Regulations Doctoral (PhD) grants strategic basic research
The General Regulations apply.
Any additional information can be obtained from the secretariat of the Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek - Vlaanderen, Egmontstraat 5, 1000 BRUSSELS, email SB@fwo.be, tel. +32 22 512 91 10.
A Doctoral (PhD) Grant Strategic Basic Research allows young researchers to develop into strategically thinking and innovation-oriented scientists.
Strategic basic research in the context of a PhD grant stands for challenging and innovative research (at PhD level), which, if successful, may in the longer term lead to innovative applications (products, processes, services) with economic added value for specific companies, a collective of companies, or a sector, or in line with the VRWI transition areas.
The funding channel for doctoral (PhD) grants strategic basic research was managed by the IWT (Agency for Innovation through Science and Technology) until the end of 2015. As of 1 January 2016 the IWT was merged into the new Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the programme for doctoral (PhD) grants strategic basic research transferred to the FWO.
Decree and decision governing the programme:
*30 APRIL 2009 - Decree on the organisation and financing of science and innovation policy.
**29 MAY 2009 — Decision of the Flemish Government regulating the award of doctoral (PhD) grants for the implementation of strategic basic research projects.
These regulations apply to "doctoraatsbursalen strategisch basisonderzoek (SB)* of the Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek - Vlaanderen (FWO)".
*English nomenclature: Ph.D. fellowship strategic basic research of the Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO).
APPLICATIONS AND SENIORITY
At the start of the fellowship, the candidate must possess a master diploma that follows on from a bachelor diploma (*) and was issued in one of the countries of the European Economic Area (**) or Switzerland.
Foreign diplomas must be recognised as equivalent to a Flemish Master diploma in accordance with the Higher Education Code of 11 October 2013, the European directives, or a bilateral agreement.
* with the exclusion of master-after-master diplomas as described in the Higher Education Register (www.hogeronderwijsregister.be)
** The EU countries plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.
Candidates must submit and defend their applications in English.
Applications must be submitted via the online tool at the e-portal no later than 5:00 PM on 15 September preceding the period to which they relate. If this date falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the closing date is moved to the following Monday at 5:00 PM.
Candidates must be affiliated to a university in the Flemish Community, possibly in collaboration with a Flemish or Federal scientific institution where they conduct their research.
Part of the research may also be carried out at a Flemish company, for a maximum of 12 months per grant term of 2 years, and provided such collaboration contributes significantly to the PhD project and that a clear written agreements on intellectual property rights (IPR), In such a collaboration with a company, the research organisation remains the owner of the IPR and any transfer of those rights to the company should be done in accordance with the applicable rates.
Candidates with a master diploma from a university outside the Flemish Community are assumed to have sufficient knowledge of Dutch to enable their integration into the research team.
The master diploma or equivalent diploma must have been obtained with at least the mention 'cum laude' (“distinction”), or a similar mention to be declared equivalent by the university, and maximum 5 years before the date of application.
If a candidate holds more than one master diploma, both provisions apply to the diploma that is substantively closest to the PhD research, in the same area of study as the PhD proposal insofar as this diploma was obtained within a period of maximum five years after obtaining the first master diploma.
The maximum period of 5 years is extended by one year per period of at least 3 months of maternity leave or per continuous period of at least 3 months of full-time parental leave between the date of the relevant master diploma and the application.
The FWO Executive Committee can make an exception to the maximum period of five years in cases where, for social and medical reasons, there has been either an interruption in the preliminary stage, or a reduced capacity to work.
Persons cannot apply for a fellowship of which they have previously, even if only partially, been the beneficiary.
Candidates whose application for a first period was rejected by the IWT (in 2015 of before), can submit a new application for a doctoral (PhD) grant SB only once when the next call is announced. They always meet the conditions of the call in which they participate.
The evaluation of the submitted and admissible grant applications for the 1st grant period is carried out by expert panels. These panels are composed by the FWO Board of Trustees on the basis of the received application files.
The FWO Board of Trustees ensures the regular renewal and optimal composition of these panels. At least one-third of the members are directly involved in research and development in the business enterprise sector. At least one-third of the members are affiliated to a higher education institution or research centre.
After reading the application and interviewing the candidate, the panels formulate an evaluation that is based on the following evaluation criteria:
1° the scientific specialist knowledge of the candidate fellow and his/her potential capacity to independently conduct PhD research;
2° the scientific quality and relevance of the research project, and its feasibility within a period of four years;
3° the strategic nature of the research project in terms of its long-term potential for innovative applications with economic added value.
The expert panels advise the FWO Board of Trustees before the latter decides on the grant application. The appointment is carried out by the Board of Trustees.
The specific conditions governing the composition and operation of these panels are set out in the Regulations for internal and external peer reviews.
At the beginning of the fellowship, the scientific experience of candidate SB fellows shall not have exceeded 18 months, not even by one day.
For candidates holding more than one master diploma, the months of scientific experience are counted only from the date of obtaining the master diploma that belongs to the same area of study as the fellowship applied for.
In determining this period, the employment percentage is taken into account. The period worked as Physician-Specialist or Pharmacist-Specialist in Training or as resident veterinarian is counted only for half its length.
By prior scientific experience is meant all kinds of scientific activities including those that are substantively different from the PhD proposal or that cannot be described as PhD level research (e.g. application- or policy-oriented research, service-oriented research, etc.). Appointments at universities or higher education institutions are always taken into account (Tetra, BOF, IWT/VLAIO projects, SBO, assistant fellowships, etc.), unless the candidate is appointed with a non-research-related status (e.g. practice or teaching assistant, administrative or technical staff, or under the Leonardo da Vinci programme, etc.). If the candidate was employed in the business enterprise sector, the job description is a co-determining factor.
The Strategic Basic Research (SB) fellowship is a grant (*) subject to the National Social Security system by virtue of Art. 15, paragraph 2 of the Royal Decree of 28 November 1969, exempt from income tax under Art. 90, paragraph 2 of the Income Tax Code 1992 (**) which commences on 1 January following the year of the call, with a duration of two years, renewable once for two years. This second period should immediately follow the first. Applications for renewal must always be submitted during the second fellowship year regardless of any suspensions.
PhD grants for strategic basic research are awarded as two consecutive grant periods of two years. In the course of the first grant period, the fellow submits an application for a 2nd grant period to the FWO Board of Trustees, together with a progress report and the supervisor's opinion on the requested renewal of the fellowship. Based on these documents, the Board of Trustees decides on the grant of a second grant period. For its decision the FWO Board of Trustees follows the supervisor's opinion, but it may at any time call upon the supervisor and/or fellow to provide details on the progress of the PhD activities.
Regardless of the supervisor's opinion, the fellow has the right to request the FWO Board of Trustees to appear before a commission of external experts to defend his/her grant application. The commission's decision to grant or not to grant the grant renewal always takes precedence over the supervisor's opinion.
The grant application for a 2nd grant period must be submitted no later than 5:00 PM on 30 April of the second fellowship year. If this date falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the closing date is moved to the following Monday at 5:00 PM.
The SB fellow who obtains a PhD by thesis within his/her first fellowship cannot apply for renewal of his/her fellowship.
* Grants are not considered taxable income and SB fellows therefore qualify as dependents for tax purposes (Art. 143 of the Income Tax Code 1992 and Com. I.B. 136/27)
** Com. I.B. 41/22, first paragraph and Circular Letter from Directorate II/6 Ci. RH 241/430.824 by Inspector General G.A. DE GROOTE.
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.
All SB fellows will receive a copy of the modified conditions of their FWO grant agreements.
Without prejudice to the provisions of Article 16, SB fellows shall not be members of the Academic Assistant Staff or Independent Academic Staff of the universities or assimilated institutions.
Subject to the general law of contract termination, the SB grant, and therefore the grant agreement, will, as a rule, terminate upon expiry of a period of 2 years.
The grant agreement will be immediately terminated by operation of law, without any compensation, if the fellow is no longer affiliated to a university in the Flemish Community, possibly in collaboration with a Flemish or Federal scientific institution, or if the supervisor no longer holds at least one of the following positions:
1° Independent Academic Staff member with a remunerated appointment of more than 10% at a Flemish university;
2° Independent Academic Staff member with a remunerated appointment of 10% at a Flemish university and whose main task is research;
3° 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° research director of FWO;
5° a designated beneficiary of an ERC Starting Grant, an ERC Consolidator Grant, an Advanced Grant or an Odysseus II grant, with a Flemish university as host institution.
However, the SB fellow will, where appropriate, have the right to designate, in consultation with the host institution, an alternative supervisor who meets at least one of the required criteria, and thus prevent dissolution of the agreement.
Also if the supervisor of the fellow is found to have committed a serious breach of integrity which, in the opinion of the host institution, is serious enough to disqualify him/her as supervisor, can the SB fellow designate an alternative supervisor in consultation with the host institution.
Furthermore, the grant agreement will be terminated by operation of law, 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 FWO and the researcher impossible.
As soon as the FWO becomes aware of breaches of the scientific integrity by one of its researchers, the FWO will hear the researcher.
The researcher has the right to legal counsel.
After having heard the researcher, the FWO can make the following decisions:
a. close the case without taking further action;
b. have the facts put down on record and include this record in the personal file of the PhD fellow with the FWO;
c. issue a formal warning and include this warning in the personal file of the PhD fellow with the FWO;
d. dissolve the agreement by operation of law as provided for in article 11ter of the regulations.
The above-mentioned consequences b) and c) may also be taken into consideration by the competent expert panel for the evaluation of any application for extension of the fellowship.
Rights and obligations of holders of an SB grant
SB fellows are administratively and legally dependent on the FWO Board of Trustees, represented by its Chair and its Secretary General. In disciplinary matters, they are subject to the academic authority of the university.
In addition, they undertake to comply with the FWO regulations and those of the academic authorities of the university.
§ 1. The research project proposed by the SB fellows must be carried out under the supervision of a supervisor, where appropriate in collaboration with co-supervisors.
§ 2. The supervisor shall be either:
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° a research director of the FWO;
5° a designated beneficiary of an ERC Starting Grant, an ERC Consolidator Grant, an Advanced Grant or an Odysseus II grant, with a Flemish university as host institution.
§ 3. All co-supervisors have to be researchers of at least postdoctoral level. Co-supervisors are affiliated with a remunerated appointment to a Flemish university, or an academic education from the Flemish School of Arts, or the Hogere Zeevaartschool, or a Flemish research institution, or a Flemish university hospital, or the Transnational University Limburg, or a federal scientific institution where the co-supervisor belongs to the Dutch-speaking community
SB fellows may change the subject of their research only for duly justified reasons and subject to the consent of their supervisor and the FWO. They cannot change host institutions. Host institutions may mutually agree on collaboration and place of employment.
Fellows undertake to complete a PhD by thesis.
SB fellows may undertake a PhD-training. In addition, they may undertake other courses in relation to their research, provided this does not jeopardise the completion of the PhD thesis within the term of the fellowship. The total workload, including both other coursework and duties assigned by their supervisor, shall not exceed 8 hours per week. Such duties may include the supervision of exercises, practicals, or seminars - the workload of which counts double (e.g. 1 hour seminar = 2 hour workload) - or administrative or clinical tasks. They are not allowed to engage in teaching activities and to undertake teacher training.
The fellowship may not be accumulated with any other remuneration or compensation. However, at the request of the fellow, the FWO may allow 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 requested to notify FWO thereof.
Masters of Law, beneficiaries of an FWO grant, must not have been registered with the Bar.
SB fellows must submit a report on their scientific activities to the FWO at the end of the third and fourth years of their fellowship. A copy of this report must be sent to the head of the institution to which they are affiliated.
All publications and reprints of SB fellows must mention their title of SB Fellowship of the Research Foundation - Flanders.
Holders of an SB fellowship grant who wish to spend a study stay abroad must ask for permission from FWO. Such permission can only be granted if the SB fellow can continue to be subject to the Belgian social security system during his/her stay abroad. Therefore, the SB 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 fellow from the requirement of continuing to be subject to the Belgian social security system.
Holders of a fellowship have to notify FWO as soon as possible of any temporary interruption in their research, regardless of the cause.
Holders of a fellowship have to register as compulsorily insured persons with the health insurance fund of their choice. In case of illness, they have to send a medical certificate stating the period of incapacity to FWO within 48 hours; a copy has to be sent, via the supervisor, to the relevant department of the university where the fellowship holder carries out his/her research.
In case of an occupational accident, the FWO Personnel Department has to be notified by telephone within 24 hours in order to avoid penal consequences. The official statement together with a medical certificate has to be sent to FWO as soon as possible. The occupational medical service of the institution and the supervisor will have to be notified as well.
The PhD fellow is required to notify FWO forthwith in writing of any change in his/her situation (marital status, birth, change of address, etc.).
The fellowship may be suspended in cases of civil service, 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 no payments were received. Extensions of less than two weeks will not be taken into consideration. If full-time suspensions of consecutive periods of 3 months occurred, during which the fellowship was not paid out because of prolonged sickness leave, pregnancy and breastfeeding leave, military and/or civilian service, parental leave, palliative leave or leave for medical assistance, the fellowship will automatically be extended until the end of the calendar year. Such an administrative extension will be granted only once, namely at the end of the 4th year of the fellowship. Any suspensions during such automatic extension of the fellowship will not give rise to any further extension of the fellowship. Any application for renewal of the fellowship must, in any case, be submitted during the second fellowship year.
The FWO Board of Trustees may exceptionally grant an extension of up to five years in cases where social and medical reasons result in reduced capacity to work.
Pursuant to the applicable legal provisions, an application for time credit can be submitted three months in advance. This shall not give rise to an extension of the fellowship.
Holders of a fellowship should notify FWO as soon as possible of such interruptions in their activities.
The fellowship cannot be suspended or delayed for any other reason.
Calculation of the grant
The amount of the SB Fellowship grant is limited to the net salary that the beneficiary would receive as an assistant at a university in the Flemish Community (salary scales applicable to the Academic Assistant Staff of the universities in the Flemish Community in accordance with the Decision of the Flemish Government of 4 May 2001 (BOG 09.01.2002)).
The net grant amount per month is minimum €2,015.51, indexed with 1.7069 as determined on 1 October 2018.
The grant is adjusted to the pecuniary seniority awarded to the PhD fellow. The grant takes into account the family situation and is subject to Social Security deductions. The holiday pay and the end-of-year bonus are limited to the holiday pay and the end-of-year bonus that the beneficiary would receive as an assistant at a university in the Flemish Community.
§ 1 The pay scale seniority of candidate SB Fellows is calculated taking into account the acquired scientific seniority and the following provisions:
1° - 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;
2° - 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;
3° - half of the duration of the appointment referred to in 1° and 2° in the case of an employment of less than 50%.
§ 2 The duration of the appointment is calculated per calendar month: fractions of months are not counted. 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 a solemn declaration.
The grant is linked to the health index as applicable to the academic staff of the universities in the Flemish Community.
The grant is paid monthly, at the end of the month, into a Belgian financial account.
Occupational accidents and liability
SB 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. This insurance covers also temporary foreign assignments for which prior permission has been granted by FWO. For their travels, fellows may use all the usual means of transportation allowed for carrying passengers over water, in the air or on roads, provided they are not part of the crew.
The third-party liability of fellows is covered by a collective insurance policy taken out by the FWO.
FWO must be notified of all births. The FWO will provide the required forms to obtain both the child allowance (*) and the birth premium, which can be requested from the 6th month of the pregnancy.
To preserve their right to child allowance, fellows with dependent children are advised to notify FWO of any travel abroad. During their stay abroad they must also maintain a domicile in Belgium.
* Pursuant to Art. 51 of the Child Allowance Act, persons who are subject to the comprehensive social security scheme are not entitled to child allowance for themselves.
The holiday periods are the same as those indicated in the regulations of the host institution and are established in consultation with the supervisor.
SB fellows shall inform the FWO secretariat of the dates of their annual holidays. The holiday pay, calculated on the basis of the grant of the month of May, will be paid into the holder's account during the month of May.
The years spent at the FWO are recognised as seniority when determining the salary of holders who are appointed at Community or subsidised institutions for secondary and higher education with full curriculum, as well as at Flemish and Federal scientific institutions and ministries.
SB fellows may at any time resign their fellowship provided they have notified the head of the host institution, their supervisor and FWO thereof.
Note: the English version of the regulations are only a translation and have no legal force.