Newsletter June 2014
Fundamental research - The future challenges
The upcoming summer months mark the approaching end of the academic year 2013-2014. True to tradition, the official decision to appoint the new FWO fellows represents the highlight of FWO's busy spring schedule. I am therefore particularly proud that also this year the FWO has been able to award PhD or postdoctoral fellowships to the most outstanding researchers. The 210 new PhD fellows who will take up their assignments on October 1st, bring the total to 879. The 178 new postdoctoral researchers, together with 13 new Pegasus Marie-Curie fellows, bring the total number of postdoctoral fellows to 877. As from 1 October 2014, the FWO will directly employ a total of some 1800 researchers.
The FWO is proud of its researchers. In this newsletter you can read how researchers associated with Flemish institutions or universities excel also internationally. Whether it is ERC grants, research at international facilities such as CERN or ESRF, or landing prestigious scientific prizes, researchers funded by the FWO invariably play a prominent role.
That is why, pending the formation of a new government, the FWO again wishes to highlight the importance of fundamental research. The FWO is not alone with this concern. In the run-up to the European elections, organisations such as the European Commission, European think tank Bruegel and Science Europe have sent out a similar message.
It is clear that the European partners realise that sustained investment in fundamental research is vital to the consolidation and further development of the knowledge society which is of essential importance also for Flanders.
The FWO, together with its stakeholders, therefore emphatically appeals to the new Flemish government to continue its investment efforts in fundamental research. As the first step in the innovation chain, it is of paramount importance to provide the basis and the new ideas that will in the short, medium and long term lead to groundbreaking applications which are vital to the continued support and structural growth of the Flemish economy.
I would like to end by wishing all new fellows, who will begin their terms on October 1st, every success with their research. I already look forward to the results and the new knowledge that will emerge from this research.
Finally, I wish everyone a relaxing and enjoyable vacation!
02 In the spotlight
The yearly call for new experts for the FWO Expert Panels will be online from July 1st 2014. This year, the FWO is seeking 33 experts associated with Flemish universities and 54 experts associated with foreign universities or scientific institutions. Applications can be submitted through the online module until September 15th 2014. The new members will take up their three-year term on 1 January 2015.» More information can be found on the FWO website.
New research projects Child poverty and blood donorship
In 2014 the FWO earmarked €950,000 for fundamental research on social themes of a humanitarian nature. In collaboration with Rode Kruis-Vlaanderen a project is being launched to improve knowledge of (blood) donorship, addressing both sociological, economic, psychological, theological/philosophical and medical aspects of blood donation or even donorship in the broadest sense of the term. Together with the Kinderarmoedefonds the FWO is also deploying a research project on child poverty, focusing on the development of children who grow up in poverty before the age of five and the impact thereof on their medical, social, emotional and behavioural development. Both calls will be closed on 15 July 2014.
Amended regulations & application modalities
New Expertpanel and updated scopes
The FWO introduced a new panel structure in 2010. A number of old "scientific commissions" were combined, other panels were created, and an extensive mapping exercise had to ensure that all scientific disciplines were accommodated within the FWO.
After almost five years, this structure was in need of a thorough evaluation and update. A number of interuniversity expert groups, distributed over the various scientific areas, were convened and the scopes and the associated profiles reviewed.
This exercise, which took some six months, has resulted in a reworked version of the various expert panels, which can now be discovered online.
A number of scopes have changed panels, e.g. within panels CULT2, CULT3 and WT9, but updates have also been made to the other panels. When submitting a new application, it is therefore important to first check the scopes to ensure that the application is submitted to the appropriate panel.
The greatest update probably concerns the creation of a new Expert Panel, CULT5. This panel will in future deal only with applications in the area of philosophy, whereas religious sciences and theology remain within CULT4.
Further information on the updated panel structure and associated scopes can be found on the FWO website.
Cumulating a postdoctoral fellowship with a foreign research grant
For a researcher who, in addition to an FWO postdoctoral fellowship, is granted a second fellowship (e.g. Marie Curie, BAEF, etc.), it was previously not possible to temporarily suspend the FWO fellowship to qualify for this extra funding.
Since the FWO strongly encourages mobility among researchers and foreign experience gained through external funding is to be considered an added value, the FWO will introduce further flexibility with regard to cumulating an extra fellowship during a postdoctoral fellowship.
It will in future be possible for a postdoctoral researcher of the FWO (1st or 2nd fellowship) to be granted a suspension of their fellowship during the period of their full-time remunerated employment under a foreign research fellowship or grant at a university abroad or a foreign scientific institution or foreign company.
Only for this new type of suspension can the fellowship be extended by the period during which no payment was received, for a period of minimum 6 months and maximum 2 years. For this, the fellow must submit an application for extension to the secretary general of the FWO, clearly stating that it is a research-related position in a new foreign environment.
Postdoctoral fellows of the FWO must have an appointment of at least 80% to qualify for this flexibility measure.
Further information can be found in the regulations for postdoctoral fellowships.
Period to apply for a postdoctoral fellowship is shortened
As from the application round 2015-2016 (with submission deadline 1 February 2016), an application for a first postdoctoral fellowship can be submitted within maximum three years after being awarded a PhD.
For postdoctoral fellowships that existed before the new regulations came into effect, the old provisions continue to apply.
Applicants who wish to continue to use the old limits can do so during the next application round with a deadline of 1 February 2015, which is to be viewed as a transitional period.
Research projects: abolition of lump sum amounts for staff and bench fees
The current FWO regulations for research projects traditionally distinguish three cost categories: staff, bench fees, and infrastructure. It is felt, however, that such a rigid structure increasingly fails to reflect the rapidly changing reality that researchers have to face today. As a result, the FWO receives a growing number of requests to adjust the submitted research budget.
To allow researchers greater flexibility in the future, the FWO will, from the next application round, simplify the regulations with staff and bench fees being brought under a single cost category.
In future it will be possible to apply for and be awarded a single total amount for staff and bench fees. This total amount varies between €45,000 and €130,000 for the first year. Consequently, the current lump sum amounts for staff will disappear. The introduction of a single amount for staff and bench fees will enable both the applicants and the panel members to operate in a less stringent framework.
Bart Lambrecht awarded with Francqui Prize
This year's Francqui Prize of €250,000 was awarded to FWO-er Bart Lambrecht (UGhent and VIB).He is a world authority in research into asthma and allergies and is awarded the prize for his groundbreaking research to the prevention, treatment and recovery from these disorders. The Francqui Prize was awarded by King Philippe to Bart Lambrecht at the official award ceremony, which took place on 11 June 2014. Bart Lambrecht was an FWO PhD fellow from 1996 to 1998. In 2007, after spending 5 years at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, he returned to Flanders on an Odysseus fellowship.
Grijze Cellen 2014
The next two editions of our Grey Cells sessions are scheduled for this autumn. On Monday 13 October 2014, a debate will be held on the future of agriculture with, among others, Olivier De Schutter (ex-UN special rapporteur on the right to food and winner of the Francqui Prize 2013). On Monday 24 November 2014, scientific journalist Jop de Vrieze will talk with Bart Lambrecht (VIB and UGent, winner of the Francqui Prize 2014) and Herman Goossens (UAntwerpen) about the role and need of bacteria in our body and about the growing danger of resistance to antibiotics. Organised in collaboration with deBuren and Eos, these Grey Cells sessions start at 7:30 p.m. and take place at the Handelsbeurs in Ghent.
04 International news
Visiting of CERN and ESRF
On Wednesday 21 May 2014 with King Philippe paid a working visit to CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, considered the world's largest research centre for particle physics.
FWO is one of the major financers of research projects at CERN. King Philippe was accompanied by the rectors of the Flemish and French speaking universities and the the Secretaries General of the FWO and F.R.S.-FNRS. Also prof. François Englert, the Belgian winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Physics and Philippe Courard, State Secretary for Scientific Policy joined the delegation.
On 5 June CERN received an FWO-delegation with the rectors and vice-rectors of the Flemish universities and FWO-staff members.
The next day this delegation visited also the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble. ESRF is an international research centre where the most powerful synchrotron is based. Flemish researchers examine the properties of the matter and explore the processes that form the bases of life. Together with the Dutch NWO, the FWO has an own beam line DUBBLE in ESRF.
New president Science Europe
On 20 May 2014, the General Assembly of Science Europe unanimously elected prof. Miguel Seabra - President of the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation (FCT) - as the next President of Science Europe. He will take over from Prof. Paul Boyle, who leaves ESRC at the end of August to take up a new position as Vice-chancellor of the University of Leicester. Prof. Seabra will start his two-year term on 1 September 2014.
COST – European Cooperation in Science and Technology – is a European agency that offers financing for the coordination of European research networks (COST actions).
On 13-14 May 2014, the COST Committee of Senior Officials (CSO) approved a new series of COST actions (result of call OC-2013-2 with a deadline of 27 September 2013).
As a Flemish researcher you can submit an application to participate in the management committee or a working group of one of these COST actions.
Further information about the procedure for participation in a COST action can be found here.
FWO – thematic info sessions Horizon 2020
After a successful first round of thematic info sessions about the calls under Horizon 2020 in January/February, the FWO can also look back on an equally successful second series of targeted info sessions.
On April 30th, the Belgian NCPs for the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions, together with the Research Executive Agency of the European Commission, organised an Info Day dedicated to SMEs and businesses. If, over the next few years, Horizon 202O is to effectively bridge the gap between the academic and the business world, it is essential for universities, research institutions and companies to join efforts from the very beginning and to jointly prepare their applications under Horizon 2020. Judging by the over 100 representatives from the private and academic sector, the message did not fall on deaf ears.
In the month of May, the FWO-NCP, together with EWI and the Hercules Foundation undertook an ESFRI roadshow along the Flemish universities to help researchers find their way in this complex matter and the multiplicity of information on European research infrastructures. At these roadshows researchers were informed about the history of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) and participation in ESFRI in Flanders. The FWO, as NCP, gave a presentation about the possibilities for research infrastructure under Horizon 2020. Testimonials of Flemish researchers provided a more concrete and practical view of participation in ESFRI projects.
On May 28th, two info sessions were organised by the NCPs of the FWO, BELSPO and FNRS, at the Royal Academy in Brussels. In the morning we welcomed over 100 participants for the presentation of the ERC Advanced Grants. The combination of first line information by officials of the European Commission on the one hand, and testimonials of ERC grantees and evaluators on the other hand, again proved the ideal recipe for helping interested researchers prepare their application. This call will close on 21 October 2014.
In the afternoon attention was focused on the FET-Open call of the programme 'Future and Emerging Technologies'. Despite the specificity of this programme and the extensive overhaul as compared to the Seventh Framework Programme, this session was nevertheless attended by some fifty interested parties. Here, too, the alternation of presentations, testimonials and question/answer sessions proved the right formula for inspiring applicants with ideas and preparing their applications. This call will close on 30 September 2014.
On June 12th, the FWO-NCP, together with some twenty researchers, visited the ‘Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements’ in Geel . Through presentations and a tour of the premises, they gained an insight into the activities of the Joint Research Centre. In addition to a general presentation of the JRC, topics covered included JRC fellowships and possible avenues of cooperation with JRC under research projects funded through Horizon 2020. For researchers active in such various disciplines as environmental and climate sciences, (nuclear) safety and security, energy, transport, reference materials and standards, agriculture, food safety, health, consumer protection, economy or the monetary union, it would be certainly worthwhile to get to know their colleagues at DG JRC.
Planned info sessions
A number of info sessions have already been planned for this autumn. We will keep you informed through our regular communication channels.
Global Research Council
The third annual meeting of the Global Research Council (GRC) was held in Beijing on May 27 and 28. The Global Research Council is a virtual organization, comprised of the heads of more than 60 research councils from all over the world. FWO is also a member and dr.ir. Elisabeth Monard, secretary general of the FWO, attended this annual conference.
The members of the Global Research Council reached an agreement on the state-of-play report on Open Access and joint principles for the funding of scientific careers.
The next edition will take place in Tokyo in May 2015.
05 Across the borders
European Research Area Networks
The FWO has identified the new themes in which it will shortly be participating in the last FP7 ERA-NETs and in COFUND ERA-NET, as this funding instrument under Horizon2020 is known. Remarkably, a number of JPIs have chosen ERA-NET as the instrument for funding joint calls, instead of setting up their own mechanisms for this purpose, as they did before. A detailed list of FWO participations can be found on the website.
On 3 June 2014, M-ERA.NET (materials science and engineering) opened a new call with the following themes:
- Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME);
- Materials with new Surfaces and Coatings;
- Composite Technology;
- Materials for Sustainable and Affordable Low Carbon Energy Technologies;
- Materials for Health;
Functional materials focusing on sensors.
Recently, the FWO also awarded two new projects for CHIST-ERA II (ICT research), call 2013, under theme two, Adaptive Machines in Complex Environments (AMCE):
- the AdaLab project of Prof. Jan Ramon (KU Leuven);
- the COACHES project of Prof. Hichem Sahli (VUB).
The yearly call for exchange projects with Japan was opened on June 10th. With this programme the FWO and JSPS aim at further stimulating cooperation between Flanders and Japan in the area of scientific research and development by executing joint exchange projects, in which the exchange of young researchers is central. The projects will last for two years. The call will close on 10 September 2014.
Last year the FWO signed a Lead Agency Agreement with the Austrian FWF (The Austrian Science Fund). The first call under this agreement is expected for this autumn. Both Flemish and Austrian research partners can apply for full-fledged research projects, including funding for staff and research resources. Further specific information on this call will be announced in November.
Open calls Joint Programming Initiatives (JPI)
Recently awarded projects:
- JPI Urban Europe – call 2013
Opened on 18 June 2013, this call focused on 2 themes:
- Governance of urban complexity;
- Urban Vulnerability, Adaptability, and Resilience.
Two Flemish sub-projects receive FWO funding:
- Play!UC of Prof. Oswald Devisch (Uhasselt);
- ResSegr of Prof. Patrick Deboosere and Helga de Valck (VUB).
- JPI HDHL (A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life) – call ENPADASI call 2014
For the third research area of this JPI, Diet and Chronical Disease, a call was launched: ‘Joint Action in the Research Area 3: European Nutritional Phenotype Assessment and Data Sharing Initiative – ENPADASI’.
The following researchers, all associated with a Flemish university, will join the Knowledge Hub of this research action programme with the support of the FWO:
- Project “FiND” (FlemIsh Nutrition-related Databases) - De Henauw Stefaan-U Gent;
Project “INDIANA” - Carl Lachat-UGent.
07 Numbers and figures
Results applications Fellowships
On June 25th the FWO Board of Trustees awarded new fellowships. On 1 October 2014, 210 new PhD fellows will enter the research environment with an FWO grant, bringing the total number of PhD fellows to 879. At the same time, 178 new postdoctoral researchers and 13 Pegasus Marie Curie Short fellowships will enter into service, bringing the total number of postdoctoral fellows to 877. In addition, 9 new fundamental clinical researchers will be starting on the same date.
On 1 October 2014, the FWO will enable a total of 1778 researchers to carry out fully independent fundamental research through a personal fellowship.» Click here for all the results
FWO Scientific prizes
BiRD Multidisciplinary PhD Award: €10,000
Daan Witters (KU Leuven)
Gustave Boël - Sofina Fellowships: long stays in India or China
Matthieu Burnay (KU Leuven)
Sarah Melsens (VUB)
Ema Estevens (VUB)
IBL Prizes for Clinical Research: €75,000
Dirk Timmerman (KU Leuven)
The Boston Consulting Group Best Paper Award: €5,000
Vincent Ginis (VUB)
Umicore Award for Graduate Dissertations: €2,500
David Dupont (KU Leuven)
Thomas Dobbelaere (UGent)
- 30/06/2014: Cooperation with Argentina
- 01/07/2014: Bilateral cooperation with Ecuador
- 14/07/2014: Cooperation with South-Korea
- 15/07/2014: Research Project "Kinderarmoede"
- 15/07/2014: Research Project "Rode Kruis Vlaanderen"
- 10/09/2014: Cooperation with Japan