Policy - Scientific Visitor Programme Garching


To support long-term visits by first-rate scientists to promote the scientific interaction of ESO with its community and with research institutions worldwide and to enhance ESO's role as an astronomical centre of excellence.

Who is eligible

Any active scientist with a PhD in astronomy or related disciplines currently employed in astronomical research is eligible to apply. No nationality is in principle excluded. However, preference will be given to nationals of Australia, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Chile irrespective of gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity or religion.

ESO has established diversity as an important value of the Organisation, is committed to providing an equal opportunities environment and is actively seeking to promote a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Scientists without an affiliation and job contract during the entire time of the planned visit are not eligible for this programme.

Early-career scientists (PhD students and up to three years from the PhD) are encouraged to apply via the Early-Career Visitor Programme

How to Apply

Eligible scientists who want to apply are kindly requested to complete the application form and send it by e-mail to the Visitor Selection Committee (VSC) chairperson (vsc-chair@eso.org). The VSC will check for suitability and might request more details to incorporate in the text before distributing it to the VSC members for evaluation.

Potential applicants are encouraged to directly contact any ESO staff member or fellow and coordinate their planned visit with them. Alternatively, any potential applicant may contact the Chair of the ESO VSC (vsc-chair@eso.org) to put them in contact with an ESO staff member in their field. 

Potential visitors are requested to submit their application at least four months before the planned visit for practical reasons.

The length of the visits can vary from one month to a maximum of one year. For distinguished scientists, multiple visits over a period of 2-3 years can also be approved. Applications for shorter visits are handled directly by the Head of the Office for Science and the Director for Science.  

The Visitor Programme tends to be quite full during the summer months (June-August), so visits at other times of the year are encouraged, when possible. 

Selection Committee and evaluation process

Applications to the ESO Visitor Programme are evaluated by the ESO Scientific Visitor Selection Committee (VSC). The members of the VSC are selected from the ESO Faculty and cover a broad range of scientific interests. The VSC reviews incoming applications every 1-2 months and recommends visitors to the Head of the Office for Science. It also searches actively in collaboration with the Faculty for potential visitors who, by their specific expertise and/or internationally recognised level of excellence in research, can contribute to the scientific activities of the organisation. It follows the approved visits with the appropriate correspondence and arrangements and globally monitors the ongoing visits to make them successful.

The evaluation of the applications is done taking into consideration the scientific excellence of the applicant as witnessed by the quality of the research plan and of the overall scientific activity of the visitor (publications, research experience). The VSC also values visitors who, with their well-proven expertise, can contribute to the ESO science-related activities and projects (e.g., definition of scientific drivers of a new VLT instrument, scientific case for a new project), scientific visitors who would like to visit within the framework of a specific scientific project in collaboration with ESO staff or fellows but who can also contribute to the overall scientific discussion within ESO.  

Support to and Duties of the Visitors

While at ESO, a scientific visitor has the status of Unpaid Associate and receives a monthly allowance to cover living expenses and family support (if needed). Generally, ESO provides accommodation for visitors in the form of fully furnished apartments in Garching. Should an ESO apartment not be available or should the visitor arrange to stay elsewhere, reimbursement of accommodation expenses at the level of the costs of a comparable ESO apartment is possible if rent proof of payment is submitted. Travel expenses to and from ESO are also generally reimbursed.

Upon his/her arrival, the visitor is supported by the secretary of the scientific visitor programme, Denisa Tako (denisa.tako@eso.org), on the administrative aspects of their visit. The contact person (the scientific collaborator at ESO or a member of the staff identified at the time of the invitation) has the task of introducing the visitor to the scientific life at ESO. An office is assigned to every approved visitor, as well as a computer terminal and an account. 

All visitors are requested to give either a seminar or an informal discussion during their stay at ESO, and are expected to follow the ESO code of conduct.

Visitors for more extended periods (>> one month) may be asked to give a series of lectures. Visitors are also requested to acknowledge support from the ESO Scientific Visitor Programme in any publication(s) resulting from the visit.