Research Training Networks - FAQs
Research Training Networks
Frequently Asked Questions for Research Training Networks
Please note that this "Frequently Asked Questions" Section is intended to provide a quick response to various common questions regarding the Research Training Networks Activity. It does not supersede the rules and conditions laid out in Council and Parliament Decisions relevant to the Fifth Framework Programme and the various Specific Programmes nor the Calls for Proposals in these Programmes.
Definitions & Scope
- What is a "Research Training Network"?
- What are the objectives of the Research Training Networks Activity?
- What is meant by "Co-ordinator", "Participants", "Member" and "Young Researcher"?
- Participants in a Research Training Network may be based in which countries?
- What are the conditions for appointing a young researcher in a Research Training Network?
- How are young researchers recruited?
- Do the participants have to know which young researchers they want to appoint at the time of submitting a proposal?
Preparation of Proposals
- Can a Research Training Network proposal be submitted in any field of research?
- How best can the subject area be defined?
- How are proposals submitted?
- How is the proposal evaluated?
- What are the costs that are eligible for Community financial support?
- What is the average financial support provided by the Community?
- Why are no funds provided to finance the research?
- How is funding awarded for Research Training Networks?
- How much should the young researchers employed by the network be paid?
Definitions & Scope
What is a "Research Training Network"?
A Research Training Network normally consists of at least five legal entities (e.g. individuals, industrial and commercial firms, including SME's, universities, research organisations) established in at least three Member or Associated states. The network participants propose a common research programme to serve as a vehicle for providing training to young researchers - both pre- and post-doctoral.
What are the objectives of the Research Training Networks Activity?
The primary objective of Research Training Networks is to promote training-through-research, especially of young researchers, both pre- and post-doctoral level, within the frame of high quality transnational collaborative research projects, including those in emerging fields of research. In addition to their primary role of training young researchers, Research Training Networks are also intended to encourage the interaction between different disciplines, the combination of different technologies, the dissemination of results and co-operation between academia and industry.
What is meant by "Participants", "Contractor", "Members", "Network Co-ordinator" and "Young Researcher"?
Among the various participants in a network, there will be the co-ordinating partner, the contractor, with whom the Commission signs the network contract, and the other participants in the network who, as network members, do not sign the contract with the Commission, but instead conclude a membership agreement with each other and with the contractor. The contractor and the network members, referred to collectively as the participants, will be jointly and severally responsible for carrying out the project programme.
The network co-ordinator is that person on the staff of the contractor who is given the tasks of co-ordinating the activities of the network, to ensure good communication between its participants, and to monitor and report progress. The network co-ordinator should therefore have the appropriate management expertise, as well as the technical expertise. The network co-ordinator's tasks also include administrative matters, such as arranging for the membership agreement to be concluded between all the participants, general liaison with the Commission, the submission of all documents, including cost statements and technical reports, and the distribution of the financial contribution of the Community.
A young researcher refers to a researcher aged 35 years or less at the time of their appointment in a network. Note that this means that a young researcher can be appointed, without allowances for age, up to one day before their 36th birthday. An allowance to the age limit can be made for the actual time spent in compulsory military or civil service or childcare (a maximum of two years per child for the actual time spent off work). If a Network, or a researcher over 35 years of age wishing to apply to a network, is unsure whether an allowance to the age limit can be made, it is advisable to consult the Commission before appointment. Note that, other than for the allowances quoted above, no other allowances to the age limit can be made.
Participants in a Research Training Network may be based in which countries?
Participants based in the 15 member states of the European Union and the Associated States are eligible for financial support. At least one of the participants must be established in a Member State.
In the Fourth Framework Programme, under the TMR programme, the Associated States were Iceland, Israel, Liechtenstein and Norway. For the Fifth Framework programme, under the IHP programme, the Associated States are currently Bulgaria, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Switzerland and Malta are expected to become Associated States during 2001.
Participation of legal entities based in other (Third) countries and International Organisations is encouraged, as engagement in such international co-operation activities contributes to the successful implementation of the Human Potential programme. Normally, participation in this case is on a self-financing basis and requires the above mentioned minimum number of legal entities from the Member and/or Associated States.
Up-to-date information on Associated States and on the requirements for the participation of legal entities from other countries in the Fifth Framework Programme is available at /fp5/management/particip/v-gfpbox4.htm#BOX 4.
What are the conditions for appointing a young researcher in a Research Training Network?
For Research Training Networks funded under the Fifth Framework Human Potential Programme (1998-2002), young researchers must meet the following eligibility criteria:
Age - they must be aged 35 or less at the time of their appointment to the network (see also 3. above);
Qualifications - they must be holders of a doctoral degree or of a degree that would qualify them to embark on a doctoral degree;
Nationality - they must be nationals of an EU Member State or Associated State or have resided in an EU Member State for at least five years immediately prior to their appointment in a network.
International Mobility - a national of a state other than the one in which they will be located in the network and must not have carried out their normal activities in that state for more than 12 of the 24 months prior to their appointment. For non-EU Member or Associated State nationals wishing to be appointed in a Research Training Network which started in 2002 only, you must not have resided in the country in which your potential host institute is situated for more than two years in the last five years immediately prior to appointment.
Content of Work - they must be appointed specifically to carry out research in the context of the network or to assist the network co-ordinator in the scientific co-ordination of the network project.
For Research Training Networks funded under the previous Fourth Framework TMR programme (1994-1998), the eligibility criteria are broadly similar except that:
Young researchers must be nationals of an EU Member State or of the Associated States: Iceland, Israel, Liechtenstein, Norway only. There is no retroactive association of the candidate states for EU membership and the five years residency condition for other nationals does not apply.
They must not have carried out their normal activities in that state for more than 18 of the 24 months prior to their appointment.
If a Research Training Network is unsure whether a candidate satisfies all these necessary conditions, it is advisable to consult the Commission before appointment in order to avoid possible difficulties at a later date.
How are young researchers recruited?
It is important that network participants advertise their vacancies as soon as possible and as widely as possible. Young researchers may be recruited from other participants in the same network and/or from outside the network. In addition, the advertising of vacant positions can be done by network participants through their institution or by external publication in an appropriate journal or website. Vacancies may also be listed, free of charge, on the Research Training Networks Website at /mc-opportunities/home_vac.cfm, where vacancies are classified by discipline and are linked to the networks' home page.
Interested young researchers who would like to find a position in a Research Training Network can also consult the vacancies at /mc-opportunities/home_vac.cfm and apply directly to the contact person mentioned in the vacancy. It should be noted that this vacancy database might not be fully up-to-date and thus you may wish to contact directly the Co-ordinator of a network you are interested in.
It is important to note that it is the responsibility of the network participants to ensure that the young researchers employed in a network satisfy the eligibility conditions listed in 5. above. However, the Commission is always willing to advise in cases where there is some doubt in order to avoid any possible problems at a later stage.
Do the participants have to know whom they want to appoint at the time of submitting a proposal?
No. However, the proposal must clearly specify the training capacity offered by each of the network participants and the minimum number of person-months of training offered by the network as a whole. For successful proposals, this will later become a deliverable of the network contract. The network has also to indicate whether it is more appropriate to select post-docs or pre-docs. Also, it is understood, if the proposal is successful, that participants will immediately undertake all necessary actions to recruit young researchers as quickly as possible.
Preparation of Proposals
Can a Research Training Network proposal be submitted in any field of research?
Networks may be supported in all fields of scientific research that contribute to the Community's objectives in research, technological development and demonstration, for projects chosen freely by the participants themselves.
How best can the subject area be defined?
The evaluation of the proposals is, for practical reasons, organised around seven disciplinary panels: Mathematics and Information Sciences (MAT), Physics (PHY), Chemistry (CHE), Life Sciences (LIF), Environmental and Geo-Sciences (ENV), Engineering Sciences (ENG) and Economic, Social and Human Sciences (ESH). Network proposers are therefore requested to identify which one of these panels would best correspond to the principal expertise involved in their proposal.
In addition, Network proposers can specify up to four sub-discipline codes (listed in Annex 1 in the Guide for Proposers) in order of relevance. These codes do not necessarily have to correspond to one panel, as may be the case for some multi-disciplinary proposals. Normally, the first sub-discipline code comes from the panel specified as corresponding to the principal expertise of the proposal. For example, network proposers may consider the ESH panel to be the most appropriate one for evaluation and S-03 (Sociology) as the most relevant sub-discipline code.
How are proposals submitted?
The proposal co-ordinator is responsible for the internal management and administration of the proposal and for submitting it to the Commission. This must be prepared using the appropriate Proposal Form, of which A0 to A4 inclusive and B are available in both WORD and PDF format at /improving/calls/rtn_200002.htm. Note that Part C (Proposal Description) must be prepared on single-sided A4 pages with the proposal short title as a header to each page.
Proposals may also be submitted electronically using ProTool (Proposal Preparation Tool) available at /fp5/protool. ProTool is intended to help applicants to prepare the administrative and technical information of a proposal in conformity with the appropriate Proposal Form. Once the proposal has been prepared with ProTool, it may be sent either electronically or on paper, as preferred by the applicants.
How is the proposal evaluated?
In the selection of networks, there will be no pre-established targets in terms of scientific discipline or topic. The quality of a proposal is to be measured against ten primary evaluation criteria, grouped under three blocks (a) scientific merit of the collaborative research project, (b) quality of the network partnership, organisation and management, and (c) quality and content of the networks' training programme. Each proposal is also measured against two secondary criteria (a) Training in a context promoting interactions between different disciplines and/or in complementary research teams and (b) Training in an industrially relevant context. These secondary criteria will only be taken into account for ranking proposals of otherwise equal merit. You will find more detailed information in the Guide for Evaluators.
Only proposals reaching at least 70 out of 100 from the primary evaluation criteria, and 23 out of 30 for the quality and content of the networks' training programme, will be taken into consideration for funding.
What are the costs that are eligible for Community financial support?
Community funding will cover up to 100% of the additional eligible costs connected with the temporary appointment of young researchers and with networking costs. Some contribution to overheads is also provided.
Costs related to the temporary appointment of young researchers cover their actual salaries or grants, social charges, pension contributions, registration and tuition fees, relocation costs and travel costs for visits to maintain contact with their home scientific community (one visit per nine-monthly period of their appointment by a participant).
Networking costs cover travel and subsistence for staff exchanges and network meetings, conference fees, costs of exchanging information and materials and of publishing joint results, use of external scientific facilities, scientific computing, use of high-bandwidth communication networks, consumables, subcontracts and costs for the protection and exploitation of scientific results.
A maximum of 20% of the above costs, excluding costs for subcontracts, may be charged to the contract. Such overheads are intended to include inter alia the costs of non-specialist personnel, administrative personnel and secretarial personnel, as well as the depreciation of buildings and equipment, water, electricity, telecommunications and postal charges, and office supplies.
Funding of the research itself is not covered, participants within a network are expected to use their own resources (national funds, private funds, etc) to finance the actual research work.
What is the average financial support provided by the Community?
The financial support to network participants from Member and Associated States should not exceed 200,000 Euro per team, when averaged over all such teams in the network. Network contracts will normally not exceed €1.5 million in terms of Community financing. However, larger contracts may be concluded where the proposed work is of special interest to the Community in a field of research of particular importance for training. The Commission is equally receptive to smaller proposals in new fields of research and technology and therefore, prospective networks should not artificially inflate their request for financial support as this may prevent the funding of other networks.
Why are no funds provided to finance the research?
The Research Training Network activity is targeted at training young researchers, developing their research capabilities and enhancing their career prospects. The Community support for Research Training Networks is then logically focused on the costs related to these objectives. Other activities (like the Key Actions elsewhere in the Fifth Framework) are specifically intended to fund actual research.
How is funding awarded for Research Training Networks?
All eligible proposals are evaluated by a peer review system carried out by panels of independent experts. On the basis of this evaluation, they draw up, for each panel, a final ranked list of proposals that pass the required thresholds. Based on these ranked lists, the Commission services then draw up, for each panel, a list of proposals that can normally be funded as a result of falling inside the panel's available budget. This available budget is determined in advance, but remains unknown to the evaluators until they have drawn up this ranked list. Out of the total budget available for the call, the budget per panel is distributed in proportion to the funding requested in each panel.
Provision is made to go further down the ranked lists when priority proposals are withdrawn or savings are made during contract negotiation.
The time between the deadline for submission of your proposal and, for successful proposals, the negotiation of the contract is at least six months. Full details on the evaluation procedure are available in the Guide for Evaluators.
How much should the young researchers employed by the network be paid?
The Commission does not specify how much the individual participants of the network have to pay the young researchers. However, the recommendation is that at least the local pay and conditions at a particular institute should be used, i.e. a young researcher should be paid at least as much as other colleagues with similar qualifications and experience at the same institute. Due consideration should be given to ensuring that salaries are competitive, since, if appointment costs are set at an unrealistically low level, a participant is likely to encounter recruitment difficulties. The Reference Rates for Marie-Curie Fellows (listed in Chapter 4 of the Guide for Proposers), which have been set in accordance with National Governments, may be used as a useful guide for determining the personnel costs of young researchers employed in a network, if so desired.