It is most common to undertake a postdoc during a couple of years at a foreign higher education institution (HEI) or research institute. A few people may even organise normal employment at a foreign university. Competition for postdoctoral financing is tough; stipends are the most common form of financing, but they also provide the poorest social safety net (see below).
Twice a year, the Swedish Research Council announces international post-doctoral grants that apply to all subjects. The grants are open for applications from people who have recently been awarded a Swedish doctoral degree and are paid over a period of 18 to 36 months to the Swedish HEI or public organisation that is the applicant’s host institution. No more than one-third of the period may be spent at a Swedish HEI; the remaining two-thirds must be spent at an overseas HEI.
Information about the international post-doc grant on the Swedish Research Council’s website
In Sweden, it is also becoming increasingly common for HEIs to announce post-doctoral positions themselves. In accordance with a 2008 agreement between the Swedish Agency for Government Employers and union representatives, HEIs may offer a post-doctoral position as a contract that runs for no more than two years, with the opportunity for extension in exceptional circumstances.
Post-doctoral research fellows
Another opportunity to work overseas as a postdoc is a post-doctoral research fellowship (research assistant) at a Swedish HEI, which is a type of career development position that can be held for no longer than four years.
They are intended for people who have recently been awarded a doctoral degree and who wish to continue in higher education as teachers and researchers. They may therefore move overseas as part of their employment. The chances of getting such a position are greatest if you were awarded your doctorate no more than five years before the deadline for applications. Exceptions may be made for leave due to parental leave or illness, military service or similar circumstances.
Other stipend givers
There are a large number of other stipend givers – large and small, private and public.
All the grants provided by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (RJ) are for post-doctoral level and upwards.
Information about stipends on Riksbankens Jubileumsfond’s website
The Wenner-Gren Foundations are also a major provider of post-doctoral grants.
Vinnova is a government agency that promotes research and innovation. It has programmes that specifically target higher education.
Information about Vinnova’s programme for higher education
Limited social security
If your overseas stay that lasts longer than one year, you will be deregistered from Försäkringskassan, which generally means that during the overseas stay you lose your right to social benefits. If you return to Sweden and fall ill, care for an ill child or apply for parental benefits before you have found work, you will receive no, or very low, benefits. Nor do you receive any pension points during the period of your stipend. These rules apply if you are on a stipend and are not employed in another country. If you are employed within the EU during the post-doctoral period, you are covered by that country’s social insurance system.
Consider the following points before starting your postdoc:
- Find out whether you will be covered by unemployment insurance after your postdoc. If not, you risk losing your social insurance or receiving the lowest level of benefits when you return to Sweden.
- Contact Försäkringskassan (Swedish Social Insurance Agency) and find out what applies to you as regards the social insurance system, sickness benefits, etc. Find out whether it is possible to have your income level used as a basis for sick pay (SGI) on hold, due to “studies in your profession”. If you are in Sweden you can register as being available for work, even if you do not receive any unemployment benefits. This means that you could remain at your previous level of SGI.
- Check what applies as regards child benefits and housing benefits. The stipend giver can sometimes compensate for lost benefits.
- Check with your private insurance policy about what applies to healthcare, accident and injury, etc. It is often necessary to take out a specific insurance policy, not least in the US. Many host HEIs can offer good value insurance policies.
- If you are employed overseas, contact Skatteverket to clarify the country in which you should pay tax. Request a written statement.
Source: The Swedish Research Council and SULF (Swedish Association of University Teachers).
Swedish Social Insurance Agency
Swedish Research Council
An alternative way of doing things could be to make your overseas visit shorter than a year and to divide the research into two periods. If you return home and stay in Sweden for a period before travelling overseas again, in some cases you can remain in the social insurance system. If the purpose of the overseas stay is publication and career development, the disadvantage is that it can be difficult to be published within a year.
In 2008, the Swedish Research Council introduced a resettlement grant for researchers in medicine and health, as well as the natural sciences and engineering. The intention was to attract more researchers to do post-docs overseas, without needing to worry about coming home again.
The grant is paid to a Swedish HEI that provides a fixed-term contract for a researcher returning from an overseas post-doc. This gives the researcher the opportunity to resettle in Sweden and use the experience gained during the post-doc period.
Information about resettlement grants on the Swedish Research Council’s website (in Swedish)