Newsletter October 2015

Edito

Dear readers,

 

This will be my last editorial for the FWO Newsletter. After ten years as secretary general of the FWO, I will pass the baton to my successor, Dr. Jurgen Tack, on November 1, 2015. You can read more on the new secretary general further on this Newsletter.

 

I consider it a privilege to have had the opportunity to lead this great organisation for ten years. I was privileged to be in the company of enthusiastic researchers, visionary rectors, wise professors, knowledgeable directors, loyal employees and so many other interesting individuals.

 

At the FWO, the researcher takes the central place.  The FWO is and wants to be a researcher-friendly organisation, which is the baseline for all of its operations.  I am happy that together with this fantastic FWO team, I have been able to set up and implement major projects to optimally support the researchers, so they can pursue their research in full freedom.

 

My term of office has been marked by the growing dynamics in the Flemish research landscape.   The FWO budget increased by 67% (from 134 to 226 million euros), and the number of researchers in Flanders by almost 50% (from around 11,000 to 16,000).  This also resulted in a significant rise - almost a doubling - in the number of applications received by the FWO.  Thus, applications for PhD fellowships rose from 535 to approx. 1000, and project applications from 680 to 1300.

 

In addition, over the past years, new programmes have been developed, such as the Odysseus Brain Gain programme, the Big Science programme for participation in big international research facilities, the Pegasus mobility programme (co-financed by the European Commission), the International Coordination actions, etc.

 

To accommodate this strong growth, the FWO administration has had to reorganise itself.  First of all, following an in-depth process analysis, the FWO organisational chart was thoroughly revamped. As a result, each researcher/panel member were assigned their "own" file manager. A central point of contact and information provider who guides the researcher from application to award.  Organised by field of science, this significantly enhances the user friendliness for researchers.  Crucial in this was the support provided by a powerful ICT platform.  Ambitious IT projects were launched, so that the FWO's operations are now fully digitised, with an online environment for the submission and follow-up of applications for funding.    The new HR policy, with a strong focus on knowledge management, has enabled us to positively respond to the relatively high outflow due to retirement.  More higher educated staff were hired and the FWO's own staff was rejuvenated.    Thanks to investments in the workforce and in ICT support, the flexibility and efficiency of the FWO administration, with a stable number of FTEs, did not suffer from the increase in the number of applications.

 

A  very important operation was the conversion of the FWO commissions to FWO Expert Panels. Inspired by European shifts and the European Research Council (ERC) then being launched, this process was started up in 2008. In 2010, following two years of intensive consultations with the various stakeholders, the FWO was able to present 30 new panels, including the new "Interdisciplinary" panel.

 

Special attention has also been directed to the internationalisation of scientific research. The FWO's first and foremost ambition was, and remains, to be able to compete with peer institutions.   The FWO procedures have been and are being assessed in a European benchmarking.  The evaluation procedures in particular are in line with the European guidelines of the European Science Foundation.  This allowed us to sign bilateral agreements with many European partners under the Lead Agency Principle (LAP) whereby the partners express their trust in their respective evaluation systems.   The FWO  has also increasingly focused on European programmes such as  ERAnet, JPI, etc.   Also the numerous international exchange agreements and bilateral programmes for joint research projects have increasingly put the FWO on the map internationally. 

 

The FWO has been actively participating in the European debate, first through the European Science Foundation, and later as one of the founding members of Science Europe.  From the start of Science Europe, I myself was a member of the Governing Board, subsequently vice president and today acting president. The FWO even plays an active role in the Global Research Council.  The participation in these important forums is not confined to the secretary general, our policy advisers are also very active in the numerous European and international working groups on topical issues such as Open Access, Open Data, Gender, Scientific Integrity, etc.  

 

And finally, but not less important, over the past ten years the FWO has focused heavily on openness and communication.  On the one hand, to show to the general public, and the politicians in particular, just how important fundamental research is for social and economic progress in Flanders, and on the other hand, to provide full transparency of FWO's own procedures and processes.

 

As of 1 January 2016, the FWO's mission is extended by programmes for strategic basic research and for research infrastructure. A new FWO with a new secretary general!  Dr.  Jurgen Tack has all the right cards to steer this beautiful organisation in the right direction. For this, he can rely on an excellent FWO team.  I wholeheartedly congratulate him on his appointment and wish him every success.  I hope that his time at the helm of the new FWO will give him at least as much joy as it has given me.

In the spotlight

Jurgen Tack new Secretary-General

As of November 1, 2015, Jurgen Tack will be the new Secretary-General of FWO. He will succeed Elisabeth Monard, who will retire after having held the position for 10 years. 

 

Mr Tack, 48, is doctor of science (VUB, 1997) and holder of an MBA (Vlerick, 2011).   At the start of his career as a biologist, FWO offered him the opportunity to conduct pre- and postdoctoral research on the chemical communication between oysters, which in the 1990s led to the creation of a successful spin-off in East Africa. Between 2000 and 2007, he worked on incentives for international research funding at the Belgian Biodiversity Platform.  Since 2007 he has been general director of the Flemish Institute for Nature and Forest Research (INBO).

Launch of [PEGASUS]², giving wings to your career

The [PEGASUS]² Marie Skłodowska-Curie launch event took place in Brussels on Friday September 25, 2015. No fewer than 40 representatives from universities, embassies, the European Commission and (inter)national scientific research institutions attended the event, where the renewed FWO programme was presented in detail as the mobility channel par excellence, allowing postdoctoral researchers to add wings to their career through international and intersectoral mobility in the form of both incoming and outgoing fellowships with a duration of three years.

 

The FWO's INCOMING [PEGASUS]² Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowships are aimed at attracting excellent postdoctoral researchers to the Flemish Community, whereas its OUTGOING [PEGASUS]² Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowships give postdoctoral researchers in the Flemish Community the possibility to boost their research career by gaining international research experience.

 

The [PEGASUS]² Marie Skłodowska-Curie (MSCA) programme focuses on both intellectual, social and cultural exchange, and fellows benefit from interesting financial conditions. On top of an attractive salary, [PEGASUS]² MSCA fellows also receive a mobility allowance - for expenses related to the stay abroad of both the fellow and his/her family - and an annual bench fee for research related (travel) expenses and training activities. Details about the [PEGASUS]² fellowship types, conditions, requirements, regulations, etc. can be found here.

 

In the coming months, the FWO will be launching two calls under the [PEGASUS]² MSCA programme for a total of 60 fellowships to be awarded. The first call was launched last week Friday 25 September with as deadline 1 February 2016 (flexible start of the fellowships: October 2016-February 2017). The second call will open in February 2016 with as deadline 1 May 2016 (flexible start of the fellowships: January-May 2017).

New Scientific Integrity policy

The FWO has taken new steps forward in its policy on scientific integrity. In close collaboration with the Flemish universities, we have taken additional measures to promote ethical conduct in scientific research, to prevent violations, and to take even more effective action if and when necessary. 

On our website you will find a general explanation of what we mean by scientific integrity, and details about:

  • the associated clause that will in future be incorporated into all our research calls, applications and agreements 
  • profiles that clearly outline what we expect from supervisors, researchers and host institutions 
  • the amendments to our regulations.

You can also find information on what is happening on this issue outside the FWO and outside of Flanders.

» Read more

News

Ethical Advice

A great deal of research, in all scientific disciplines, involves ethical aspects. In some cases, the FWO may require that ethical advice be obtained for fellowships and projects prior to the start of the research activities.

 

Day of Science

The Day of Science is the leading scientific event in Flanders and Brussels. Everyone participates: innovative companies, universities and colleges, museums, interactive centres, astronomical observatories and research institutes.

 

This year's edition takes place on Sunday 22 November 2015 and the full programme will be available from October 12th on this website.

International news

Francis Halzen wins Balzan Prize 2015

Professor Francis Halzen has won the prestigious Balzan Prize 2015 in recognition of his work in astroparticle physics.

 

Francis Halzen is one of the founders of the so-called neutrino astrophysics, a branch of science where researchers try to detect high-energy neutrinos.  His research led to the creation of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, a neutrino detector with light sensors, at the South Pole.  In 2013 the neutrinos were also effectively detected, which marked a major scientific breakthrough in physics.

 

Francis Halzen is currently a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has been both a PhD and postdoctoral fellow as well as a qualified researcher of FWO.

 

The International Balzan Prize Foundation each year awards money prizes to scientists or organisations for outstanding work in science and/or their important contribution to society. The prize is named for Eugenio Balzan (1974-1953), an Italian journalist and publisher.

Constantin van Outryve d’Ydewalle is awarded a career development grant from the Muscular Dystrophy Association

Dr. Constantin van Outryve d’Ydewalle has received a prestigious career development grant from the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) worth 180,000 dollars for his project as FWO postdoctoral researcher, entitled: ‘long non-coding RNA as therapeutic target for spinal muscular atrophy'.

 

He is affiliated with KU Leuven (Laboratory of Neurobiology, Department of Neuroscience) and VIB, and has for 3 years been visiting postdoctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (Baltimore, US). 

 

Further information about MIDA and the 'career development grant' can be found on the following web pages:

1. http://www.mda.org/strength-numbers-new-grants-pave-way-toward-treatments-and-cures

2. http://www.mda.org/research/gaag/sma-constantin-d-ydewalle-phd

H2020

MSCA

Op 2June the Belgian NCP's organised an information session on the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Individual Fellowships. Speakers were mr. Theodoros Staikos of the Research Executive Agency of the European Commission and mrs. Arya-Maria Ba Trung, communication policy advisor of the European Commission. The Flemish academic landscape was represented by prof. dr. ir. Wilfried Vandervorst (IMEC), IF European Fellow and biochemicus dr. Frauke Christ (KU Leuven), MSCA evaluator. With more than 100 participants this session was a real succes. The call closed on 10 September 2015. Five months later the results will be announced.

 

ERC

Op 15 September another information session was organised in the Palace of the Academies, this time on the ERC fellowships. This session was organised by FWO, BELSPO and FNRS.This time the Starting Grants, Consolidator Grants and Proof of Concept Grants were explained. For the European Commission the speakers were prof. dr. Reinhilde Veugelers (KU Leuven) of the scientific council of ERC  and dr. Veronica Beneitez, Proof of Concept call coördinator of ERCEA. The speakers of Flemish institutions were historian and ERC Starting Grant holder dr. Tineke van Osselaer of the UAntwerpen and dr. ir. Danae Delbeke of the Tech Transfer department of the UGent. With 170 participants this session was also a big success. Yhe call for Starting Grants closes on 17 November 2015; for Consolidator Grants on 2 February 2016 and for Proof of Concept Grants on 16 February, 26 May and 4 October 2016.

 

For the future

There are some upcoming information sessions later this year. We will inform you via our regular communication channels.

Science Europe

Science Europe is an organisation of European Research Financing Organisations, like FWO, and Research Performing Organisations, like the French CNRS. Science Europe counts 50 members, including FWO and the Secretary-General of hte FWO is at the moment acting president. Science Europe has in recent months issued position statements on the energy issue (opinion paper from the Physical, Chemical and Mathematical Sciences Committee), a nuanced approach to the future of joint programming, and Open Access. In addition, workshops were organised about ethical protocols in social sciences and about Computational Modelling of Complex Spatial Structures and Processes in Natural and Life Sciences.

You can read all about it on the Science Europe website.

Across the boarders

Secretary-General visits Mercator telescope on La Palma

Dr.ir. Elisabeth Monard,Secretary-General of the FWO, visited theMercator telescope on La Palma.

This telescope is a 1.2 m semi-robotic telescope, built at a height of 2300 m in the Roque de los Muchachos observatory at La Palma (Canary Islands).  The telescope is exploited by the Instituut voor Sterrenkunde (IvS) of the KU Leuven.

 

The name of the telescope comes from the famous Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator (1512-1594), who was appointed at the university of Leuven as a scientist and instrument maker, before moving to Duisburg (Germany).

 

Since 2008 the FWO has invested 3.91 million euros in the telescope, i.a. the Big Science programme.

 

On the picture: vice-rector George Gielen (KU Leuven), Christoffel Waelkens (KU Leuven), Elisabeth Monard (FWO) en Hans Van de Winckel (KU Leuven)

ERA-NET

As part of ERA-NET, the European programme that stimulates cooperation between funding organisations and researchers on research calls with specific themes, a new call of ERANID, the European Research Area Network on Illicit Drugs, was launched in September.

For this call and all other information about FWO and ERA-NET see: /nl/mandaten-financiering/europese-programmas/era-net/ .

 

In addition, for various ERA-NETS a final decision has been made regarding the allocation and funding of projects with Flemish participation. 

CHIST-ERA  JTC 2014 - 2 topics:

Topic 1: Resilient Trustworthy Cyber-Physical Systems (RTCPS)

  • DYPOSIT - Wouter Joossen, KU Leuven (Distrinet-iMinds)

Topic 2: Human Language Understanding (HLU)

  • ReGROUND - Luc De Raedt, KU Leuven
  • ATLANTIS - Ann Nowé, VUB

ERA –NET RUS PLUS JTC 2014 (EU-Russia cooperation) – 4 topics (no Flemish projects selected for topic 2):

Topic 1: Nanotechnologies

  • FONSENS - Dirk Lamoen, Universiteit Antwerpen
  • NANO-MORF - Joke Hadermann, Universiteit Antwerpen
  • NANOLUX2014 - Rik Van Deun, UGent

Topic 3: Health

  • HybrBioScaf (INTELBIOCOMP) - André Skirtach, UGent
  • NEUROSURV - Simon De Meyer, KU Leuven

Topic 4: Social Sciences and Humanities

  • PAWCER - Wim van Oorschot, KU Leuven

FLAG ERA (FET-FLAGSHIPS) - 2 topics:

Topic 1: Human Brain Project (HBP)

  • FUSIMICE - Annemie van Der Linden, Universiteit Antwerpen
  • CHAMPMouse - Hans Op De Beeck, KU Leuven

Topic 2: Graphene

  • Trans2DTMD - François Peeters, University of Antwerp

ERA MBT (Marine Biotechnology) JTC 2014:

  • NEPTUNA - Peter Bossier, UGent

For details on the upcoming calls see the FWO website.

» More information on each call

Press