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LeCHE: Frequently asked questions

These questions are taken from the NCP FNRS website

Q: What is the level of funding availabe?
A: Researchers can obtain a salary equivalent as follows

Years Research Experience Salary Marie Curie Description
0-4 research € 33800 Early stage researcher
4-10 research € 52000 Experienced researcher

There is also a contribution to expenses related to returning home once per year (€250 to €2500), a monthly rate for being away from home (€500 single or €800 family) and to attend interviews for the job that will follow the fellowship (€2000). The funding is adjusted to compensate the cost of living in the country to which the researcher goes.

Q: What is the role of Experienced researchers?
A: In a limited number of cases, the initial training can also include the period after having obtained a doctorate, within the first five years of the research career.
Training activities specifically for Experienced researchers would be:
- Inter-sectorial or interdisciplinary transfer of knowledge, training in new techniques,
- Capacity to build collaborations,
- Taking active part in the management of the research project,
- Developing organisational skills through organisation of training events

Q – Is it true that the only eligible researchers must be in their first 4 years?
A – No. Eligible researchers are primarily those who are in the first four years of their research career. Some networks might justify the involvement also of early post-docs (within the first five years of their career) for the purpose of completing their initial training. In addition, a limited number of senior visiting scientists from either the public or private sector who are of outstanding stature in international training and collaborative research may be recruited to complement the network's capacity to transfer new knowledge and strengthen supervision. The action will be mainly for researchers from Member States and Associated countries, but also open to researchers from third countries.


Eligible researchers

Q - I have PhD fellows in my project – can I charge PhD fees to the ITN?
A – The Commission produced a ‘note for file’ concerning the eligibility of tuition fees in early FP6, which stated the terms and conditions for charging elements of tuition fees to the Marie Curie headings.
The 'note for file' only refers to contracts signed under FP6, not FP7. It is possible that a similar ‘note for file’ relating to FP7 will become available. However, until such an agreement is in place tuition fees remain an ineligible cost, and an issue to be dealt with at institutional level.

Q: Who can be appointed in a network?
A: Eligible researchers are primarily the early stage researchers (ESR), who are in the first four years of their research career. Some networks might justify the involvement also of experienced researchers/early post-docs (within the first five years of their career) for the purpose of completing their initial training. In addition, a limited number of senior scientists of outstanding stature in international training and collaborative research may also be recruited.

Q: How long can appointed researchers be trained within an ITN?
A: An Early-stage researcher can be appointed under an ITN for a minimum of 3 months up to a maximum of 36 months. In case of an Experienced researcher, the appointment is 3 to 24 months.

Q: What are the employment conditions expected?
A: For each eligible researcher, the host organisation can opt between recruiting him/her under an employment contract with full social security coverage (including all compulsory deductions under national legislation in the context of the project), or a fixed-amount fellowship with minimum social security. As a general rule researchers shall be appointed under an employment contract, except in adequately documented cases (such as for short stays) or where national regulation would prohibit this possibility. When an employment contract cannot be provided, the researcher shall be recruited under a status equivalent to a fixed amount fellowship, provided that it is compatible with the national legislation and that adequate social security is provided (but not necessarily paid from the fellowship).
As a general principle the choice of recruitment type should be made in accordance with the best interests of the researchers. The European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the recruitment of researchers offer a reference framework for the employment of researchers.

see also comment by Linda Polick (Oxford) on Meeus

Q: What does a secondment period mean and how can these costs be accounted?
A: Secondment period means a period spent by a researcher at a contractor's premises other than those of the contractor which has appointed him/her under the project. In a multi-site ITN a secondment cannot be done to an organisation outside the network. However, the host contractor will have to appoint this researcher if the secondment period is longer than 30% of the total period of the agreement in force between the researcher and the other institution.

Q: When researchers who are seconded for more than 30% have to be recruited by the institution to which they are seconded, do they have to fulfil all eligibility criteria again, including mobility and experience criteria?
A: If the secondment lasts > 30% of their contract, there would have to be a new recruitment.
All eligibility criteria must be fulfilled.


Associate Partners and Visiting Scientists

Q: If a visiting scientist keeps his/her salary at a third institution during their
engagement on the contract, this would not be an issue provided it is clear that they are working 100% of their time on the project, and they have no other commitments, outside the network?
A: Visiting scientist should be exceptional and duly justified in the context of the research training program. As stated in the grant agreement form, the researcher shall not be allowed to receive, for the activities carried out in the frame of the project, other incomes than those received from the recruiting institution. A 100% effort is expected from a visiting scientist in the project. This does not rule out that he/she has an employment contract and receives remuneration in his/her "home" institution.

Q - I have Associate Partners in my network – do these need to be listed in the A-forms of the proposal?
A - An associate partner will not sign the contract, and therefore does not need to be listed in the A-forms of the proposal either. However, Associate Partners (APs) should appear in Part B of the proposal, where you are also expected to outline their role in delivering the project (their role in carrying out training, secondment opportunities and so on). Consortia are advised to be sure of the Associate Partners’ commitment at the application stage as any serious modifications to the APs from application to contract negotiation stage would lead to failure of the negotiation.


Q - Do Associate Partners count in the actual number of ITN partners?
A - No, as APs are not contract signatories but rather play a specialist role in the ITN and joint training programme.


Q - Do I need to include the ethics table at Stage 1 of the application process?
A - No, you only need to submit the ethics table at the second stage of the application process.


Q - I have two visiting scientists in my proposal – is it ok for them to spend 50% of their time at two different institutions in the network, or travel around between all the partners for the duration of the contract?
A - No. The visiting scientist is considered a ‘researcher’, so the same contractual terms that apply to other researchers in the network will also apply to them. This means that they can only de seconded for up to 30% of the duration of their contract. The expectation is that a visiting scientist will primarily be based at one institution, though short stays / visits at other institutions could be included, as long as you are within the limits of the 30% rule.


Q - What happens if a partner pulls out between the first and the second stage or I would like to add a new partner?
A - It is possible to change elements of the project between Stage 1 and 2, and it is actually the Stage 2 project that the contract negotiations will be based upon. However, we would advise limited changes between stage 1 and stage 2 proposals (in addition to the changes advised by the evaluators) because it was the original proposal that got you through to the second stage. Evaluations are stand-alone, separate processes. This means that scores can go up or down after each stage.


Q – What is the percentage of ESR Researchers in ITN?
A - In the Guide for Applicants, p.7 it is written that typically, the share of ESR researcher months in an ITN should be at least 80% and the rest is for ER and visiting scientists.


Q – Category F: Is a SME eligible for full cost refund? Is the fix amount contribution of €300 for researchers additional to the direct cost? How are the organisations supposed spend this money?
A - It is a fixed rate, no matter what type of legal entity is applying for this action.


Q – In the Guide for Applicants, what does 'secondments' mean ?
A – These are experts who take part in the projet at various phases and times, e.g. from SMEs.


Q – I would like to remove my application from EPSS. Is it possible? How should I proceed?
A - You may withdraw a proposal by submitting a revised version with an empty part B section, with the following words entered in the abstract field of Form A:
"The applicant wishes to withdraw this proposal. It should not be evaluated by the Commission".


Q – Where can I find the MC model grant agreements?
A – See CORDIS: http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/calls-grant-agreement_en.html#people_ga

Host institutions

Q: What is meant by "network participant" and "associated partner"?
A: Network participants are beneficiaries and therefore contractors. Associated partners are those who will contribute to the research training programme without being formal (contractual) participants. Associated partners are typically part of mono-site and twinning applications where the participants must have a well-established trans-national collaboration with other research institutes.

Q: Will the "associated partner" be financed?
A: The associated partners will not be financed and therefore they will not recruit. However they will host the recruited researchers for periods of secondments/visits. They may also organise training activities, in this case it will have to be finacially supported by the single (mono) or the two partners (twinnings), who have signed the contract.

Q: Is the involvement of industry important?
A.: In all cases, the involvement of industry should be at the highest possible level, taking into account the nature of the joint training programme and the research field. It is crucial that industries participate as partners or as training providers. The minimum level of involvement of industry would be as part of the supervisory board, which is the third solution. It is important to provide clear evidence of the commitment of industry to be involved (e.g. a letter attached within the proposal PDF file) (see 10Q in section Submission and evaluation of proposals).

Q: What is meant by SME (small and medium enterprise)?
A: The category of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is made up of enterprises which employ fewer than 250 persons and which have an annual turnover not exceeding 50 million euro, and/or an annual balance sheet total not exceeding 43 million euro.’ Useful information can be found on this website:
http://ec.europa.eu/research/sme-techweb/index_en.cfm
http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/enterprise_policy/sme_definition/index_en.htm

Q: What is meant by “Coordinator‌?
A: Among the various contractors in a network, there will be a coordinating institution. The coordinator is the contractor identified in the contract who, in addition to its obligations as a contractor, is obliged to carry out the specific coordination tasks provided for in the contract.
The coordinator shall be the intermediary between the contractors and the Commission (with the exceptions foreseen in the contract) and to monitor and report progress. The network coordinator should therefore have the appropriate management expertise, as well as the technical expertise. The network coordinator's tasks also include administrative and financial matters, such as arranging the formalities for all contractors to accede to the contract, general liaison with the Commission, the submission of all documents, including cost statements and technical reports, and the distribution of the financial contribution from the Community.
The coordinator institution is always participant nr. 1 in the application.

Q: What are the tasks and responsibilities of a scientists-in-charge (in a host organisation)?
A: The main responsibility of the scientist-in-charge is to ensure the fulfilment of the contractual commitments as defined in the contract and its annexes. He/she monitors and reports on the work under the project in his/her organisation. He/she usually is the regular contact point for the EC and the network coordinator concerning all issues relating to the implementation of the project.

Q: What is the expected size of a network?
A: There is no predefined size for multi-site networks. However, past experience has shown that a manageable size of such networks would be in the range of 6 to 10 partners. It is expected that the budget will range from € 1,5 million for mono-sites and twinnings, through € 2,5 million for the typical multi -site, and up to € 4,5 million for the largest multi –sites. The distribution among participants should be balanced, e.g. not excess of Community contribution allocated to the benefit of organisations within one country in Multi-site ITNs.

Q: Is it possible to include industry as a full partner without industry recruiting anyone in cases where it makes a real contribution to the research training programme (and deliverables) by hosting secondments and providing training?
A: A full partnership (beneficiary) implies recruitment since the budget allocation is proportional to the researcher months. Each full partner of the consortium, industrial or academic, is expected to recruit at least one young researcher.

Q: Would a US partner be acceptable as a full partner if they are not recruiting researchers, but e.g. receiving researchers on secondment, contributing significantly to the training project and to the research deliverables?
A: As explained above, full partnership (beneficiary) implies recruitment. Special financial conditions apply to OTC participants as full partners (possible only in multi-site ITNs) as indicated in the Guide for Applicants. An associated OTC partner (in this example a US partner) that is not recruiting can receive a researcher for a visit/secondment. The role has to be described and justified in the proposal. Cost allocation: see Financial aspects section.

Q: Would it be possible to add associate partners after the grant agreement has been signed, and if so what would be the process?
A: In principle, the research training objective(s), its implementation plan and the entire consortium including full and associate partners must be complete and described at the time of the evaluation and final at the negotiation (Annex I). Later additions or withdrawals should be very exceptional and would require a justification and an approval by the Commission to modify the technical Annex I (an amendment). Such an amendment procedure cannot be used as a means to reshape the research training programme.

 

Financial aspects

Q: What does the funding cover?
A: Funding is primarily provided for the benefit of the researchers appointed by the host (including their living allowances, travel expenses etc). There is also a contribution to the expenses linked to the execution of the training project in the host organisation as well as to networking activities, organisation of workshops and conferences (involving the participants' own research staff and external researchers), and to overheads and management related expenses.

Q: How many conferences can be foreseen in a ITN?
A: In the context of ITNs, conferences, workshops, seminars, summer schools etc… are an opportunity for the recruited researchers to exchange knowledge with more experienced researchers and to open the research training programme to researchers from outside the network. However, ITN is not a scheme for conferences, but rather a scheme for improving training and career perspectives of researchers. Therefore, the number/budget for conferences should be in reasonable relation to the proposed research training programme.

Q: Is it correct that researchers recruited in the EU/AC, but seconded to e.g. the US would receive their full salary while on secondment, as they're still employed in the EU/AC. Does the training allowance for the researcher follow them as well, i.e. would it be acceptable for the US partner to invoice the European partner for training as an eligible cost in the network?
A: During secondments to an OTC country, e.g. U.S., the researcher is paid by the sending institute (travel, living and mobility). If the receiving OTC institution is a full partner (beneficiary) in a multi-site ITN, it would be expected to pay the expenses associated with the research activities of the researcher at its site. Special financial conditions apply in this case.
If the receiving OTC institution is an associated partner (multi-site/twinning or mono-site ITN), the research/training expenses of the seconded researcher would usually have to be covered by the sending institute based on an invoice. However, the participation of an OTC institution as an associated partner in the ITN scheme will be carefully scrutinized in the evaluation. It cannot be accepted as a means to circumvent the financial consequences that accompany an OTC institution as a full partner (multi-site ITN).

Q: If US participants are contributing to overall training taking place in the EU/AC, would their travel be an eligible cost under the European hosts' training budgets, or would the US (or other OTC) partner be expected to fund all such travel costs themselves, in all cases?
A: Travel and accommodation costs would be eligible in cost category E (network training event).

Q: Implementation: In which cost categories can travel costs be charged? What is the level of detail that will be expected from invoices, and how to deal with such issues consortium-wide, with respect to associate partners?
A: Cost category D can be used for travel costs of the recruited young researchers and cost category E can be used for other members of the network. Invoicing should be clear enough to justify the correct cost category (E or D) in case of an audit. National legislation/institutional regulations determine the details of the financial management.

Q: What kinds of costs can be included under the Management heading? Would the cost of travel to consortium management meetings, for example, be eligible?
A: Travel to network management meeting would be included in category E. Management costs (e.g. salary of a person dedicated to assist with the management of the project or contract with auditor) per se belong to category G.

Submission and evaluation of proposals
Q: Is it possible to make changes between outline and full proposal?
A: The outline proposal and the full proposal must be versions of the same basic proposals.
They have to have the following in common: the title and the acronym, content in terms of scope of the research, approach, target audience, basic consortium. The full proposal cannot clearly be a different project. The comments of the Evaluation Summary Report of the outline proposal for these two criteria should be reviewed and can be taken into account. This may include the addition of a partner (e.g. to improve industry participation or complete training opportunities).

Q: Will the criteria of "S&T Quality" and of "Training" be re-evaluated in the full
proposal?
A: The first two criteria already assessed at stage 1 will be re-evaluated taking into account the more elaborated text of the full proposal and with individual weightings that differ from the outline proposal stage. The other two criteria are "Implementation" and "Impact".

Q: Do the participants have to fill in the A2 form?
A: In the second stage, all the participants (including the coordinator) must fill in one A2 form each. The coordinator also fills in one form A1 and one form A4 with details for each participant (one per line). The participant numbers correspond to those defined in the A2 forms (participant number one is always the network coordinator). Associated partners are not required to fill in the A2 form and are not listed separately in the A4 form. Note, however, that each associated partner should be identified in the proposal narrative (Part B).

Q: Who has to be contacted for electronic submission problems?
A: Please contact the EPSS helpdesk (support@epss-fp7.org - telephone +32 2 233 3760) for any query relating to the use of the electronic submission tool.
Please note that the login and password for the preparation and submission of the full proposal using EPSS (Electronic Proposal Submission System) is the same as that used in the electronic submission of the outline proposal.

Q: When will the results of the 2nd stage evaluations be published?
A: The deadline for the submission of the full proposals is 25 September 2007. The individual evaluation of proposals (remote evaluations) will start soon after the deadline and the final evaluation phase (consensus and panel meetings) will take place between October and November. It is expected that preliminary results may be available on Cordis by the end of November 2007.

Q: Do evaluators have access to scores from the first stage, given that these were not provided to applicants successful at the first stage?
A: The scores at stage 1 have been used for ranking purposes only. The stage 2 evaluation is an independent process in which criteria 1 and 2 will be re-evaluated in the context of the full proposal. After the consensus has been reached for all four criteria in the full proposal, the stage 1 Evaluation Summary Report including the scores will be available for the evaluators in order to ensure consistency of the comments. In stage 2, proposals will be assessed also by one or more new evaluators.

Q: Would it be correct to assume that just like applicants are expected to outline relationships between ESR/ERs and outline rationale for the proportions used, so would proposals that have 100% ESRs be expected to argue for why they have chosen only to work with ESRs?
A: No explanation is expected in the case of 100% ESR recruitment since ESR training is the main objective of the FP7 ITN action.

Q: For example if ‘Implementation’ accounts for 20% of the overall score, is it recommended to take into account the overall % in deciding how much space to spend on each section, i.e. a rough guide would be that 20% of the pages should also be spent on ‘implementation’ and so on?
A: The maximum length of the proposal is 50 pages. There is no fixed limit in terms of the number of pages in each section and it is not feasible to give exact guidelines related proportion of different parts. This matter is entirely at the applicants' discretion. The most important issue is that the proposal addresses all evaluation criteria outlined in the Guide for Applicants in a clear and concise manner (e.g. illustrations to simplify the text).

Q: The Guide for Applicants makes reference to letters of support for industry: do you envisage consortia including this for all industrial participants, including full partners? – Or is the main issue with industrial partners at the level of the associate partners / board members, as these will not be signatories to the grant agreement?
A: Letters of support from industry would be expected in all cases. Full partners (beneficiaries) have a commitment to recruit as indicated in the work program. Associated partners are expected to confirm their commitment to the research training program in terms of their described role. The evaluators would like to see a letter of support from the management of the company and not only from the R&D department.

Q: Must letters of the commitment from industry be included within the limit of 50 pages of the full proposal?
A.: No, the letters of the commitment are not taken into account in the page limit, but they have to be included in the part B PDF file. Please note that there is a size limit for the PDF file to be uploaded (please see the instructions in the EPSS system).