Measures Coronavirus

25/03/2020 16:14

Following the measures taken by Belgium and many other countries against the spread of the coronavirus, the FWO is also making a number of adjustments. In addition, the FWO also allocated 2.5 million euros to COVID-19 research.

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Execution ongoing projects

Researchers who have to deal with delays and other problems during the execution of their project fundamental research, strategic basis research and/or TBM due to the situation caused by the coronavirus, can make use of the regulatory option to spend means for staff and consumables up to 2 years after the formal end date of the project in order to finalise the research.

As concerns the EOS research projects, taking into account the current COVID-19 crisis, F.R.S.-FNRS and FWO took the joint decision that the means for consumables as well as for staff can be spent up to 2 years after the formal end date of the project in order to finalise the research. This instead of up to 1 year for the staff budget, according to Art. 20 §3. The limits of the initially granted budgets need to be respected of course at all times. The foreseen end date of the EOS research projects remains the same as well (namely 31st of December 2021).

In the reports on the project the researchers can indicate the delays and problems due to the coronavirus situation. FWO will point out explicitly  to expert panels assessing these reports that they should take into account these extraordinary circumstances.

The FWO will also look at how delays, etc. due to the current problems can be taken care of in other ways. Further communication about this will follow later.

Research projects fundamental research

The submission deadline for fundamental research projects is moved from April 1 to April 14, 10:00. The reference date for the eligibility conditions, such as the maximum of 12 years of postdoctoral seniority for each (co-)applicant of a junior project, remains April 1. Those who wanted and could submit a junior project can still do so until April 14.

Lead Agency Projects

The new submission deadline also applies to Lead Agency Projects (LAPs) with Slovenia and/or Luxembourg, for which the evaluation will be carried out by the FWO. LAPs with Switzerland (SNSF) will this year be evaluated by Switzerland and Flemish-Swiss projects must be submitted to SNSF no later than April 8 (5 pm). The deadline for the administrative submission of Flemish-Swiss projects to the FWO is set at April 14.

TBM projects

The deadline for projects in Applied Biomedical Research with a Primary Societal Finality (TBM) is delayed from March 23 to April 14, 5 pm. Only applications that were already registered before the deadline of March 12 can use this new deadline.

The evaluation of the TBM proposals will take place in October instead of June. Due to the health situation, it has been decided to replace the interaction between the panel members and the applicants with a written procedure, whereby panel members can ask applicants questions for clarification. The dates on which these clarification questions will be forwarded will be communicated by email to the promoter before the summer. Supported projects can start on January 1, 2021.

Projects European projects

For certain calls with FWO involvement, in the framework of the European Programmes (ERA-NET, EJP, JPI), measures will be applied allowing researchers to complete research proposals by prolonging the submission deadline. These predominantly European, multilateral cooperations are also troubled by the recent events, not the least due to the multitude of involved partners and countries/regions, all facing organisational issues.

However, not all submission deadlines are systematically delayed: this is decided per network and per call by the involved national/regional research funders. The FWO will inform the central coordination units from the Flemish knowledge institutions and also adjust the call announcements on the FWO website accordingly. Self-evidently this information will also be adapted on the websites and in the communication (channels) from the specific networks that are involved.

Data management Plan

Given the exceptional circumstances for our researchers due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the FWO has decided to postpone the deadline for submitting the first version of the DMP for research projects that have started on January 1 2020 to August 31 2020. Regardless of this extension, we would like to emphasize that under no circumstances ethically sensitive research activities may be initiated without prior ethical approval by the competent ethics committee and/or government agency.

Execution ongoing fellowships

Corona-parental leave

If you meet the conditions stated by the RVA, it will be possible to take corona-parental leave in the period as from 1 May 2020 until 30 September 2020.

The information that is currently available can be found here: https://www.rva.be/nl/nieuws/aanvraagprocedure-corona-ouderschapsverlof

In the reports on the fellowship the researcher can indicate the delays and problems due to the coronavirus situation. FWO will point out explicitly  to expert panels assessing these reports that they should take into account these extraordinary circumstances.

The FWO will also look at how delays, etc. due to the current problems can be taken care of in other ways. Further communication about this will follow later.

Researchers whose FWO fellowship ends in 2020 are offered the possibility to use the use the remaining budget of their bench fee in a flexible way. Specifically, these FWO fellows will be allowed to use the remainder of their bench fee (with a maximum of 1.500 euro) up to 3 months after the end of their fellowship. During this 3 month period the fellow should remain affiliated, through a recognized status, to the same host institute where they carried out their fellowship. In case the fellow starts a new FWO fellowship, only the new bench fee can be used. FWO will inform the concerned fellows by letter. In case they want to make use of the extension of their bench fee’s availability, the letter should be returned to FWO, signed by his/her promotor/supervisor, by August 31, 2020 at the latest.

PhD fellowships

The 2-step procedure is maintained. Preselection meetings are taking place as planned, with a few days of delay for PhD fellowships fundamental research. Candidates will be informed on their preselection results on 8 June 2020 (SB) and 2 July 2020 (fundamental research) respectively.

The interviews, planned between 1 September and 1 October 2020 will be organized as online meetings. The online interview consists of an interactive discussion with the expert panel and is preceded by a 1 minute pitch. More concrete details and guidelines, as well as panel dates will follow shortly.

The date on which the PhD fellowships will be awarded remains unchanged: 8 October 2020.

Postdoctoral fellowships

The FWO has developed an emergency scenario for the current postdoc evaluations.

The fallback scenario consists of reducing the 2-step procedure to a single and online expert panel meeting for the evaluation and ranking of the applications, based on the available evaluation and synthesis reports for the pre-selection step.

In a nutshell:

1/ the online preselection meetings, scheduled between March 23 and April 4, are cancelled;

2/ the interview meetings at the FWO, scheduled between April 27 and May 20, are cancelled, but replaced by an online meeting between the panel members only.

Consequently, there will be no interviews for the ongoing call postdoctoral fellowship.

Dependent on the evolution of the situation, the evaluation procedure might be further adapted. Of course FWO will inform on these measures well in time.

For the ongoing round of calls for postdoctoral fellowships, 1 June 2020 will, in principle, continue to apply as the date on which the PhD serving as the basis for the application, must have been obtained. However, applications from candidates who can prove, by means of a written statement from their supervisor or the institution where they are preparing their PhD, that due to unforeseen circumstances the defence and award of the PhD needs to be deferred until after June 1, will remain eligible. In these cases, too, they must have obtained their PhD before the start date of the fellowship on 1 October 2020.

The dates on which the postdoctoral fellowships will be awarded remains unchanged: 24 June 2020.

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 host institution. Please also advise the FWO of your rescheduled departure.

If you have 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 charges cannot be recovered from the licensed travel agencies, you have to submit a claim to AIG.  The FWO has taken out assistance insurance with AIG for its grant recipients. Attention; AIG will only cover the costs if your travel was cancelled by reasons other than your personal decision or control. The policy number is 9.500.573. After submitting the claim, AIG will send you a form that you must complete and return. In case FWO paid the travel costs immediately to the travel agency, you’ll have to list FWO as a beneficiary in the AIG claim. If AIG accepts the claim, you will be allowed to use the FWO grant later on, under the following conditions (1) FWO has retrieved the costs by AIG, (2) for congresses and workshops; it has to concern the same congress or workshop as initially approved by FWO, taking place on a later occasion (3) for scientific stays abroad, the scientific goals and the host institution as described in the initially approved application, should still be feasible/identical. If AIG does not accept the claim, the grant is no longer valid.

In response to the corona pandemic, various European and other partners have launched special calls for research into this virus, as well as other initiatives - all in collaboration with international partners.

More information.

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