The FWF has changed the administration of project funding for some funding programmes to PROFI, i.e., via the research institutions. PROFI simplifies the administration in many ways and at the same time guarantees the autonomy of the researchers. Here is a summary of the most important changes to the new application method.
In 2018, the Austrian Science Fund FWF started to change the project funding in selected programmes (doc.funds, Young Independent Researcher Groups, Research Groups, SFB, #ConnectingMinds) from ad personam project funding to project funding via research institutions (PROFI) (change from §26 to §27 in the Universities Act). The new allocation of roles in the administration of funding brings the processes in line with contemporary professional standards of practice.
Objectives and key principles of PROFI
The FWF sees itself as a guarantor of the freedom of research and serves as a trustee of the research funds entrusted to it. The Fund naturally remains true to this principle in the transition to PROFI. The project administration by the institutions frees up the researchers to focus on their work. At the same time, the institutions assist the researchers as competent partners in the submission of proposals and the implementation of projects. Decisions on the use of budgeted funds are still based exclusively on the needs of basic research and science and are made by the principal investigators in accordance with the regulations of the research institutions.
This new method is also common practice in research funding on the international level. Comparable agencies for the funding of basic research (DFG, SNF, NWO, EU, etc.) have already completed this transition. In order to make the new method as user-friendly as possible for all target groups, the FWF undertook a comprehensive consultation process with representatives of different stakeholders, especially researchers, and incorporated their input into the new administration of project funding.
What is different when using PROFI?
- The submission process (usually via the elane application portal) remains basically the same, except the requirement to obtain a signed affirmation from the research institution has now been replaced by submission of the proposal by the research institution via the application portal. As such, a cover sheet no longer needs to be submitted in person.
- The processing of personnel costs by the researcher is facilitated because in the future, researchers will only have to submit a request to the research institution and not to both the FWF and the respective institution, as has been the case so far.
- The previously exclusively personal liability of the principal investigator for the research funds allocated to the project is replaced by the liability of the research institution. In the grant agreement, the research institution explicitly states that the principal investigator is solely responsible for the use of funds, including the thematic focus of the research. As in the past, a change of principal investigator or research institution is only possible with the approval of the FWF Executive Committee.
In the case of differing opinions between the principal investigators and the research institutions, the FWF is responsible for working together with all the stakeholders to come up with equitable solutions based on the needs of basic research and science and the freedom of research.
Finally, the FWF would like to point out that, even in the case of the ad personam submission of the proposal, the researchers are subject to the rules and regulations of the respective research institution and therefore require the official approval of the research institution to submit a project proposal.