FWO’s policy regarding Open, Transparent and Merit-based Recruitment of Researchers

As a research council the FWO currently hosts funding programmes for PhD fellows and postdoctoral fellows. These fellows will eventually perform their research at one of the Flemish universities. As these fellows are being selected and funded by the FWO, our procedures need to comply with the principles of open, transparent and merit-based recruitment (OTM-R) as set out in the Charter and Code of the European Commission.

The following section shows how the FWO has permanently embedded the OTM-R principles in its policy and procedures.

Clear and transparent procedures

FWO’s PhD and postdoctoral fellowship programmes are highly competitive in nature and aim to attract the best possible candidates, either in Flanders or abroad. The basis for the selection of candidates is academic excellence, regardless of background such as nationality or gender. To acknowledge the diversity of its applicants, the FWO has drawn up adjusted admission rules taking into account, among other things, maternity, parental or sick leave or military service. The FWO communicates this equal opportunity policy to all of its applicants. To assure all these principles, FWO’s policy and the implementation thereof is fully geared towards transparent selection procedures.

A system of recurrent calls for proposals is set in place and the websites for the respective fellowship programmes feature clear timelines, required competencies for the candidates and an overview of the selection procedure. The selection criteria, as included in FWO’s published regulations for internal and external peer review, are operationalized in a scoring grid for each specific programme and adapted to each particular phase of the selection procedure. These grids are also available on the FWO website. The FWO organizes information sessions at all Flemish universities to inform possible applicants. Besides this, the FWO ensures high accessibility to its administration for questions regarding its procedures. As all calls are open to international applicants, all information is available in Dutch and in English and he entire application procedure takes place in English.

Reducing the administrative burden

The FWO has set up its e-portal to allow candidates to apply for a fellowship online. All information remains available in the e-portal in case of consecutive applications. All required documents, such as proof of qualifications, can be added to the application electronically: no hard copies are requested during the procedure.

Support and feedback

During the procedure applicants can contact the FWO for administrative questions related to their application. An IT support desk is available for technical questions related to the e-portal. Contact information is clearly communicated on the FWO website.

At the end of the procedure, all applicants receive feedback consisting of a score on each of the evaluation criteria as well as specific comments on strengths and weaknesses of their application.

Quality management and control

For the selection of its fellows the FWO relies on national and international experts who participate in expert panels that are supported by FWO policy advisors. The composition of these panels in terms of gender is set out in FWO’s peer review regulations. All experts receive training before they participate in these panels, to assure they adhere to FWO’s implementation of the OTM-R principles. Topics include amongst others the interpretation of the evaluation criteria as set out in the scoring grids as well as unconscious bias during the evaluation of candidates. The training is also made available to applicants to assure maximum transparency.

To monitor and improve its procedures the FWO surveys applicants at the end of each call. Feedback is collected regarding all aspects of the application procedure: available information on the procedure, the procedure itself and the feedback received afterwards.