Regulations of the Research Foundation – Flanders governing the Postdoctoral Fellowship - 2019

25 October 2017

Chapter 1. Preliminary provisions and scope of application

Art. 1.

Pursuant to Article 18 of the Decree of 30 April 2009 on the organisation and financing of science and innovation policy and the decision of the Flemish Government of 10 November 2011 on subsidisation by the Research Foundation - Flanders, the Flemish Government grants the Research Foundation - Flanders a subsidy for the purpose of supporting individual researchers.

Art. 2.

§1. These regulations govern the eligibility of applications, appointment, suspension and termination of the postdoctoral fellowship junior and senior of the Research Foundation - Flanders, calculation and payment of the salary, rights and obligations, occupational accidents, liability, child allowance and annual holidays of the grant holders.

§2. The internal and external peer review with regard to the evaluation of the submitted research applications is governed by the FWO regulations "Internal and external peer review".

§3. These regulations are without prejudice to the general regulations of the Research Foundation - Flanders.

§4. Detailed information, full regulations and forms are available online.

Chapter 2. Eligibility of applications

Art. 3.

§1. Postdoctoral fellows must be affiliated to at least one of the following principal host institutions:

  • a university in the Flemish Community or at the Evangelical Protestant Faculty in Leuven or the Faculty for Protestant Theology in Brussels, for research related to religious studies or theology;
  • the Maritime Academy (Hogere Zeevaartschool) for research related to nautical sciences;
  • the Vlerick Management School or the Antwerp Management School for research related to management sciences;
  • the Institute of Tropical Medicine for research to tropical medicine, veterinary medicine or healthcare in developing countries;

possibly in collaboration with a Flemish or Federal scientific institution or a Flemish higher education institution where the fellow conducts his/her research.

§2. Fellows in the principal host institution report to a head of department or equivalent.

Art. 4.

Candidates must submit and defend their application in English for the purposes of the international peer review.

Art. 5.

Candidates must hold a PhD by thesis or a degree or a diploma or certificate recognised as equivalent in accordance with European Union directives or a bilateral agreement, in compliance with the provisions of Article V 20 of the Decision of the Flemish Government on codification of the decree provisions concerning higher education of 11 October 2013.

Art. 6.

§1. Researchers can submit an application for a junior or a senior postdoctoral fellowship.

§2. Researchers can apply for a junior postdoctoral fellowship if their PhD degree, with as reference point the date mentioned on the PhD degree, was awarded maximum three years before the first of October of the year in which the fellowship commences.

§3. The public defence must have taken place no later than on the first of June preceding the start of the fellowship.

§4. Researchers can apply for a senior postdoctoral fellowship if their PhD degree, with as reference point the date mentioned on the PhD degree, was awarded minimum three years and maximum six years before the first of October of the year in which the fellowship commences.

The candidate shall submit a declaration issued by the host institution, signed by the head of department or equivalent and the head of the host institution, as indisputable proof that he/she has at least two years' postdoctoral research experience.

§5. Candidates who immediately prior to the senior postdoctoral fellowship were awarded a junior postdoctoral fellowship by the Research Foundation - Flanders can at any time apply for a senior postdoctoral fellowship,  provided the senior postdoctoral fellowship immediately follows on the junior postdoctoral fellowship. A second application for a senior postdoctoral fellowship can be submitted by these candidates under the same conditions as the other candidates.

§6 The maximum limits specified in paragraphs 2 and 4 are extended by one year per period of at least 3 months of maternity leave or per continuous period of at least 3 months full-time parental leave or per continuous period of at least 3 months full-time sickness leave taken during the date of the PhD degree and the application.

§7. If the candidate has more than one PhD degree, the rules of this article apply only to the degree obtained in the same area of study as the proposal for postdoctoral research. Regardless of the area of study or discipline, the first PhD must in any case have been obtained no more than 10 years ago, to be counted from the application submission deadline.

§8. The Executive Committee of the Research Foundation - Flanders may exceptionally deviate from the limit specified in this article in cases where, for social and medical reasons, there has been either an interruption in the preliminary stage, or a reduced capacity to work.

Art. 7.

Candidates may submit only one application per call. Candidates can apply maximum two times for the same fellowship, with postdoctoral fellowships of the junior or senior type being considered as two different types of fellowship, as stipulated in article 6 of the general regulations of the Research Foundation - Flanders.   

Art. 8.

The applications will be submitted to the expert panels, who will judge the candidates. The expert panels report to the Board of Trustees of the Research Foundation - Flanders. They are appointed by the Board of Trustees of the FWO.

Chapter 3. Appointment

Art. 9.

Postdoctoral fellows are offered an employment contract for a term of three years.

Art. 10.

Whether or not fellows are required to undergo a medical examination at the occupational health service of the institution where they carry out their research, depends on the regulations of their host institution. If a medical examination is required according to the regulations of their host institution, their appointment will not be effective unless a favourable medical report is obtained.

Chapter 4. Rights and obligations of holders of a Postdoctoral PhD fellowship

Art. 11.

Without prejudice to the provisions of Article 12, Postdoctoral PhD fellows shall not be members of the Academic Assistant Staff (Dutch: AAP) or Independent Academic Staff (Dutch: ZAP) of the universities or of:

  • groups 1 through 3 of the Teaching Staff of the Maritime Academy;
  • the 'Career Faculty' and 'Faculty of Management Practice' of the Vlerick Management School;
  • the faculty of the Antwerp Management School;
  • the academic staff of the Institute of Tropical Medicine (full professor, professor, associate professor or teacher).

Art. 12.

§1. The host institution may entrust the holders of a postdoctoral fellowship with duties, the total workload of which shall not exceed 8 hours per week, except during periods of prolonged illness, maternity leave and breastfeeding leave, foreign stay, full-time parental leave or palliative leave.

Such duties may include:

  • administrative or clinical tasks;
  • supervision of exercises, practicals, or seminars - the workload of which counts double;
  • taking on a non-remunerated teaching assignment at a university or at a university college as part of an academic programme that does not exceed the limit of an average of two hours per week for junior postdoctoral fellows and an average of three hours per week for senior postdoctoral fellows.

For a part-time fellow, the maximum of 8 hours per week is reduced in proportion to the part-time fellowship.

The workload for exercises, practicals or seminars counts double. One hour worked in the context of such duties is equivalent to a two-hour work load.

§2. Holders of a postdoctoral fellowship may additionally be entrusted with a part-time remunerated activity at a higher education institution, provided their appointment as fellow is reduced in proportion to this part-time appointment, including 50% appointments under the tenure track system at the expense of the university operating resources.

Art. 13.

§1. Postdoctoral fellows fall under the administrative and legal authority of the Board of Trustees of the Research Foundation - Flanders, represented by its chairman and its Secretary General. Postdoctoral fellows fall under the disciplinary authority of the academic authority of the university.

§2. Postdoctoral fellows undertake to comply with the regulations of the Research Foundation - Flanders and those of the academic authorities of the universities.

§3. Candidates with a PhD diploma from a university outside the Flemish Community are assumed to have sufficient knowledge of Dutch to enable their integration into the research environment.

Art. 14.

Fellows are allowed to modify their research project only for proper and justified reasons, subject to advice of their head of department or equivalent and after approval from the Research Foundation - Flanders.

They are not allowed to change host institutions unless expressly authorised by the host institutions involved.

Art. 15.

The specific location where the fellow will be carrying out his/her work may be determined in consultation with the host institution.

Art. 16.

§1. The fellowship may not be accumulated with any other remunerated activity, save for the exceptions provided for in the following paragraphs of this article.

§2. For Doctors of Law enjoying a postdoctoral fellowship, the principle of non-accumulation as stipulated in the first paragraph implies that they must not have been registered with the Bar. None of the exceptions mentioned below shall entail a derogation from this provision.

§3. Holders of a postdoctoral fellowship may be granted full or partial accumulation with grants for study stays abroad. Holders of a travel grant from the FWO, the Flemish Community, the Federal Government or as part of Cultural Agreements, may accumulate such grant with their fellowship. They are required to notify FWO thereof.

§4. The FWO may grant permission to holders of a postdoctoral fellowship to exercise a secondary activity within the restrictions set forth in the applicable decree provisions and within the restrictions that the university acting as host institution imposes on its own staff. A secondary activity may be granted that can be accumulated up to maximum 20 percent of the time. Moreover, the fellow must submit a statement that he or she is engaged full time in the research task associated with the postdoctoral fellowship.

Art. 17.

Postdoctoral fellows must submit a report on their scientific activities to the Research Foundation - Flanders at the end of each academic year.

Art. 18.

§1. All publications and reprints of fellows must mention their title of postdoctoral fellow fundamental research of the Research Foundation - Flanders and the FWO file number of their fellowship.

§2. All research-related communication must mention the FWO affiliation of the grant holder.

Art. 19.

§1. Holders of a postdoctoral fellowship who wish to spend a study stay abroad must ask for permission from Research Foundation - Flanders.

§2. Such permission can only be granted if the postdoctoral fellow can continue to be subject to the Belgian social security system during his/her stay abroad. Therefore, the postdoctoral fellow must have been registered under the Belgian social security system for at least 30 calendar days prior to his/her departure.

In exceptional cases, based on a justified request, the Secretary General may decide to exempt the PhD fellow from the requirement of continuing to be subject to the Belgian social security system.

Art. 20.

Fellows must as soon as possible notify the Research Foundation - Flanders of any temporary interruption in their research, regardless of the cause.

Art. 21.

§1. Fellows have to register as compulsorily insured persons with a health insurance fund of their choice.

§2. In case of illness, the fellow must send the medical certificates stating the period of incapacity to the Research Foundation - Flanders within 48 hours.

A copy of the medical certificate must be sent, via the departmental head or equivalent, to the competent service of the university where the fellow carries out his/her research.

Art. 22.

The fellow must as soon as possible notify the Research Foundation - Flanders in writing of any change in his/her situation, such as change in marital status, birth, change of address, and the like.

Chapter 5. Suspension

Art. 23.

§1. A postdoctoral fellow of the Research Foundation - Flanders can be granted suspension of his/her fellowship during the period of completing a remunerated full-time research fellowship or grant at a non-Flemish university or a non-Flemish scientific institution or at a company. 

In this case, the fellowship can be extended by the period during which no salary was paid, with a minimum of six months and a maximum of two years.  The maximum of two years applies for the junior postdoctoral fellowship and the senior postdoctoral fellowship combined.

§2. For the suspension referred to in the first paragraph, the fellow must submit a prior request for extension to the Secretary General of the FWO.

§3. To qualify for suspension, the postdoctoral fellows must hold at least an appointment of 80 percent and their fellowship must have been ongoing for at least six months.

§4. When the foreign  research fellowship or grant is taken up for research within a research group or a research consortium for which direct or indirect funding is received from a Flemish financing channel, no extension of the postdoctoral fellowship can be granted.

Art. 24.

§1. The fellowship may be suspended in cases of prolonged sickness leave, pregnancy and breastfeeding leave, parental leave, palliative leave and leave for medical assistance. In these cases the fellowship will be extended by the period during which the fellowship was suspended.

Extensions of less than two weeks will not be taken into consideration.

§2. Pursuant to the applicable legal provisions, an application for time credit can be submitted three months in advance. Such credit shall not give rise to an extension of the fellowship. Fellows must notify the Research Foundation - Flanders as soon as possible of such interruptions in their activities.

§3. If full-time suspensions of consecutive periods of three months occurred, during which the fellowship was not paid out because of prolonged sickness leave, pregnancy and breastfeeding leave, parental leave, and palliative leave, the fellowship will automatically be extended by one year, the extension commencing from the original end date of the fellowship. This administrative extension is granted only once and suspensions during such automatic extension of the fellowship will not give rise to any further extension of the fellowship.

Chapter 6. Termination

Art. 25.

In case the postdoctoral fellow is no longer affiliated with a host institution as referred to in article 3 §1 of these regulations, the employment contract is terminated by operation of law.

Art. 26.

§1. Subject to the general law of contract termination, the fellowship of a postdoctoral researcher, and therefore the employment contract, will, as a rule, terminate upon expiry of a period of 3 years.

§2. Furthermore, the employment contract will be terminated for good cause, without compensation or notice to the researcher, if the latter commits a breach of integrity which immediately and definitively renders any professional collaboration between the Research Foundation - Flanders and the researcher impossible.

Art. 27.

§1. As soon as the Research Foundation - Flanders becomes aware of breaches of scientific integrity by one of its researchers, it will hear the researcher.

§2. The researcher has the right to legal counsel.

§3. After having heard the researcher, the FWO can make the following decisions:

  1. close the case without taking further action;
  2. have the facts put down on record and include this record in the personal file of the postdoctoral researcher with the FWO;
  3. issue a formal warning and include this warning in the personal file of the postdoctoral researcher with the FWO;
  4. dismiss the researcher subject to payment of the statutory compensation;
  5. dismiss the researcher for good cause.

§4. For the evaluation of a new application for a postdoctoral fellowship with the FWO, the above consequences b) and c) may be taken into consideration by the qualified expert panel.

Art. 28.

Postdoctoral fellows may at any time resign their fellowship provided they have notified the head of the host institution, the head of their research department and the Research Foundation - Flanders thereof.

Chapter 8. Calculation of the salary and payment

Art. 29.

§1. The salary scale of postdoctoral fellows is that of Doctor-Assistant, as laid down by the Decision of the Flemish Government of 4 May 2001 laying down the salary scales of assistant academic staff of the universities in the Flemish Community.

§2. The gross amount per month is minimum €4,053.81 and maximum €6,319.49, indexed with 1.6734 as determined on 1 July 2017.

Art. 30.

If they use public transport or a bicycle for travelling to and from work in Belgium, fellows of the Research Foundation - Flanders are entitled to an allowance equivalent to that payable to academic staff of the universities in the Flemish Community.

Art. 31.

§1. The pay scale seniority of candidate postdoctoral fellows is calculated on the basis of the acquired scientific seniority, taking into account the following provisions:

  • the duration of the appointment under an employment of at least 50% at a university or scientific institution, insofar as the work involves research activities;
  • the duration of the research activities voluntarily undertaken at a university in the Flemish Community, insofar as these activities account for at least 50% of a regular, full-time employment;
  • half of the duration of the appointment referred to in the first and second indents of this paragraph, insofar as an employment of less than 50% is involved.

§2. The duration of the appointment is calculated per calendar month. Incomplete months are not taken into account. The total extent of the pay scale seniority can never exceed the nominal duration of the eligible periods.

§3. Each eligible period of prior employment shall be supported by an employment certificate.

Art. 32.

The salary is linked to the health index insofar as applicable to the academic staff of the universities in the Flemish Community.

Art. 33.

The salary is paid monthly, at the end of the month, into a Belgian financial account.

Chapter 9. Occupational accidents and liability

Art. 34.

§1. Postdoctoral fellows are covered by legally required insurance against risks inherent in regular seminar and/or laboratory work, and against accidents on the way to and from work. The legally required insurance policy covers also risks of regular seminar and/or laboratory work as well as accidents on the way to and from work during the temporary assignments abroad for which prior permission has been obtained from the Research Foundation - Flanders.

§ 2. The third-party liability of fellows is covered by a collective insurance policy taken out by the Research Foundation - Flanders.

Art. 35.

§1. In the event of an occupational accident, the personnel department of the Research Foundation - Flanders must be notified by telephone within 24 hours.

§2. The official statement together with a medical certificate must be sent to the FWO as soon as possible.

§3. The occupational health service of the host institution with which the fellowship is affiliated, as well as departmental head or equivalent, must be notified of the occupational accident.

Chapter 10. Child allowance

Art. 36.

§1. The birth of a child must be notified to the Research Foundation - Flanders.

§2. FWO will provide the required forms to obtain the child allowance and the birth premium.

§3. Reference shall be made to the provisions of the General Child Allowance Act of 19 December 1939, such as, for example, the provision that stipulates that persons subject to the full social security contribution regulation are not entitled to child allowance for themselves.

Art. 37.

To preserve their right to child allowance, fellows with dependent children must notify FWO of any professional travel abroad. During their stay abroad they must also maintain a domicile in Belgium.

Chapter 11. Annual holiday

Art. 38.

§1. The holiday periods for fellows are the same as those laid down in the regulations of the host institution and are established in consultation with the departmental head (or equivalent).

§2. Postdoctoral researchers must inform the secretariat of the Research Foundation - Flanders of the dates of their annual holidays.

§3. The holiday pay, calculated on the basis of the salary of the month of June, will be paid into the fellow's account during the month of May.

Note: the English version of the regulations are only a translation and have no legal force.