nr. 26 - 27 March 2014

01 Edito

Fundamental research and the future challenges

2014 will be an important year for Europe, for Belgium, and for Flanders. The elections at local, national and European level to be held on May 25 promise to be not only exciting, but also vital for determining the path that will be followed in the years ahead.

 

The FWO, too, is aware of the importance of these elections and published just before the summer of last year an extensive memorandum containing a number of highly specific recommendations for the various political parties. On the eve of these elections, I would like to highlight a number of guiding principles of the memorandum.

 

The relevance of ground-breaking research for the consolidation of societal welfare and well-being is obvious.  Important leaders, including President Obama, Commission President Barroso, European President Van Rompaey and many other politicians have repeatedly stressed the need for continuous support of fundamental research as the basis for further economic development and innovation.

 

Also the FWO continues to reiterate this message, particularly at times like these. In fact, in times of budgetary constraints,  the focus is too often on short-term wins and the medium perspective tends to be pushed into the background. The FWO therefore wants to emphasise that the continued investment in R&D and the development of an investment growth path are both crucial if Flanders wants to continue to play a significant international role in the extremely competitive world of research and innovation. A balance in public investment between fundamental research and applied research is essential in this respect.

 

A major driving force behind the Flemish knowledge society is the growing group of PhD students and PhD graduates. What is important for them is that the FWO, but also other stakeholders within and outside the academic world, succeed in offering this group of young top talents all opportunities to develop their full potential. Continued investment in the research career path is paramount to keep this group of researchers motivated and to subsequently offer them real opportunities in the labour market outside of the academy.

 

A final guiding principle I would like to highlight is the continued focus on internationalisation of scientific research and the promotion of international mobility for (young) researchers. In recent years, the FWO has implemented numerous extra initiatives and programmes to address the growing need for internationalisation. The strong position that Flemish researchers currently occupy in many areas is in fact attributable to this open-minded approach to the world that is characteristic of research in Flanders. The FWO aims to take further important steps in the next few years and also calls upon politicians to keep actively supporting these actions.

 

The other guiding principles are set out in the FWO memorandum. The full text of the memorandum can be read at the FWO website.

02 In the spotlight

New call FWO-Excellence Prizes

The prestigious Excellence Prizes, also known as the Flemish Nobel Prizes, are awarded every five years by the Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO) in recognition of the careers of five eminent researchers from the Flemish research community.  The prizes are awarded in five different areas of research:

  • the Dr. A. De Leeuw-Damry-Bourlart Prizes with one prize for Exact Sciences and one prize for Applied Sciences;
  • the Ernest-John Solvay Prize for Humanities and Social Sciences;
  • the Joseph Maisin Prizes with one prize for Fundamental Biomedical Sciences and one prize for Clinical Biomedical Sciences.

The prizes amount to €100,000 each and are intended for researchers of the Flemish Community. The full regulations can be found here

Candidates for the Excellence Prizes must be nominated by an established researcher.  Candidacies must be submitted using the Excellence Prizes form, which can be downloaded from the website. They must be sent in digital format to prijzen@fwo.be no later than November 3rd 2014.  The awards will be presented in the second half of 2015. 

Number of applications continues to grow

The submission deadline for applications for fellowships expired in early February 2014. The FWO administration is now processing all applications to prepare them for evaluation by the FWO-Expertpanels.

 

This year, as in previous years,  there was a significant increase in the number of applications. The number of PhD fellowship applications rose by 3.5% to a total of 985. For postdoctoral fellowships, the increase was even more pronounced, rising by 4.15% to a total of 677 new applications. This increase also has an immediate impact on the success rates of applicants during this application round.

 

The success rate for PhD fellowship and postdoctoral fellowship applications fell to 21.7% and 24.6% respectively.

 

The FWO is pleased to announce that the number of violations of peer review guidelines has declined dramatically and that hardly any applications were rejected for this reason.

ESOF Travel Grants

The biennial Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF) will take place in Copenhagen from 21-26 June 2014. ESOF invariably succeeds in bringing together journalists, young and experienced researchers, policy makers and politicians and the general public. As in previous editions, ESOF has a special career programme and offers young (predoctoral and postdoctoral) researchers a unique opportunity to meet internationally renowned researchers within and outside their research area.

The FWO is sending a group of young researchers to ESOF 2104 in Copenhagen.  They will leave on 21 June and return on 24 June. More information is available at our website.

03 news

FWO-annual 2013

In its Annual 2013, the FWO gives the floor to a number of researchers to express their view on the publication pressure that every researcher has to deal with. Tina Kyndt and Violet Soen of the Young Academy, a think tank of 40 or so young, passionate researchers who critically reflect on the future role of universities, represent the opinion of the Young Academy. Also Jean Paul Van Bendegem, philosopher of science, and Anne-Marie Van der Linden, biomedical scientist, address the ramifications of this phenomenon. Prof. Anne De Paepe and dr. ir. Elisabeth Monard, finally, take a look at what goes on behind the scenes of Flanders' main funding channel for fundamental research.

 

The Annual also contains an overview of all funding channels and facts and figures of the FWO. The Annual will soon be available at our website and you will also receive a printed copy by post.

Last call Pegasus programme

The last call for Pegasus fellowships for the time being was opened in early March.  Pegasus is a programme of the FWO in collaboration with Marie Curie of the European Commission. It is aimed at postdoctoral researchers abroad in all disciplines who wish to conduct research in Flanders for a period of one year.  Applications for this round close on 2 May 2014 at 5:00 pm.  Selected candidates can start on 1 January 2015.  All information is available at our website.

Bilateral cooperation with Ecuador – new call

The FWO has long recognised the importance of internationalisation. The FWO seeks to actively promote international cooperation because it acts as a lever for excellence. That is why the FWO signs bilateral agreements with a number of countries for the funding of joint research projects. These projects go further than the traditional exchange projects, because personnel can also be financed. 

 

One of the selected countries is Ecuador. The FWO has reached an agreement with research fund SENESCyT (Secretaría Nacional de Educación Superior, Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación) on the funding of new research projects in various areas.  As part of this bilateral agreement, the FWO will launch, together with SENESCyT, a second call at the end of March. Joint research projects with a partner from Ecuador can be submitted through the FWO e-portal until 1 July 2014.  The results will be announced in December 2014 and the two-year projects can start on 1 January 2015. The full regulations are available at the following link.

04 International news

FWO-ers land ERC grants

On 14 January 2014 the European Research Council announced the winners of the prestigious Consolidator Grants. The 312 winners include 13 researchers from Flemish research institutes,  most of whom have a FWO background.

The Flemish winners of the ERC Consolidator Grants are:

  • Jan Beyers - UAntwerpen
  • Nico Callewaert – VIB/UGent
  • Laurens Cherchye – KU Leuven
  • Jan Cools – VIB/KU Leuven
  • Nicolas Fernando de Warren – KU Leuven
  • Thomas Hertog – KU Leuven
  • Liesbet Lagae – IMEC
  • Diether Lambrechts – VIB/KU Leuven
  • Riccardo Raabe – KU Leuven
  • Peter Schelkens – VUB
  • Joris Thybaut – UGent
  • Stefaan Vaes – KU Leuven
  • Kris Verheyen – UGent

In another ERC competition, Proof of Concept, FWO-ers Christophe Detavernier (UGent) and Jan Ramon (KU Leuven) managed to land a grant. The ERC Proof of Concept gives researchers who already have an ERC Grant the opportunity to bridge the gap between their research and the first phase of an innovation. A total of 67 projects were financed.

Switzerland's status as third country confirmed

Following the outcome of the Swiss referendum on immigration, the European Commission announced on 10 February that it had suspended negotiations to include Switzerland as an associated country in Horizon 2020 and the higher education program Erasmus+.

 

This means that for the 2014 calls for proposals, the participation of Swiss entities will be governed by the Horizon 2020 provisions applicable to the participation of third country entities. The Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation, however, continues to anticipate full association prior to the signature of the first Grant Agreements in the second half of 2014.

 

As an intermediate measure, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) has launched its own programme which in terms of scope, deadlines and funding level is a copy of the ERC Starting Grants and Consolidator Grants. This programme should enable Swiss and foreign researchers who were planning to apply for an ERC Grant with a Swiss host institution, to continue to play a top-level role.

COST Info Day 2014

The COST information day took place on 14 March 2014, in cooperation with the FWO. The Infoday was organised to assist researchers with their application for a new COST action.

The presentations of the Info Day can be viewed here.

FWO – thematic info sessions Horizon 2020

The first calls of the new European framework programme for research and innovation "Horizon 2020" were published on 11 December 2013. To properly prepare and inform all stakeholders about the conditions of this new programme, the FWO, in its capacity of National Contact Point, has organised a number of well-attended thematic info sessions.

The presentations of these info sessions can be viewed here:

Future info sessions:

Deadline FETFLAG-2014 call postponed until 10 June 2014

The deadlines for the two FETFLAG calls relating to the Framework Partnership Agreement and the Policy Environment for FET Flagships have been postponed until 10 June 2014. This was announced by the Director-General via the Participant Portal.

05 Across the borders

Open calls for European Research Area Networks

ERA-NET is the instrument within the European Framework Programme that enables funding organisations in the various member states to jointly launch, evaluate and fund research projects. At present, the following calls are open:

  • NEURON, for neuroscience research: submission date 10 March 2014;
  • ERA-CAPS, for research in the field of plant sciences: submission date 14 March 2014;
  • EURONANOMED, for research in nanomedicine: submission date 4 March 2014;
  • INFECT-ERA, for research projects in infectious diseases: submission date 2 April 2014

The FWO is currently examining the new themes in which it will participate in the near future.  The instrument under Horizon 2020 has been slightly changed to ERA-NET COFUND. The main difference with respect to the previous situation is that each network will now primarily focus on the organisation of a single joint call, up to one-third of which can be co-funded by the European Commission.

Science Europe: open letter Social Sciences and Humanities

Last February, the Scientific Committees Social Sciences and Humanities together published an open letter entitled: Social Sciences and Horizon 2020: an Open Letter.

 

In this letter they call on their colleagues in these domains to fully exploit the opportunities provided by the new European Framework Programme "Horizon 2020" for social sciences and humanities. Apart from Challenge 6: Inclusive, Innovative and Reflective Societies, all the other societal challenges of Horizon 2020 will provide room for social science and humanities approaches.

 

Moreover, the European Research Council (ERC) remains, as before, the EU body that welcomes applications for fundamental research in all disciplines. The two committees of Science Europe also make a warm appeal to boost the share of applications from social sciences and humanities, which currently amounts to slightly above one-fifth.

 

Read the full letter or find out more about the Scientific Committees of Science Europe.

Open calls Joint Programming Initiatives (JPI)

The FWO will in future only provide top-up funding for ongoing FWO projects that can be meaningfully integrated into a European consortium. This principle has already been applied in the call for the JPND, Climate, HLDHL and AMR JPIs. Current open calls within JPI:

  • Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR): submission date 14 March 2014;
  • AHealthy Diet for a Healthy Life (HDHL):
    • one for the theme ‘European Nutrition phenotype data sharing initiative' (ENPADASI): submission date 31 March 2014;
    • the other for 'Biomarkers for nutritional/health claims’: submission date 25 April 2014.