is one side of the coin, the benefits of such an endeavor significantly influences decision making.
To that end, the AvH extends the best possible supports to the selected fellows. As a climate fellow, one would receive the highest amount of monthly scholarship currently available in the world.
The amount is sufficient for a comfortable life in any city of Germany and thereby, would allow one to concentrate on research. Both spouses and children are entitled to receive additional handsome allowances.
At the outset, the transition from one's home country to Germany seems quite difficult, but the programme has been designed so that it starts with a two-month-long German language course in Bonn, making the best possible transition for a non-European person.
Following the language course, a month-long introductory seminar will be sponsored under the auspices of AvH and facilitated by top research institutes and academics in order to shore up research capacity of the fellows. This also allows them to share theoretical underpinnings of different perspectives of climate change and climate protection with each other.
This seminar further organizes field visits to sustainable energy and climate protection projects implemented in Germany.
Last but not the least, leadership development is also embedded in this seminar. Later, all fellows will shift to their host institutes, be it university, famous think-tank or recognized research institution, located in different cities.
A mentor from the host institute would guide a fellow and ensure availability of necessary infrastructures to conduct the research project. The fellow may design additional capacity development activities for the fellow.
The host institute also receives funding from AvH to shoulder the cost on account of the research project.
Halfway down the course, a two-week-long study tour focusing on training at institutes such as Renewables Academy (RENAC) Berlin and Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) will be organized.
The course also grants visits to the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and Industry Associations to inform the climate fellows about the ambitions at government level that drives Germany to design appropriate policy instruments for climate protection and energy transition (energiewende). The visit will also inform the fellows about the actions that are being undertaken, for example, by the industries, on climate protection and resource efficiency.
Research and capacity development programmes are not only the features of ICF. Rather, fellows are encouraged and supported to attend different professional networking events of Humboldt Foundation or other institutes.
During the last week of June, every year, a two-day-long annual meeting of the Humboldt Foundation is organized to award the Humboldtians with outstanding contributions to the society over the past year.
One of the highlights of the annual meeting is the reception hosted by the President of Germany at his residence Schloss Bellevue in Berlin, where some of the current and previous Humboldt Fellows get the opportunity to take photo with the President of Germany and his wife.
While the ICF is an excellent foundation to build knowledge and capacity on climate change, winning this award is complex.
One needs to go through a very stringent process. A fellow requires at least four years of experience after graduation in a relevant academic area to be substantiated during the application process, which ends on March 1 every year.
Along with this, the application package encompasses a strong motivation letter, excellent recommendations from academia and professional arena, a feasible project proposal in areas as discussed in the foregoing and probable impacts of the project.
It is a prerequisite to finalize a host institution in advance and to reach an agreement that an expert or a professor from the host institute would provide mentoring support to the selected fellow.
The expert or professor would usually assess the research proposal and once convinced, the fellow would then submit the host's recommendation to the AvH.
Like any other scholarship, the applicant shall submit academic credentials, which is one of the most important criteria, but not the only criterion for the final selection. Post-doctoral candidates are also eligible for this fellowship.
Each year, hundreds of applications are received by AvH against the available fellowships of up to 20 and subsequent to preliminary screening, documents of each pre-qualified applicant are forwarded to the expert reviewers from academia, think tank or private sector.
After rigorous evaluation, around 40 candidates are shortlisted and informed during the first week of July with detailed guidelines to prepare for further assessment in Bonn, Germany.
AvH supports all necessary logistics, including air travels, local transportations and subsistence, of the shortlisted candidates to enable them to join in the final selection round in Bonn, which lasts up to four days, during mid-September.
The selection meeting in Bonn is a stiff competition, but falls nothing short of amazing. One needs to demonstrate his/her leadership quality, expertise on climate change and understanding of international climate diplomacy.
Additionally, performance of individual presentation on the project proposal, panel discussion and interview in presence of previous Humboldt Scholars, academia, private sectors and think tanks would eventually help the jury board decide on the final 20 Climate Fellows.
The climate fellows will embark on their new journey in January, 2021.
The fellows conclude their research after around one and a half years, but these Scholars would receive other professional support from AvH throughout their lives. This validates the theme of AvH, which is "Once a Humboldtian, always a Humboldtian".
From Bangladesh, only four applications have been successful since the inception of this prestigious climate protection fellowship in 2010. Hopefully, this piece would act as the stepping stones for future international climate protection fellowship aspirants from Bangladesh and they may gather further information on application guidelines from the AvH website.
Shafiqul Alam is a Humboldt Scholar. He is also an engineer and environmental economist
Note: Humboldt Foundation has other fellowship programmes as well