Regulations of the Research Foundation - Flanders governing the PhD fellowship for the implementation of fundamental research projects
Approved by decision of the Board of Trustees on 25/10/2017
Chapter 1. Preliminary provisions and scope of application
Pursuant to Article 18 of the Decree of 30 April 2009 on the organisation and financing of science and innovation policy and the decision of the Flemish Government of 10 November 2011 on subsidisation by the Research Foundation - Flanders, the Flemish Government grants the Research Foundation - Flanders a subsidy for the purpose of supporting individual researchers.
§1. These regulations govern the eligibility of applications, appointment, implementation, renewal, suspension and termination of doctoral (PhD) grants for fundamental research of the Research Foundation - Flanders, calculation and payment of the grant, rights and obligations, occupational accidents, liability, child allowance and annual holidays of the grant holders.
§2. The internal and external peer review with regard to the evaluation of the submitted grant applications is governed by the FWO regulations "Internal and external peer review".
§3. These regulations are without prejudice to the general regulations of the Research Foundation - Flanders.
§4. Detailed information, full regulations and forms are available online.
The annual call for doctoral (PhD) grants fundamental research coincides with the call for doctoral (PhD) grants strategic basic research. Candidates can submit an application for only one of both calls, as provided for in Article 7 of the general regulations of the Research Foundation - Flanders. A candidate whose application has been rejected can submit one more application for one of both calls provided the eligibility requirements are still met.
Chapter 2. Eligibility of applications
Art. 4. (as amended by decision of the board of trustees of 23/10/2019)
§1. Holders of a doctoral (PhD) grant fundamental research must be affiliated to a university in the Flemish Community or to the Evangelic Protestant Faculty in Leuven or the Faculty for Protestant Theology in Brussels, possibly in collaboration with a Flemish or Federal scientific institution where they conduct their research.
§2. Fellows can, subject to approval by their supervisor, conduct part of their research at a Belgian or non-Belgian organisation for a period of maximum 12 months or 6 months per grant period of 2 years respectively, provided such collaboration significantly contributes to the PhD project and a written agreement is concluded between the host institution and the organisation, in which arrangements are made with regard to the intellectual property rights. No exclusive right of use or transfer of ownership can be granted to the Belgian or non-Belgian organisation involved. If the research takes place outside Belgium, prior permission from the FWO is required.
Candidates must submit and defend their application in English for the purposes of the international peer review.
§1. At the start of the fellowship, candidates must be holder of a diploma at least equivalent to a master's degree following a bachelor's degree and awarded by the competent institutions in one of the countries of the European Economic Area or Switzerland.
§2. For the application of the preceding paragraph, master-after-master diplomas, as described in the Higher Education Register at www.hogeronderwijsregister.be, are not taken into consideration.
§3. Diplomas awarded by the competent institutions in one of the countries of the European Economic Area or Switzerland or diplomas awarded by the competent institutions in the French-speaking Community are recognised as equivalent to diplomas awarded by the competent institutions in the Flemish Community in accordance with the Decision of the Flemish Government on the codification of the decree provisions relating to higher education of 11 October 2013, the applicable European directives or a bilateral agreement.
Art. 7. (as amended by decision of the board of trustees of 28/03/2018, 27/06/2018, 26/06/2019 and 18/09/2019)
§1. The master's degree or equivalent diploma, on the basis of which the application is submitted, must have been obtained not earlier than three years before the closing date of the call.
§2. The maximum limit specified in paragraph 1 is extended by one year if, within a continuous period of 365 days, a continuous period of at least three months of maternity leave and/or full-time parental leave and/or full-time sickness leave and/or military service in the country of which they are a citizen and/or compulsory civilian service in the country of which they are a citizen, has taken place between the date of the master's degree and the application. The maximum extension is twice the limit specified in paragraph 1.
§3. The limits specified in paragraph 1 are extended by the duration of the study programme leading to the degree of physician-specialist, pharmacist-specialist or resident veterinarian, provided the study programme has a duration of more than 1 year. A 1-year study programme cannot lead to an extension of the limits defined in paragraph 1.
§4. The Executive Committee of the Research Foundation - Flanders may exceptionally deviate from the limits specified in paragraph 1 in cases where, for social and medical reasons, there has been either an interruption in the preliminary stage, or a reduced capacity to work.
Art. 8. (as amended by decision of the board of trustees of 27/06/2018 and 24/10/2018)
§1. At the closing date of the call, the scientific experience of candidates, both remunerated and non-remunerated, acquired since gaining a master's degree or equivalent diploma, shall not have exceeded a period of 18 months.
§2. 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, such as application- or policy-oriented research or service-oriented research.
Appointments at universities or university colleges such as Tetra, BOF, VLAIO projects, SBO, or assistant fellowships are always taken into account unless the candidate was appointed under a non-research related statute, e.g. as practice assistant or teaching assistant, or administrative or technical staff.
If the candidate was employed in the business enterprise sector, the job description is a co-determining factor.
§3. In determining the 18-month period referred to in the first paragraph, the employment percentage is taken into account.
Chapter 3. Appointment and implementation
The applications are submitted to the expert panels, who will judge the candidates. The expert panels report to the Board of Trustees of the Research Foundation - Flanders. The appointment is made by the Board of Trustees of the FWO.
Art. 10.(as amended by decision of the board of trustees of 28/03/2018)
§1. The research project proposed by the holders of a grant must be carried out under the supervision of a promotor, where appropriate in collaboration with co-promotors.
§2. The promotor must hold at least one of the following appointments:
- a minimal ZAP appointment or equivalent appointment of minimum 50 percent at a principal host institution referred to in Article 4 of these regulations;
- an appointment as research director of the Research Foundation-Flanders;
- an ERC Grant with a principal host institution referred to in Article 4 of these regulations;
- an Odysseus II grant with a Flemish university as principal host institution.
A promotor who does not hold any of the above appointments but a ZAP appointment with an appointment percentage less than 50 percent but at least 10 percent, may act as promotor provided he/she
- is a beneficiary of a research fellowship of the FWO;
or is additionally appointed at:
- a principal host institution as referred to in Article 4 of these regulations;
- a Flemish academic hospital;
- a Flemish hospital with an academic character;
- a recognised Flemish or federal research institution;
- a Strategic Research Centre (SOC);
- an academic programme of a Flemish School of Arts.
Furthermore, the total employment percentage at the institutions referred to in this paragraph must amount at least to 70% of a full-time equivalent.
Candidates with both a ZAP appointment of 5% and an appointment as clinical head or assistant clinical head or an equivalent function at a Flemish Academic Hospital can also act as promotor(-spokesperson).
§3. All co-promotors are ZAP or researchers at least at postdoctoral level.
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 in-house regulations of their host institution. If a medical examination is required under the regulations of their host institution, their appointment will not be effective until a favourable medical report is obtained.
§1. The doctoral (PhD) grant fundamental research falls within the scope of the Royal Decree of 28 November 1969 implementing the Law of 27 June 1969 amending the Decree Law of 28 December 1944 concerning the social security of workers as provided for in Article 15(2) of the said Royal Decree.
§2. The doctoral (PhD) grant fundamental research is exempt from personal income tax in accordance with Article 90(2) of the Income Tax Code of 10 April 1992, the Com. I.B. 41/22 and Circular Ci. RH 241/430.824 of Direction II/6.
§3. Pursuant to Article 143(1) of the Income Tax Code of 10 April 1992 and the Com. I.B. 136/27, grants are not considered as income.
Grant holders qualify as tax dependents.
Chapter 4. Renewal
§1. The doctoral (PhD) grant fundamental research can be renewed once for a period of two years.
This second period must be subsequent to the first period.
§2. This renewal must be requested during the second year of the fellowship, no later than the closing date stated in the call, regardless of any suspensions.
§3. In the course of the first grant period, the Research Foundation - Flanders invites the grant holders to submit an application for a second grant period to the Board of Trustees of the FWO, together with a progress report and the promotor's opinion on the requested renewal of the fellowship.
Based on these documents, the Board of Trustees of the FWO decides on the granting of a second grant period. For this decision the Board of Trustees of the FWO follows the opinion of the promotor.
§4. The Board of Trustees of the FWO has the right to call at any time on the promotor and/or the grant holder to provide details on the progress of the PhD activities.
§5. Regardless of the promotor's opinion, the grant holder has the right to request the Board of Trustees of the FWO to appear before a commission of external experts to defend his/her grant application. The expert panel's decision to grant or not to grant the grant renewal always takes precedence over the promotor's opinion.
§6. A grant holder who obtains a PhD by thesis within his/her first fellowship year cannot apply for renewal of his/her fellowship.
Chapter 5. Rights and obligations of grant holders
Grant holders undertake to complete a PhD by thesis.
§1. Grant holders fall under the administrative and legal authority of the Board of Trustees of the Research Foundation - Flanders, represented by its chairman and its secretary general. Grant holders fall under the disciplinary authority of the academic authority of the university.
§2. Grant holders undertake to comply with the regulations of the Research Foundation - Flanders and those of the academic authorities of the universities.
§3. Candidates with an academic degree second cycle from a university outside the Flemish Community are assumed to have sufficient knowledge of Dutch to enable their integration into the research environment in Flanders.
Grant holders are allowed to change the subject of their research only for proper and justified reasons and subject to approval from their promotor and the Research Foundation - Flanders. They are not allowed to change host institutions unless expressly authorised by the host institutions involved.
The specific location where the grant holder will be carrying out his/her research may be determined in consultation with the host institution.
Art. 18. (as amended by decision of the board of trustees of 23/10/2019)
§1. Grant holders are required to follow a PhD training programme as determined by the host institution. When they obtain their PhD degree, they must have successfully completed this PhD training programme. If they already followed a PhD training programme or equivalent or were granted an exemption by the host institution, they must submit the certificate and/or the supporting documents to the FWO.
§2. Fellows can, subject to approval by their supervisor and depending on their training needs and career plan, spend maximum 20 percent of the available time under the fellowship on activities other than their own PhD research that contribute to their training, whether or not as part of the PhD training, provided this does not jeopardise the completion of the PhD thesis within the term of the fellowship. Such activities may include administrative or clinical duties, work on other research or services, educational activities, including an internship or an educational master, or educational support activities. Educational support activities must always be carried out under the responsibility of a member of the independent academic staff. Fellows can under no circumstances be designated as being responsible for or in charge of a course unit.
§3. Fellows who need to perform clinical duties as part of their doctor/specialist training can, subject to approval by their supervisor, spend maximum 40 percent of the available time under the fellowship on the said duties, provided this does not jeopardise the completion of the PhD thesis within the term of the fellowship.
§4. For determining the time spent on these activities, the actual work load, including preparation and related activities, must be taken into consideration. Fellows are required to submit to the FWO a report that documents their activities for each fellowship year.
Art. 19. (as amended by decision of the board of trustees of 23/10/2019)
§1. Fellows can, subject to permission from the host institution, engage in a remunerated activity outside the host institution and outside the fellowship, provided such activity is not aimed at the preparation of the PhD thesis and does not jeopardise the required efforts and progress of the preparation of the PhD thesis.
§2. However, at the request of the fellow, the Research Foundation - Flanders may allow full or partial accumulation with grants for study stays abroad.
§3. 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.
Holders of such travel grants must notify the FWO thereof.
§4. Masters of Law, holders of an FWO grant, must not have been registered with the Bar.
Grant holders must submit a report on their scientific activities to the Research Foundation - Flanders at the end of their fourth fellowship year.
§1. All publications and reprints of grant holders must mention their title of holder of a postdoctoral (PhD) grant fundamental research of the Research Foundation - Flanders and the FWO file number of their fellowship.
§2. All research-related communication must mention the FWO affiliation of the grant holder.
§1. Fellows who wish to spend a study stay abroad must ask for permission from the Research Foundation - Flanders and the relevant host institution.
§2. Such permission can only be granted if the fellow can continue to be subject to the Belgian social security system during his/her stay abroad. Therefore, the grant holder 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.
Fellows must as soon as possible notify the Research Foundation - Flanders of any temporary interruption in their research, regardless of the cause.
§1. Fellows have to register as compulsorily insured persons with a health insurance fund of their choice.
§2. In case of illness, the fellow must send the medical certificates stating the period of incapacity to the Research Foundation - Flanders within 48 hours.
A copy of the medical certificate must be sent, via the promotor, to the competent service of the university where the fellow carries out his/her research.
The fellow must as soon as possible notify the Research Foundation - Flanders in writing of any change in his/her situation, such as change in marital status, birth, change of address, and the like.
Chapter 6. Suspension
§1. The fellowship cannot be suspended or deferred for any reason whatsoever except for those set out in this article.
§2. The fellowship may be suspended in cases of 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.
§3. If full-time suspensions of consecutive periods of three months occurred, during which the fellowship was not paid out because of prolonged sickness leave, pregnancy and breastfeeding leave, parental leave, and palliative leave, the fellowship will automatically be extended by one year, the extension commencing from the original end date of the fellowship. This administrative extension is granted only once and 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.
§4. The Executive Committee of the FWO may exceptionally grant an extension of up to five years in cases where social and medical reasons result in reduced capacity to work.
§5. 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.
§6. Fellows must notify the FWO as soon as possible of any interruptions in their activities.
Chapter 7. Termination
With the exception of the provisions of Article 19, holders of a doctoral (PhD) grant fundamental research should not belong to the Academic Assistant Staff or Independent Academic Staff of any university or equivalent function levels at any other institution.
§1. Subject to the general law of contract termination, the fellowship, and therefore the grant agreement, will, as a rule, end upon expiry of a period of two years.
§2. The grant agreement will be immediately terminated by operation of law, without any compensation, if the grant holder is no longer affiliated to a host institution referred to in Article 4 of these regulations, possibly in collaboration with a Flemish or Federal scientific institution, or if the promotor no longer holds at least one of the positions referred to in Article 10 of these regulations.
§3. In such a case, the grant holder has the right to propose, in consultation with the host institution, an alternative promotor who meets at least one of the relevant criteria set out in Article 10 of these regulations, so as to prevent the agreement from being terminated.
§4. If the promotor of the grant holder 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 promotor, the grant holder can designate an alternative promotor 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 Research Foundation - Flanders and the researcher impossible.
§1. As soon as the Research Foundation - Flanders becomes aware of breaches of scientific integrity by one of its researchers, it will hear the researcher.
§2. The researcher has the right to legal counsel.
§3. After having heard the researcher, the FWO can make one of 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 grant holder with the FWO;
c) issue a formal warning and include this warning in the personal file of the grant holder with the FWO;
d) terminate the agreement by operation of law as provided for in Article 16 of these regulations.
§4. For the evaluation of the application for renewal of the fellowship, the above consequences a) and c) can be taken into consideration.
Grant holders may at any time resign their fellowship provided they have notified the head of the host institution, their promotor and the Research Foundation - Flanders thereof.
Chapter 8. Calculation of the grant and payment
§1. The amount of the grant is limited to the net salary which the beneficiary would receive as assistant at a university in the Flemish Community, as laid down by the Decision of the Flemish Government of 4 May 2001 laying down the salary scales of assistant academic staff of the universities in the Flemish Community.
§2. The net grant amount per month is minimum €2,015.51, indexed with 1.7069 as determined on 1 October 2018.
§3. The grant is adjusted to the pecuniary seniority awarded to the grant holder. The grant takes into account the family situation and is subject to Social Security deductions.
§4. The holiday pay and the end-of-year bonus correspond with the holiday and the end-of-year bonus that the beneficiary would receive as an assistant at a university in the Flemish Community.
Art. 33. (as amended by decision of the board of trustees of 27/03/2019 and 27/11/2019)
§1. FWO fellows will be fully reimbursed the cost of their travel card for commuting to and from work by public transport (train – tram – bus – metro). For staff living abroad, only travel costs up to the Belgian border will be reimbursed.
§2. Fellows of the Research Foundation - Flanders are entitled to a bike allowance per kilometre when using their bike for:
- the entire commute trip, i.e. commuting by bike from home to the workplace, without using any other mode of transportation.
- a portion of the commute trip, i.e. before or after any other mode of transportation is used.
- The fellow uses his/her bike for commuting purposes on at least 80% of the days effectively worked in a month.
- The distance travelled (single trip) is at least 1 kilometre.
The per kilometre amount is equivalent to that payable to the staff of the Flemish government.
The fellow should apply for the bike allowance via the FWO e-portal.
Any change during the year must be notified immediately to the HR department.
§1. The pay scale seniority of grant holders is calculated on the basis of the acquired scientific seniority, taking into account the following provisions:
- the duration of the appointment under an employment of at least 50% at a university, scientific institution or company, insofar as the work involves research activities;
- 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;
- half of the duration of the appointment referred to in the first and second indents of this paragraph, insofar as an employment of less than 50% is involved.
§2. The duration of the appointment is calculated per calendar month. Incomplete months are not taken into account. 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 insofar 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.
Chapter 9. Occupational accidents and liability
§1. Grant holders 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. The legally required insurance policy covers also risks of regular seminar and/or laboratory work as well as accidents on the way to and from work during the temporary assignments abroad for which prior permission has been obtained from the Research Foundation - Flanders.
§ 2. The third-party liability of fellows is covered by a collective insurance policy taken out by the Research Foundation - Flanders.
§1. In the event of an occupational accident, the personnel department of the Research Foundation - Flanders must be notified by telephone within 24 hours.
§2. The official statement together with a medical certificate must be sent to the FWO as soon as possible.
§3. The occupational health service of the host institution with which the fellowship is affiliated, as well as the promotor, must be notified of the occupational accident.
Chapter 10. Child allowance
Art. 39. (as amended by decision of the board of trustees of 27/03/2019)
§1. The birth of a child must be notified to the Research Foundation - Flanders.
§2. Fellows must themselves take the necessary steps to join a child allowance fund and request the latter to send them the forms required to claim family and maternity benefits.
To preserve their right to child allowance, fellows with dependent children must notify FWO of any professional travel abroad. During their stay abroad they must also maintain a domicile in Belgium.
Chapter 11. Annual holidays
§1. The holiday periods for fellows are the same as those stipulated in the regulations of the host institution and are established in consultation with the promotor.
§2. Grant holders must inform the secretariat of the Research Foundation - Flanders of the dates of their annual holidays.
§3. The holiday pay, calculated on the basis of the grant of the month of June, will be paid into the fellow's account during the month of May.