FAQ call 2018

Frequently asked questions about personal research funding: call 2018

Compiling the application
Amount of grants
Applying for a postdoctoral grant
Applying for a start-up grant
Applying for a team grant

 

Compiling the application

  • In which language do I have to fill in the application form?

The application form has to be filled in in English, since most of the reviewers evaluating the applications do not speak Estonian.

  • How important are the (ETIS) CVs of the applicant and the members of the senior research staff?

The CVs of the applicant and the member(s) of the senior research staff are very important, since the reviewers and/or the Expert Panel need additional information for evaluating the applications (e.g., information regarding previous research experience, a full list of publications, etc.). Therefore, an ETIS CV attached to the application that has not been updated may have a negative impact on the overall assessment of the application.

NB! Please keep your ETIS CV up to date!

  • In which research fields will the applications be processed?

Since 2015, Estonia has been transitioning from the categorisation of four research fields to the OECD Frascati Manual (2015) classification of , according to which six R&D fields can be distinguished:

  1. Natural sciences
  2. Engineering and technology
  3. Medical and health sciences
  4. Agricultural and veterinary sciences
  5. Social sciences
  6. Humanities and the arts

The Evaluation Committee will convene field-specific Expert Panels in order to evaluate the applications, but the name and number of these Expert Panels may not coincide with the aforementioned research fields.

The preferred research field can be indicated in the application. The Evaluation Committee can decide which Expert Panel should process which application.

Nevertheless, the ranking lists will be compiled and the financing proposals made in six research fields.

  • Are there any restrictions for presenting previous research outcomes in the applications?

The Principal Investigator (PI) of a postdoctoral or start-up project must present the information regarding his/her previous R&D activities. The postdoctoral supervisor and the PI of a team project must present the information regarding their R&D activities during the past 10 years (i.e., in case of call 2018, since 2008).

  • Is it possible to show the articles that have not been published yet in my application?

Yes, it is possible to show the articles that have not been published yet in the comments section, but in that case, you must also upload a letter of confirmation from the publisher as a separate file under the tab “Additional information”.

  • How should the bibliometric data be presented in the application?

It is not necessary for the applicants for a postdoctoral grant to present their bibliometric data.

The applicants for start-up and team grants do not have to present their bibliometric data themselves. Instead, the Council will provide the evaluators with an overview of the bibliometric data of each applicant.

NB! The applicants are therefore asked to create and link their identifiers (ORCID, ResearcherID) to various databases (Scopus, ISI WoS), check whether their profiles in the databases are public, and whether correct publications have been linked to their name. All applicants are also advised to have a public Google Scholar profile. In order to avoid possible authorship issues, the applicants have to specify their personal data (e.g., name change, namesake(s), etc.) under the tab “Additional information”. The Council will inform the applicants via e-mail when their overview has been compiled.

  • What is the research filed in which my application will be processed?

Based on the research field of the project, the applications will be processed by the Estonian Research Council (Council), namely by the Expert Panels of the Evaluation Committee. The Evaluation Committee may decide to re-direct the application to another Expert Panel (e.g., in case of interdisciplinary projects) in order to guarantee the best expert evaluation.

  • What is meant by the requirement to adhere to the principles of research ethics during the implementation of the project?

It means that the applicants are required to consider and describe all ethical issues involved in the proposed project. The applicants have to consider the ethical risks of any procedure involving human participation, the collection and use of personal data, and animal testing. The description of the principles of research ethics must specify how the principles of voluntary participation, informed consent, confidentiality, and anonymity of the subjects will be followed as well as how such data will be stored and protected.

The use of the research methods that require a review or approval from a human ethics or bioethics research committee should also be clearly indicated in the application. If the project necessitates compliance with the Nagoya Protocol, the applicant has to mention whether he/she already has or has to obtain the due diligence declaration.

  • What is the Nagoya Protocol?

The Nagoya Protocol is a convention on biological diversity aimed at sharing the benefits arising from the access to and utilisation of genetic resources in a fair and equitable way. 

  • By which date is it necessary to present the approval from a human ethics or bioethics research committee?

If the corresponding approvals have been obtained by the application deadline, applicants are asked to attach them to the application (tab “Additional information”). In other cases the approvals must be submitted no later than by the beginning of human and animal experiments. If the licence from a human ethics or bioethics research committee has not been submitted prior to the beginning of human or animal experiments, the Council is entitled to revoke the decision of approving the application and terminate the grant contract.

  • What should be described in the section for data management?

In the section for data management, please describe if and which data will be created, managed, or collected; which methods and standards will be applied; will the data be shared or made public and in which way; how the data will be stored during the period of the project and preserved after the end of the project.

The guidelines for compiling a data management plan can be found on the webpage of the University of Tartu Library: https://sisu.ut.ee/rdm_course1/data-management-plan

  • In which cases is it necessary to attach a letter of confirmation to the application? What information should it contain?

A letter of confirmation is requested only in case the applicant or (in case of a start-up grant) the member(s) of the senior research staff do not have an employment contract with the host institution at the time of submitting the application. In that case, the letter of confirmation should contain a confirmation that if the application will be approved, the host institution will sign an employment contract with the applicant and (in case of a start-up grant) the member(s) of the senior research staff corresponding to the requirements of the grant with respect to workload and location. An entitled representative of the R&D institution has to sign the letter.

There is no need for a letter of confirmation in other cases. By confirming the application in ETIS, the host institution confirms that all financial issues, incl. (in case of team grants) financing the staff from other R&D institutions, have been agreed upon between the parties.

  • What are the selection criteria for the reviewers?

The overall goal is to find the most suitable and professionally most qualified reviewers for each application. The Council has a database of reviewers who have been involved in previous calls. The members of the Evaluation Committee and Expert Panels also suggest suitable reviewers. The applicant can also mention unsuitable reviewers, e.g., the people with whom he/she may have a conflict of interest, and in that case, has to justify his/her opinion.

  • Can a researcher who is on parental leave apply for personal research funding?

Yes, he/she can apply.

  • Can the PI, a member of the senior research staff, or a member of the other research staff of an institutional research funding topic or a personal research funding grant apply for a personal research funding grant?

In 2018, a person cannot apply for a grant if he/she is the PI of an institutional research funding topic or a personal research funding project that will continue in 2019.

Both the members of the senior research staff of an institutional research funding topic and personal research funding grant can apply for a personal research funding grant. In addition to that, an applicant can be listed as a member of the senior research staff in another start-up or team grant application. If they do receive a personal research funding grant, they have to decide in which project they will participate, since it is not possible to be the PI and/or a member of the senior research staff in several projects simultaneously.

The members of the other research staff, too, can apply for a personal research funding grant. One person can be a member of the other research staff in several projects.

  • How many applications can be submitted?

One can simultaneously apply for only one personal research funding grant.

  • Are there any restrictions regarding the workload of the PI at the host institution? Is it possible to change the workload of the PI during the project?

The PI of a start-up project must have a full-time employment contract at the host institution and a place of work in Estonia. Otherwise, the Council may terminate the grant contract.

The PI of a team project may, in justified cases, have a less than a full-time employment contract at the host institution. In such cases, the PI and the host institution have to submit a well-reasoned request to the Council. Making an exception is decided by the Council separately in each case.

  • Can the PI be replaced?

The postdoctoral fellow and the PI of a start-up project cannot be replaced. In justified cases, it is possible to request the replacement of the PI of a team project. In order to do that, the PI and the host institution have to submit a joint well-reasoned request to the Council.

  • Can a project be temporarily suspended?

Personal research funding projects, incl. postdoctoral projects, can be temporarily suspended only upon receiving a justified request from the PI and the host institution that has to be submitted to the Board of the Council prior to the beginning of the suspension period. The PI can request a temporary suspension of the project in case of pregnancy, maternity or parental leave, compulsory military service, or other exceptional circumstances for up to three years. The grant contract will be suspended for the temporary suspension period of the project.

  • What is the threshold?

The applications are evaluated with respect to different criteria. Some criteria are assessed on a 5 point scale (from 1 to 5), some on the appropriatenot appropriate scale. Every criterion has a threshold or the minimum score in order to potentially receive funding. On the 5 point scale, the threshold or minimum score is 3 (good). On the appropriatenot appropriate scale, the threshold is “appropriate”. In order to be eligible for funding in the field-specific ranking list, the application has to remain above the threshold of each criterion.

  • Under which conditions can the Expert Panel change the scores of the reviewers? How does the Expert Panel use these opinions and scores?

The Expert Panel relies on the opinions and scores of the reviewers when forming their own opinions and scores. Each application is evaluated by two reviewers. If their opinions differ considerably, including a third reviewer will be considered. At the Expert Panel meeting, the opinions of the reviewers are discussed and these generally serve as the basis for the consensual decision made by the Expert Panel. The opinions and scores resulting from the Expert Panel discussion may deviate from the opinions and scores of the reviewers if the reviewers have missed certain important information (e.g., maternity leave, the position of the applicant among the authors of a publication). If the opinions of the Expert Panel differ from those of the reviewers, the Panel has to justify their decision in the combined evaluation. Therefore, the final score for the application is neither the arithmetic mean of the scores given by the reviewers nor the sum of these.

  • How is the importance of the project for Estonian research, culture, society, and economy evaluated?

The importance of the project for Estonian research, culture, society, and economy will be evaluated by the Expert Panel and the Evaluation Committee. Foreign reviewers will not evaluate this criterion. When evaluating this criterion (depending on the research field and the specifics of the project), the following considerations will be taken into account: the impact of the applicability of the proposed project, previous financing of similar research topics (e.g., an Estonian Science Foundation grant, institutional research funding topic, or personal research funding grant), the topicality of the project (e.g., relation to the societal challenges or strategic objectives set by the state), contribution to maintaining the diversity of a research field, etc.

  • Is it necessary to add additional materials to the justification part of the application?

It is possible to add the administrative information relating to the application (a copy of your diploma, letters of confirmation, etc.) under the tab “Additional information”. The reviewers will not be able to see the files uploaded under the tab “Additional information”.

  • When will the results of the call become available?

The preliminary funding proposals will be made available in the beginning of November 2018, after which the applicant and the host institution may submit a written joint opinion regarding the proposal within the time limit (approximately two weeks) established by the Council. The final decisions will be made available by the end of 2018. After that, the Board of the Council will sign a directive to approve or not to approve an application.

 

Amount of grants

  • How detailed should the budget of the grant be?

It is not necessary to provide a detailed breakdown of the budget on the other budget lines, e.g., in case of research costs, one does not have to indicate the cost of chemicals, travel costs, equipment purchase, etc. It is nevertheless important to justify the amount of estimated staff costs (why is it necessary to involve this particular number of senior or other members of the research staff, i.e., what are their roles and tasks, what is the role of the students involved in the project) and the amount of research costs, incl., which costs justify the project as an experimental one.

In order to calculate the direct costs better, a special tool (similar to an Excel table) is available in ETIS under the tab “Budget”. Based on the sum that is calculated in the table and in accordance with the “Guidelines for Budgeting Personal Research Funding Applications”, the most suitable fixed amount has to be chosen and indicated in the application. The justification for the amount of the grant will be assessed.

  • How to establish whether a grant is experimental or non-experimental?

In order to establish whether a project is experimental or non-experimental, the planned methods are crucial. Non-experimental research achieves its objectives mostly through observations and conclusions based on existing or collected data, materials, models, etc., which do not presuppose making experiments with the assistance of specific equipment or materials. Experimental research is based on experiments or tests that often require very specific equipment and use of materials (e.g., lab equipment, chemicals, lab animals, test drugs, etc.). The methods used in experimental research enable researchers to understand the causes of certain processes through manipulation or control.

Different research projects may entail experimental research to a different degree. A substantially non-experimental project may also require carrying out some experiments. The experimental nature of a grant is nevertheless determined by the assessment of the extent and the amount of the methods of experimental research necessary for achieving the objectives of the project.

  • Will the budget of the project be compiled for one year?

No, the research plan and the distribution of direct costs will be compiled for the entire period of the project. Based on that, the annual fixed amount of a project can be established.

  • If a large grant is applied for, could the Council award a small grant instead? If an experimental grant is applied for, could the Council award a non-experimental grant?

No, the applications will be evaluated on the basis of the objectives of the project, the methods and/or specifics of the research field, and the justification for and the elaboration on the amount of the grant (direct costs). If the amount of the grant applied for has not been justified enough, the application will not be approved.

  • If a project begins later than on 1 January, will the annual fixed amount of the grant be reduced proportionally?

That depends of the start date of the project and will be decided by the Council separately in each case. The amount of the grant for the first year will be agreed upon in the grant contract.

  • Is it possible to apply for a smaller amount than the fixed grant amount?

Yes, in justified cases, the applicants for start-up and team grants have the right to request a smaller amount than the fixed grant amount.

  • Is it possible to change the amount of a grant during the project?

It is possible to request a smaller amount during the period of the project. For example, the PI who has been awarded a large star-up grant can request the continue receiving funding in the amount of a small start-up grant, e.g., when it is no longer necessary to involve the members of the senior or other research staff, etc. If a project has been awarded a small grant, it is not possible to request a large grant during the next year(s). The Council will not change the amount of the grant during the period of the project, but can decide to terminate the grant contract if the justifications to continue funding are not sufficient (e.g., there are no explanations about why it is necessary to still receive a large grant, although the number of the members of the senior research staff has significantly decreased).
In addition to that, grants that are, upon the request of the applicant, smaller than the fixed amount during the first year, can, if so requested, later increase up to the largest fixed amount of this grant type. For example, the applicant for a small experimental start-up grant wished to receive 130,000 € during the first year instead of the fixed grant amount (142,000 €). In that case, he/she has the possibility to request an increase of the grant during the next year(s) up to 142,000 €.

  • Is the ranking list based on the amount of the grants?

No, the applications are not ranked according to the grant amount. The ranking lists are compiled according to the grant type (postdoctoral, start-up, and team) and the research field in which the applications are processed.

  • Can the ratio of direct costs differ over the years?

Yes, it can. The activities and direct costs of the project are to be described in the application for the entire period of the project, but the ratio of direct costs may be changed up to 20% without making a contractual amendment. If the changes exceed that, the changes must first be agreed upon with the Council. The budget allocations may be transferred from one year’s budget to another year if this is in accordance with the book-keeping regulations of the host institution.

 

Applying for a postdoctoral grant

  • What is the date of obtaining a doctoral degree?

In call 2018, the date of awarding the first doctoral degree or equivalent qualification in the R&D field in which the application is to be processed cannot be earlier than 30.04.2013. The date of awarding a doctoral degree or equivalent qualification is the date in the respective document issued by the awarding body.

The Evaluation Committee may, where justified, consider eligible a person who has not been awarded his/her first doctoral degree or equivalent qualification at the time of submitting the application, provided that the applicant will obtain a doctoral degree or equivalent qualification before entering into the grant contract.

If the applicant has been on pregnancy, maternity or parental leave, or in compulsory military service after obtaining his/her first doctoral degree or equivalent qualification, the period of qualification is extended by the corresponding period in full months and is rounded up to the higher number of months.

  • Can a postdoctoral fellow who has been awarded a postdoctoral grant receive additional funding from the host institution or the collaborating institution?

The postdoctoral fellow can neither be the PI of an institutional research funding topic nor the PI or a member of the senior research staff of another personal research funding project. Receiving additional funding from other sources is a question of negotiation and agreement between the postdoctoral fellow and the institution(s). Neither the “Conditions of and Procedure for Personal Research Funding for Postdoctoral Grants” nor the grant contract between the postdoctoral fellow, the host institution, and the Council impose any restrictions in this respect.

  • How should a person act if he/she simultaneously applies for funding from different funding instruments (e.g., personal research funding grant, Mobilitas Pluss, Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant, etc.) and receives funding for more than one project?

The applicant has to choose one of them. The same project cannot be financed from different sources. For example, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant requires 100% contribution.

  • What is a host institution? What is a collaborating institution?

The host institution is an Estonian R&D institution. The collaborating institution is a foreign R&D institution, where the project will be carried out.

In case of an outgoing postdoctoral fellow, the host institution will enter into an employment contract with the postdoctoral fellow when the grant has been awarded. This means that when a postdoctoral fellow intends to carry out the project at a foreign R&D institution, he/she must enter into an employment contract with an Estonian R&D institution. The grant money will be allocated to the host institution, not to the collaborating institution.

  • Can a person who has been awarded a doctoral degree in Estonia apply for a grant to carry out the postdoctoral project at an Estonian R&D institution?

The applicant who has been awarded a doctoral degree by an Estonian R&D institution cannot apply for a postdoctoral grant to carry out the project at an Estonian R&D institution.

  • Can a foreign citizen who has been awarded a doctoral degree in Estonia apply for an outgoing postdoctoral grant?

Yes, he/she can. Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that the applicants who are Estonian citizens, have the right of permanent residence in Estonia, or hold a long-term residence permit, will be preferred.

  • Are there any temporal restrictions regarding the postdoctoral grant, e.g., in case a postdoctoral project begins earlier than the results of the call become available?

Even if the Evaluation Committee has made a preliminary financing proposal, then until the directive of the Council to award the grant has been signed, this is at the applicant’s own risk. The start date of a postdoctoral project can be postponed, but the projects that have been awarded a grant during the call 2018, must begin no later than on 1 December 2019.

  • What information should the letter of confirmation from the collaborating institution include?

The letter of confirmation must be on an institution’s letterhead and addressed to the Council. In the letter of confirmation, the collaborating institution and the postdoctoral supervisor must confirm that:

  • the supervisor is aware of the topic and the period of the postdoctoral project and has agreed to supervise the postdoctoral fellow;
  • the supervisor and the collaborating institution are aware that the postdoctoral fellow cannot carry out the postdoctoral project in Estonia;
  • the postdoctoral fellow is guaranteed a place of work, necessary equipment, and access to the necessary information and research infrastructure.

It is advisable to add a short description of the scheduled tasks to be undertaken by the postdoctoral fellow at the collaborating institution. The letter of confirmation must be signed either by the supervisor or by an entitled representative of the collaborating institution.

 

Applying for a start-up grant

  • What is the date of obtaining a doctoral degree?

In 2018, researchers who have been awarded a doctoral degree between 1 January 2012 and 1 January 2017 are eligible to apply. The date of awarding a doctoral degree or equivalent qualification is the date in the respective document issued by the awarding body.

The Evaluation Committee may, where justified, consider eligible a person who has been awarded his/her first doctoral degree or equivalent qualification more than 7 years prior to the 1st of January of the year the project is scheduled to begin.

If the applicant has been on pregnancy, maternity or parental leave, or in compulsory military service after obtaining his/her first doctoral degree or equivalent qualification, the period of qualification is extended by the corresponding period in full months and is rounded up to the higher number of months.

  • How long must the postdoctoral research period be in order to be eligible for a start-up grant?

There is no universally accepted definition of postdoctoral research, both internationally and nationally. Therefore, the period of postdoctoral research has not been defined. The recommendation of having conducted postdoctoral research in case of applying for a start-up grant stems from the need to assess the sufficiency of the international research collaboration experience of the applicant. Generally, one year may be considered the minimum length of a postdoctoral research period. In each case, the Evaluation Committee will assess whether the postdoctoral research period or equivalent experience indicated in the application may be considered sufficient.

  • Can a doctoral student who is going to obtain a doctoral degree in the near future be listed as a member of the senior research staff in the application?

Yes, in case of a start-up project, there are no restrictions concerning the research degrees of the members of the senior research staff. It is necessary to justify the roles and tasks of all the members of the senior research staff in the project, incl., why a person who is yet obtaining a doctoral degree, is important for achieving the objectives of the project.

  • What are the scholarship rates for students in case of a start-up grant?

There is no separate budget line for scholarships in the budget of start-up grants, but these are included among staff costs. Scholarships can therefore be paid from the staff costs intended for this project. The Council does not set any rates for scholarships; these are set by the host institution according to law.

  • Can a person receive both a salary and a scholarship in case of a start-up grant?

One person cannot receive both a salary and a scholarship for the same work. Scholarships cannot be paid for assignments listed in one’s employment contract/job description.

 

Applying for a team grant

  • Are there any restrictions for applying for a team grant in call 2018?

In 2018, a person cannot apply for a grant if he/she is the PI of an institutional research funding topic or a personal research funding project that will continue in 2019 or longer than that. An applicant cannot simultaneously apply for more than one personal research funding grant, but may be listed as a member of the senior research staff in one application for either a start-up or team grant.

  • Do the members of the senior research staff have to have a valid employment contract with the host institution?

No, they do not. In case of team projects, researchers who work at other Estonian R&D institutions may also participate as the members of the senior or other research staff. Their remuneration and research costs will be agreed upon between the PI, the host institution, and the institution(s) where the members of the senior or other research staff are employed.

  • What is assessed in case of the members of the senior research staff of the project?

In case of the members of the senior research staff, it is important to justify why it is necessary to include them in the project, incl., to describe their roles and tasks in the project. This can be done in ETIS in the text box under the tab “Persons”. It is also important to attach accurate CVs of the members of the senior research staff to the application in order to evaluate their qualification for performing the roles and tasks that have been described in the application.
NB! The members of the senior research staff should keep their ETIS CV up to date!

  • Can a doctoral student who is going to obtain a doctoral degree in the near future be listed as a member of the senior research staff in the application?

Yes, in case of a team project, the Evaluation Committee may, where justified, consider eligible a person who does not have a doctoral degree or equivalent qualification. It is nevertheless necessary to justify the roles and tasks of all the members of the senior research staff of the project, incl., why a person who is yet obtaining a doctoral degree, is important for achieving the objectives of the project.

  • What are the scholarship rates for students in case of a team grant?

There is no separate budget line for scholarships in the budget of team grants, but these are included among staff costs. The Council does not set any rates for scholarships; these are set by the host institution according to law.

  • Can a person receive both a salary and a scholarship in case of a team grant?

One person cannot receive both a salary and a scholarship for the same work. Scholarships cannot be paid for assignments listed in one’s employment contract/job description.