Measures Coronavirus

Following the measures taken by Belgium and many other countries to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the FWO is also making a number of adjustments. In addition, the FWO also allocated 5 million euros to COVID-19 research:

Execution ongoing fellowships

Researchers who experience delays and/or other issues in the execution of their fundamental research, strategic basic research and/or TBM project due to the situation caused by the coronavirus, are offered the option, as provided for in the regulations, to continue to use their budget for both staff and consumables for a period of up to two years after the formal end date of the project, in order to finalise their research.

As concerns the EOS research projects, in light of the current COVID-19 situation, F.R.S.-FNRS and FWO jointly decided that the budget for both consumables and staff can be used for up to two years after the formal end date of the project, in order to finalise the research. This 2-year period replaces the 1-year period as stipulated in Art. 20 §3. The limits of the originally allocated budgets must obviously be respected at all times. The scheduled end date of the EOS research projects remains unchanged (i.e. 31 December 2021).

In the reports on their projects, researchers can indicate the delays and problems they experienced due to the coronavirus situation. The FWO will explicitly ask the expert panels responsible for assessment of the reports, to take these extraordinary circumstances into account.

The FWO will also examine if other ways can be found to deal with delays and other issues due to the current pandemic. Further details will be communicated in due course.

Projects under European Programmes

For certain calls with FWO involvement, in the framework of the European Programmes (ERA-NET, EJP, JPI), measures will be taken that allow researchers to complete research proposals by extending the submission deadline. These predominantly European, multilateral cooperation agreements are severely impacted by the recent events, also due to the multitude of partners and countries/regions involved, all of which are facing organisational problems.

However, this does not imply that the submission deadlines for all calls are systematically extended. Possible extensions will be considered for each network and for each call in consultation with all national/regional funders involved. The FWO will inform the central coordination units of the Flemish knowledge institutions of any extensions and will also update the FWO website when it publishes the announcements of the calls. Obviously, the information on the websites and in the communication (channels) of the specific networks involved will be updated as well.

Applying for a FWO PhD Fellowship fundamental research and strategic basic research

The Covid-19 crisis is affecting and delaying many teaching and research activities since March 2020. Possibly, your last master year and master thesis, or your starting PhD research has been influenced. International mobility has virtually come to a standstill. Also family circumstances during lockdown, increased commitment to teaching or healthcare, … may have hindered your planned activities.

As a candidate PhD fellow you may be worried about the impact of all this on the strength of your application file and the ambitions of your research project.

Therefore we advise you to mention specific factors that influence your application in the entry field ‘career breaks’ and, where appropriate, ‘personal statement’, ‘research stays’ and/or in the project description file. The FWO will explicitly instruct the panel members to take this into account when assessing your application.

Applying for a FWO postdoctoral fellowship in Corona times

The Covid-19 crisis is affecting and delaying many research activities since March: restricted access to research facilities, taking care of children during lockdown, increased commitment to teaching or healthcare, … International mobility has virtually come to a standstill. 

As a candidate postdoctoral fellow you may be worried about the impact of all this on the strength of your application file and the ambitions of your research project. 

Therefore we advise you to mention specific factors that influence your application in the entry field ‘career breaks’ and, where appropriate, ‘personal statement’, ‘research stays’ and/or in the project description file. 

The FWO will explicitly instruct the external reviewers as well as the panel members to take this into account when assessing your application.

Execution ongoing fellowships

In the report on the fellowship, researchers can indicate the delays and problems they experienced due to the coronavirus situation. The FWO will explicitly ask the expert panels responsible for assessment of the reports, to take these extraordinary circumstances into account.

Researchers whose FWO fellowship ends in 2020 were offered the possibility to make flexible use of their remaining bench fee. These fellows are allowed to use the remainder of their bench fee, with a maximum of 1,500 euros, for up to three months after the end of their fellowship. During this period, however, these fellows must remain affiliated, in recognised status, to the host institution where they carried out their fellowship. If these fellows apply for a new FWO fellowship, they will only be able to use the new bench fee.

Since the start of the crisis, the FWO has, in consultation with the Flemish universities, examined several measures to deal with the consequences of the corona crisis. The FWO has already introduced a number of budget-neutral measures such as, for example, the reporting of delays and issues in the scientific report so that these can also be taken into account in the assessment, and will continue to monitor the situation and its potential implications.

In the meantime, the FWO Board of Trustees has, after consultation with the major stakeholders, decided to continue monitoring this issue. As regards possible measures with a budgetary impact, such as extension of fellowships, the Board of Trustees has decided to implement these only if this can be done in agreement with the relevant host institutions and the necessary additional funds are provided by the Flemish government, so that uniform measures can be taken for all researchers active at Flemish universities and other host institutions. Only in this way do the researchers involved have an equal chance to being granted a fellowship.

In practice, this means that the FWO will only implement additional measures with a budgetary impact if 1) additional resources are provided by the Flemish government and 2) uniform agreements on this subject can be made with the host institutions to ensure that all Flemish researchers can be treated on an equal footing. If any action needs to be taken in this respect, the FWO will then enter into dialogue with the respective host institutions so that all researchers can equally benefit from such measures.

Schematic overview of measures related to international mobility

In response to the latest developments in the coronavirus outbreak, all outbound travel paid for with FWO funds is only allowed if positive travel advice is given by the employer (research institution to which you are affiliated as a researcher). You are required to comply with the applicable guidelines and procedures of the institution concerned. 

If you wish to reschedule your departure and have not yet booked a ticket with one of the licensed travel agencies (Omnia or Uniglobe South West Travel), you can still use the grant at a later date if the destination has a positive travel advice from your host institution. For this purpose, contact the responsible advisory body of your university. Please also advise the FWO of your rescheduled departure.

If you already booked a ticket with one of the licensed travel agencies and you wish to cancel it, you must contact the relevant travel agency (Omnia or Uniglobe South West Travel) to cancel or reschedule your flight. If your flight cannot be rebooked free of charge or if the associated additional expenses cannot be recovered from the licensed travel agency, you must submit a claim to AIG. The FWO has taken out assistance insurance with AIG for its grant recipients. Please note: AIG will only reimburse the expenses if the trip was cancelled for reasons beyond your control. The policy number to be specified in your claim is 9.500.573. After submitting the claim, AIG will send you a form that you must complete and return yourself. If FWO paid the travel expenses directly to the licensed travel agency, you must specify FWO as beneficiary in the claim. If AIG accepts the claim, you will be allowed to use the FWO grant later on, under the following conditions: (1) FWO has received the reimbursed travel expenses, (2) for participation in conferences or workshops: the same conference/workshop is rescheduled to take place at another date (3) for short and long stays abroad: the scientific goal(s) and the host institution as described in the initially approved application, are still feasible/applicable. If AIG does not accept the claim, the travel grant is no longer valid.