Regulations for Big Science Programme Projects

General Regulations

The General Regulations apply.

Detailed information, full regulations and forms are available online.
Any additional information can be obtained from the secretariat of the Research Foundation - Flanders, Egmontstraat 5, 1000 BRUSSELS, tel 02 512 91 10 or BigScience@fwo.be.

Background

Art. 1.

The Flemish Government, by virtue of Art. 8 and 9 of the Decision of the Flemish Government "on the subsidizing of the Research Foundation - Flanders" of 10/11/2011, provides a subsidy in support of the Big Science programme.

Big Science programme projects

Art. 2.

The "Big Science" programme aims to support international research projects executed at international or supranational research facilities, supported by the Flemish or the federal government.

Art. 3.

The subsidy is used to finance the institutional, operational and logistic costs of Flemish researchers participating in large-scale, international research infrastructures, of which the Belgian federal or Flemish government is a member, or whose participation it finances.

Allowed expenses are fixed costs (e.g. 'right to compete' contributions, MoU, accommodation for researchers...) and commitments entered into under international collaboration agreements as a precondition for participation. Applications can also be submitted for logistic costs (i.e. staff and consumables) associated with the execution of Big Science programme projects.

Expenses for the execution of the actual research CANNOT be charged to a Big Science programme project, but should be submitted as a regular FWO project.

The Mercator telescope which is part of the International Astronomical Observatory for the Northern Hemisphere 'Roque de los Muchachos Observatory' in Santa Cruz de la Palma, is also considered a research infrastructure, as defined in the first paragraph.

Art. 4.

The FWO Board of Trustees can award funding for research carried out at international or supranational facilities supported by the Flemish or federal government, when the supervisors are affiliated to universities in the Flemish Community, at the Evangelic Theological Faculty in Leuven and the Faculty for Protestant Theology in Brussels, possibly in collaboration with Flemish or Federal research institutes. If the research is conducted in collaboration with a university college, it shall be carried out under the supervision and responsibility of a Flemish university.

A Big Science programme project is carried out under the direction of a supervisor, who acts as spokesperson. There may be several co-supervisors.

All correspondence with the FWO occurs via the supervisor as responsible spokesperson for the project. A copy of all correspondence shall also be sent to the co-supervisors.

Applications

Art. 5.

Applications for funding are to be submitted to the FWO in English, using online forms. The forms must reach the secretariat of the FWO no later than 1 April at 17:00 of the year  which precedes the budgetary financial year for which the application is submitted. If this date falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the closing date is moved to the following Monday at 17:00.

Art. 6.

For a Big Science programme project to be carried out within one or more universities or scientific institutions, the application must also:

  • prove that the Big Science programme project extends beyond the current activities of the interested department(s), and its execution calls for resources that exceed the normal financial resources of the said department(s);
  • specify the share - in cash or in services - of the aforesaid institution(s) in the realisation of the Big Science programme project.

Evaluation

Art. 7.

For the evaluation of the files, the governing bodies receive advice from a scientific umbrella committee, consisting of eminent international experts. This committee is composed after the deadline, on the basis of the received application files. The composition is ratified by the FWO Board of Trustees.

Art. 8.

The supervisors must submit a scientific report to the FWO:

  • for ongoing Big Science projects: during the penultimate year of the agreement, a scientific report indicating the progress status of the research and the project work still to be carried out, together with a list of scientific publications, if any.
  • for fully completed Big Science programme projects: upon expiry of the agreement, a final report on the scientific activities, together with a list of publications related to the project.

Agreement

Contracting parties

Art. 9.

The grants awarded by the FWO are set out in detail in an agreement. The parties to this agreement are:

The supervisor and the co-supervisors who undertake to carry out research at the relevant international major research facility;

§1. The supervisor who is also the responsible spokesperson towards the FWO, shall be:

1° an Independent Academic Staff member with a remunerated appointment of more than 10% at a Flemish university;

2° an Independent Academic Staff member with a remunerated appointment of 10% at a Flemish university and whose main task is research;

3° an Independent Academic Staff member with a remunerated appointment of 5% at a Flemish university and with an appointment as (assistant) clinical head or an equal function in a university hospital;

4° an academic staff member with a remunerated appointment at the Evangelic Theological Faculty in Leuven and the Faculty for Protestant Theology in Brussels;

5° a research director of the FWO;

6° a designated beneficiary of an ERC Starting Grant, an ERC Advanced Grant or an Odysseus II grant.

§2. All co-supervisors have to be researchers of at least postdoctoral level. Co-supervisors have to be affiliated to a Flemish university, or a Flemish research institution, or a Flemish university hospital, or the Transnational University Limburg, or the Evangelic Theological Faculty in Leuven, or the Faculty for Protestant Theology in Brussels, or a federal scientific institution where the co-supervisor belongs to the Dutch-speaking community. (Foreign researchers can participate as co-supervisor in the Big Science programme project without FWO funding, provided the collaboration is relevant for the project).

§3. If several universities are involved in the Big Science programme project, at least the supervisor or one co-supervisor shall meet the requirements set out in §1, 1°, 2°, 3°, and hold a remunerated appointment that fully covers the duration of the Big Science programme project applied for.

§ 4. If the requirements set out in §1 are not met at the time of the application, the applicant needs to prove that this will be the case at the start of the agreement.

Art. 10.

In the special case of research at major international research institutes that is carried out jointly by a supervisor and co-supervisors at different host institutions, each supervisor and each host institution must be involved in the agreement: the contract shall stipulate all relevant provisions concerning the recruitment of staff and the administration of the funding.

Duration and modalities

Art. 11.

The Big Science contracts have a duration of five years.

Art. 12.

The contract shall include unilateral termination clauses, which shall in any case be accompanied by prior notice provisions.

Art. 13.

The supervisor will ask the international research facilities to give their consent for access to their premises for the execution of the FWO sponsored Big Science programme project. The supervisor shall attach this consent to the application.

Art. 14.

Funding approved by the FWO, within the scope of Big Science programme projects, can be used exclusively for the financing of fixed and logistic costs, as specified in Article 4. As soon as their use no longer meets this requirement, the funding - or their balances - shall return to the FWO.

Art. 15.

Any fundamental change to an ongoing Big Science programme project must be made the subject of an investigation, equal to that for a new application, and shall be included in an amendment to the agreement, that does not extend the original agreement. Any partial modification of the Big Science programme project, as well as any change in the planned expenditure, is subject to prior approval by the FWO.

Cost categories

Art. 16.

The FWO can award staff grants and bench fees for the execution of Big Science programme projects.

Supervisors and co-supervisors are not allowed any remuneration or accumulation with a remuneration under an FWO Big Science programme project, unless an exception is granted by the administrative bodies.

1) STAFF

Art. 17.

If, under the terms of contracts supported by the FWO, the supervisors are allowed to recruit staff, all appointments must comply with the applicable legal provisions and in accordance with the compensations and regulations in force at the host institution (and therefore in the large majority of cases in accordance with the system applicable at the universities in the Flemish Community) as regards the hierarchy of grades, the requirements for recruitment and promotion, and the remunerations.
The host institutions may impose additional requirements if deemed necessary.

Scientific staff must meet the requirements to enrol for a PhD at a university in the Flemish Community or hold a PhD by thesis or a degree or certificate recognised as equivalent by law or in accordance with European Union directives or a bilateral agreement, in compliance with the provisions of the Flemish Codex on Higher Education of 11 October 2013, Art. V 20.

Each year, before 30 April, the host institution shall submit to the FWO a list containing an overview of the staff working on the various FWO projects. The list is broken down by project/budget and includes the following information: surname, first name, date of birth, nationality, date of start of employment, date of end of employment, employment percentage, type of contract, statute (BAP - PhD researcher, BAP – WM, ATP…) and highest degree obtained, and a certificate of the host institution stating that the scientific staff meet the applicable requirements. Staff expenditure under FWO programme projects that does not meet these requirements, shall be rejected.

Art. 18.

Justification of staff: Staff costs can only be justified if they are included in the agreement, and comprise the following:

  • staff recruited under an employment contract by the host institution (as employer);
  • grants (including grants subject to social security, resulting from the invitation of a guest researcher in the research department).

Is excluded: any other form of compensation for services rendered (i.e. services for which no employment contract was drawn up and which are not subject to any form of social security).

The fixed staff amounts are revised annually and reported to the host institutions.

For the 2012 call, a full-time equivalent amounts to:

  • for a scientific unit: €60,000.00
  • for a technical unit: €50,000.00


The maximum amount shall not be exceeded, but the number of awarded categories need not necessarily be followed.

Being both scientifically and financially responsible for the execution of the Big Science programme project, the supervisors are allowed to recruit both full-time, half-time, and part-time scientific or technical staff. It shall be noted, however, that staff may be recruited only in connection with the logistic and fixed costs of the Big Science programme project. In practice this means that such staff must be associated with the execution of the approved Big Science programme project. Staff expenditure for the execution of the actual research CANNOT be charged to a Big Science programme project, but should be submitted as a regular FWO research project.

The staff grants are intended for the compensation of scientific or technical staff throughout the term of the contract signed by the parties involved for the execution of the Big Science programme project, plus the following year.

Positive balances of the awarded staff grant can be used for the remuneration of staff up to maximum one year after the end date of the contract, and as additional bench fee up to two years after the end date of the contract. Negative balances of the staff grant can be set off against the bench fee, provided the total awarded amount is not exceeded.

Holiday pay upon termination in the case of staff having worked either for 3/4 of the project's duration, or for at least three consecutive years on one or more projects of the FWO, can be charged to a budget item specially provided for this purpose. This holiday pay upon termination is therefore not charged to the fixed staff grant. For staff that do not meet the applicable requirements, however, it shall be charged to the fixed staff grant for the project.

2) EQUIPMENT

Art. 19.

It is not possible to apply for an equipment grant in connection with a Big Science programme project. Major equipment cannot be financed via the Big Science programme project and must be applied for via the regular research projects.

3) BENCH FEES

Art. 20.

Bench fees:

The following costs can be charged as bench fees, provided they are specified in the original application:

  • commitments entered into under international collaboration agreements as a precondition for participation in the relevant major international research facilities (e.g. 'right to compete' contributions, MoU, etc.);
  • costs of accommodation for researchers required to conduct research at the major international research facility;
  • negative balances of the staff grant;
  • costs of travel to the relevant major international research facility;
  • fees for job students, pollsters;
  • small equipment of less than €20,000 per unit, required for the Big Science programme project;
  • other fixed costs required for research at the relevant major international research facility;
  • other logistic costs required for research at the relevant major international research facility

Bench fees associated with the actual research CANNOT be charged to a Big Science programme project, but should be submitted as a regular FWO project.

Expenses are accepted if they are dated during the term of the contract signed by the parties involved for the execution of the Big Science programme project and the following two years.

Overheads:

Art. 21.

If allowed by the government, overheads can be paid to the host institutions in accordance with guidelines to be laid down by the government and the FWO. Apart from these overheads, the following items shall not be charged to an FWO grant:

  • costs of renting, heating, lighting and maintaining premises and furniture of Flemish university buildings, as these are costs that are normally to be borne by the host institution;
     
  • management or administrative costs incurred with the Flemish universities.

Payment - justification - audit

Art. 22.

financial report (reporting) - payment

§1. For each Big Science programme project, an advance payment of 25% of the awarded grant, including the overhead on the awarded grant in proportion to the advance payment and excluding the staff administration costs based on the staff expenditure, is paid to the host institution in the months of April and July of the relevant year. The staff administration costs based on the staff expenditure are calculated and paid at the time of the annual settlement and are included in the fixed staff amounts established by the FWO.

§2. After the relevant year, a financial report on each Big Science programme project is submitted to the FWO before 30 April. The financial report includes a breakdown by category/grant (bench fee and staff) and posting number and posting date or invoice date and an overall total per semester or per year. The overall financial report includes the totals per semester or per year, per project and per category (bench fee and staff). This financial report is signed by the head of the Finance department and a second manager (e.g. head of the research administration) to confirm that the necessary audits have been carried out. They certify the financial report to be "true and accurate".

§3. Based on the financial reports, the relevant year is settled, including overhead, and the remaining portion of justified expenses is paid out. The remaining non-justified portion of the awarded grant is added to the grant for year n+1. The result is the total available grant for year n+1.

§4. The advance payments of year n+1 are again two tranches of 25% of the awarded grant. To calculate the second tranche of 25%, the balance of year n is added, because the final settlement of year n cannot be made until after 30 April of year n+1. At that time the final budget of year n+1 is established by adding the balance of year n to the awarded grant of year n+1. The second tranche of 25% is calculated on this final budget. This procedure applies throughout the term of the Big Science programme project.

Art. 23.

Justification/audit

§1 System audit

The host institutions submit the auditor's report on the audited annual accounts of the past financial year to the FWO each year before May 31. Non-submission or late submission of this report will result in suspension of the payments.

§2. Overall reconciliation FWO programme projects

Before April 30, each host institution submits to the FWO a certificate from the independent auditor on the past financial year, stating that, without taking into account the awarded and charged overhead, the expenditure reported to the FWO via the financial reports, corresponds with the accounting records of the host institution. Non-submission or late submission of this report will result in suspension of the payments.

§3. Project audit

For Big Science projects from €350,000 an on-site audit is conducted by the independent auditor of the FWO at the end of the Big Science programme project. The audit forms the basis for the final settlement of the Big Science programme project. The independent auditor of the FWO has to confirm whether the financial reporting to the FWO represents a fair account of the use of the resources. The audit by the independent auditor is conducted in accordance with the standards and recommendations of the institute of independent auditors. The independent auditor of the FWO shall, upon request, be granted access to all documents that he/she deems necessary to perform the audit task. The costs of these audits are borne by the FWO.

§4. Random audit

The FWO administration will randomly request and audit documents, including salary slips, during the term of the Big Science programme projects. These documents can be transmitted electronically. The requested supporting documents will then be reconciled with the project application file. The requested documents shall be submitted to the FWO within a period of 3 months. This procedure will be maintained until the final closure of the Big Science programme project. Non-submission or late submission of the requested documents will result in suspension of the payments.

If the random audits reveal significant gaps for Big Science programme projects carried out at a host institution, the FWO may instruct its independent auditor to perform a project audit also for projects of less than €350,000, in accordance with the provisions of Article 24, paragraph 4.

The host institution shall in any case retain a right of reply and may, in support of its case, grant the independent auditor of the FWO access to the records of its independent auditor. The purpose of these procedures is to avoid double audits.

Art. 24.

The provisions in Art. 23, § 1 through 4 and Art. 24 § 1, 2 and 4 do not apply to host institutions with fewer than 15 ongoing FWO funded  projects. These include both research projects and programme projects. The number of ongoing FWO funded projects is established on January 1 of each year. For these host institutions, only the project audit for projects from €350,000 applies. For projects of less than €350,000, the supporting documents must be transmitted quarterly to the FWO.

General financial provisions

Art. 25.

Under no circumstances can expenditure be charged to grants awarded for future financial years. This also implies that invoices dated before the start date of the contract shall not be accepted.

Art. 26.

The management of the awarded grants is entrusted to the accounting department of the scientific institution to which the supervisors are affiliated. 

Art. 27.

The financial year begins on 1 January and ends on 31 December.

Final provision

Art. 28.

For any cases not provided for in these regulations, reference shall be made to the regulations and case law of the Research Foundation - Flanders.

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