FAPESP-NWO Call for Proposals: Advanced Instrumentation for Astronomy

1. Introduction  

This is a call for proposals for Joint Research Projects under the Scientific Cooperation Agreement between the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), São Paulo, Brazil, and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), the Netherlands.

Project proposals must be written jointly by researchers associated to research institutions in the State of Sao Paulo and in the Netherlands and must reflect unison and close cooperation. It is expected that research activities be conducted on both sides and that the project and the intellectual contribution is evenly balanced between Sao Paulo and the Netherlands.

This call for proposals sets out information about the possibilities for submitting applications, the conditions that applications must meet and the procedure for assessing the proposals.

1.1 Background

The aim of this call is to strengthen research cooperation between researchers in the State of São Paulo, Brazil, and researchers in the Netherlands by funding joint research projects in the field of Advanced Instrumentation for Astronomy. The research projects must be collaborative including researchers from both São Paulo and the Netherlands.

This program offers funding opportunities for joint and integrated research cooperation between research groups in the State of São Paulo and in the Netherlands, including the exchange of researchers. Researchers from other States in Brazil or other countries may be included if eligible for funding under the rules of FAPESP or NWO or if funded adequately by other sources.

This call for proposals is announced simultaneously by FAPESP and NWO.

1.2 Available budget

A total budget of approximately € 3.0 million is jointly made available. FAPESP and NWO will each contribute up to € 1.5 million.

The budget request must follow the norms of both NWO and FAPESP and their respective Programs.

The budget to be approved for each selected proposal will be subject to the rules and restrictions of each funding agency, as specified in this call for proposals.

The provided budget will enable 3-9 projects to be granted.

1.3 Deadline for submissions

This call for proposals is valid until the closing date on 1 September 2015 at 13.59 hours CET.

2. Aim

The aim of this call is to strengthen research cooperation between the State of São Paulo, Brazil, and the Netherlands by funding joint research projects in the field of Advanced Instrumentation for Astronomy.

The current generation of astronomical facilities has led to a scientific revolution in astronomy. While upgrades of today’s key facilities are being prepared, the major facilities for the future are under development. Scientific challenges are pushing technology development and create new opportunities for the scientific and industrial development of high-tech instruments. Brazil and the Netherlands combine their strengths and expertise to address joint challenges in advanced instrumentation for Astronomy, and to contribute to the further enhancement of bilateral innovative research on this topic. The cooperation program aims at furthering long-term sustainable collaboration that is in aligned with long-term national priorities.

2.1 Thematic focus: Advanced Instrumentation for Astronomy

Big Science projects have the highest priority in strategic planning for astronomy in the Netherlands and Sao Paulo. Such projects put forward new scientific and technological challenges that require the design and development of advanced instrumentation, often in a close collaboration between astronomy and high-tech industry.

The present call invites Research Proposals on Advanced Instrumentation for Astronomy, focusing on the present and future ground-based facilities that are the top priorities in the Netherlands and in Sao Paulo. Based on common interest and common expertise, the following priority areas have been identified:

i) Optical and Infrared Astronomical Instrumentation

ii) Submillimeter / Far Infrared Astronomical Instrumentation

iii) Underlying and enabling hardware & software technologies for i) and ii)

Researchers in both countries can build on their experience in developing and building the current generation of optical, infrared, and submillimeter/Far Infrared telescopes. On top of that, a number of the key facilities currently being upgraded or developed (e.g., VLT, LLAMA, E-ELT) create new and additional opportunities for technological cooperation. The complementary expertise between the Netherlands and Brazil will create added value in addressing the joint challenges for high-tech scientific instrumentation development. Challenges are in line with expertise in both countries and include the high-tech areas of optical/infrared and submillimeter instrumentation, sensor systems and technology (including detector development), precision technology, customized micro-electronics and nano-photonics, as well as IT-infrastructures, data-management and interpretation tools. 

Cooperation with industry

Besides scientists, many large and small companies in Brazil and the Netherlands will be able to participate in the development of advanced instrumentation for astronomy. This will have important spin off for science, industry, and society. FAPESP and NWO aim at strengthening the cooperation with such companies. Cooperation with industrial partners in the framework of this program is stimulated, and the added value created through this cooperation will be taken into account in the assessment of proposals.

Meeting strategic priorities

Joint research projects must meet the thematic priorities formulated in this call for proposals and must be in line with institutions’ priorities. For the Netherlands, all proposals must address both the ‘Strategic plan for astronomy in the Netherlands 2011-2020’ and the ‘Roadmap Advanced Instrumentation’ (Topsector High Tech System and Materials). 

3. Guidelines for applicants

3.1 Who can apply

Proposals can be submitted by eligible researchers in the State of São Paulo and in the Netherlands.

Proposals must be jointly submitted by a Principal Investigator (PI) in the State of São Paulo and a PI in the Netherlands. Researchers regarded as eligible to submit proposals within the scope of this call are:


For proposers in the State of São Paulo, Brazil, proposals must be submitted by researchers associated to Research Institutions in the State of Sao Paulo. Proposals may be submitted either as Regular or Thematic Research Awards:

i. Regular Research Awards: proposals submitted to FAPESP must follow the rules of Regular Research Awards, as available at www.fapesp.br/137 (available only in Portuguese), except where explicitly indicated in this Call for Proposals (CFP), including the specific Submission Form to this CFP, available at www.fapesp.br/nwo/proposalform.docx.

ii. Thematic Research Awards: proposals submitted to FAPESP must follow the rules of FAPESP’s Thematic Project Awards, as available at http://fapesp.br/176 (in Portuguese), except if explicitly indicated in this CFP, including the specific Submission Form to this CFP, available at www.fapesp.br/nwo/proposalform.docx.

Please be aware of the strict eligibility criteria established in the links provided above.

b) NWO

For Dutch scientists the NWO eligibility criteria are applied, i.e., the Dutch Principal Investigator should be affiliated to:

- a Dutch university; or

- an institute affiliated to NWO or KNAW; or

- the Netherlands Cancer Institute NKI; or

- the Max Planck Institute Nijmegen;


Have an employment contract for at least the duration of the proposal procedure and the duration of the research the grant is applied for;


Have at least a PhD or an equivalent qualification. 

All PI’s and their institutions must fulfill the eligibility rules for research proposals as set by the relevant funding agency. Applicants must note that the funding agencies retain the right to reject applications where they fail to comply with the procedures set out in the guidelines. If an application is ineligible with one of the agencies, the complete project will be rejected. 

3.2 Characteristics of the proposals


Research projects can have a duration between two and five years, respecting norms of each Agency and Programs available in this CFP. 

Demonstration of collaboration and integration

The projects must constitute substantive integrated work. Exchange of researchers within the joint project is encouraged. Working a couple of months in the lab of the collaborative researcher abroad and the realization of annual project meetings are good examples of how the exchange of researchers might take place.

Applicants do not need to request equal amounts from both sides. The difference in values should reflect the difference in costs covered and local prices. The agencies also expect the costs on each side to accurately reflect the research effort to be carried out. What is expected is that the research effort on both sides be comparable.

Available funding for FAPESP:

In accordance with FAPESP norms for each Program, Regular or Thematic Research Awards.

Available funding for NWO:

NWO will provide funding of up € 500,000 per proposal.

Eligible costs

All budget items must conform to the rules relevant for each agency. Participants from other countries or other States in Brazil must demonstrate adequate funding. The following funding rules will apply:


Allowable items are in accordance with FAPESP norms for each Program, Regular or Thematic Research Awards.

Please note that:

- For Thematic Research Awards, in addition to the normal requirements, each proposal must request at least two Postdoctoral Fellowships.

- In the calculation of the total amount requested it is necessary to include the values for the FAPESP overheads applicable to the funding line used (“Reserva Técnica Direta”, “Reserva Técnica Institucional” and “Reserva Técnica de Importação”).

b) NWO

The maximum amount of funding that can be applied for per project on the Dutch side is € 500.000, for the assignment of up to 2 research positions (PhD and/or Postdoc), exchange visits and meeting costs, and (hardware) investments. Each proposal should at least include one PhD or Postdoc position.

For each joint research project, the Dutch PI can apply for funding for:

- 1 or 2 research positions: employment costs of a Postdoc researcher (maximum three years) or a PhD researcher (four years), eligible costs are in accordance with the most recent VSNU-contract and include a personal bench fee of € 5,000;

- exchange visits and meeting costs (incl. travel and accommodation) for researchers in the project;

- contribution to (hardware) investments up to € 75,000 per proposal. Hardware investments should be project related, and exclude standard equipment that is considered basic infrastructure of the host institution.

The maximum total budget for a project is € 500,000.

Note that the maximum budget for (hardware) investments amounts up to € 75,000. In case larger investments are required, the PI can apply to the NWO scheme for Medium Investments (NWO-M).

Each proposal should at least include one PhD or Postdoc position in São Paulo and one in the Netherlands.

3.3 Preparing an application

All proposals must be completed in English and follow the proposal structure as indicated in the application template available on the websites of FAPESP and NWO. The proposals should be in PDF format. If the stated maximum number of words and/or pages is exceeded, or if the necessary documents are not included, the application may be automatically disqualified.

3.4 Submission of proposals

The closing date for the submission of proposals is 1 September 2015, 13.59 hours CET. No proposals will be accepted after the closing date for submission, nor will any addendum or explanation be accepted, unless those explicitly and formally requested by FAPESP or NWO. Proposals not received before the deadline or not in conformity to the specifications herein will not be considered.

All applications will be submitted initially solely to NWO. NWO will share copies with FAPESP. Later on FAPESP may require the submission of additional documentation.

An application can only be submitted via NWO’s electronic application system Iris. The operating procedure and instruction manual for Iris can be found at www.iris.nwo.nl. Guidance on how to submit the proposal will be available on the NWO website. Applications not submitted via Iris will not be admitted to the selection procedure.

The application has two parts: a fact sheet and the application form.

1) The fact sheet can be completed directly in NWO’s electronic application system Iris.

2) The application form will be available on the grant page for this program on the NWO website. As soon as the application form is completed, the form can be added to the Iris fact sheet as a PDF file, together with the annexes.

The Main Applicant (one of the two Principal Investigators) has to submit the application form and the annexes on behalf of the research consortium. Applications must be drafted in English.

A Main Applicant is obliged to submit his/her application via his/her own Iris account. If the Main Applicant does not have an Iris account yet then this should be created at least one day before the submission. Then any possible registration problems can still be solved on time. If the Main Applicant already has an Iris account then he/she does not need to create a new account to submit a new application.

For technical questions, please contact the Iris helpdesk. 

3.5 Specific conditions

Please note that the funding will be administered to the successful applicants via the national funding agency.

For researchers from the Netherlands this Call for Proposals is subject to NWO’s general terms and conditions ‘General Terms and Conditions of NWO Grants’ (www.nwo.nl/en/subscription-documents/nwo/legal/nwo-regulation-on-granting-may-2011).

NWO may cancel funding according to the NWO Regulation on Granting.

Successful applicants in São Paulo, Brazil, will need to submit their proposals, when notified by FAPESP, and will need to register all participating researchers, from São Paulo and from abroad. 

4. Assessment procedure  

4.1 Procedure 

The assessment process of analysis, qualification, rebuttal and selection of the received proposals will be led by NWO. Reviewers will be appointed by NWO and FAPESP. The NWO Code of Conduct

on Conflicts of Interest applies to all persons and NWO staff involved in the assessment and/or decision-making process.

a) Eligibility check

In the assessment procedure the admissibility of the individual projects will be determined using the conditions stated in Chapter 3 of this call for proposals. Eligibility of the proposals will be assessed by NWO and FAPESP. Proposals that do not comply with the terms of this call for proposals will be considered ‘not eligible’. Proposals will only be considered eligible if the eligibility is approved by both councils.

b) Peer review

Eligible proposals will be sent to external independent referees who will assess the proposals according to the assessment criteria specified in section 4.2. Reviewers will be appointed by NWO and FAPESP.

c) Rebuttal

All researchers with proposals considered eligible and received for review will have the right to jointly formulate a 2 page rebuttal to the peer review reports. The anonymized reviews will be sent to the Principal Investigators. The joint rebuttal needs to be sent to NWO by email and will be requested within a short time frame of maximum two weeks.

d) Assessment Committee

A joint assessment committee will be composed by NWO and FAPESP. The committee will be provided with all applications, peer review reports, and rebuttals from the applicants. The assessment committee will meet and assess the proposals using the criteria specified in section 4.2. It will rank and rate the proposals, and formulate a funding recommendation to NWO and FAPESP.

e) Decision making

The advice of the assessment committee will be subject to approval by each of the funding agencies, FAPESP and NWO. Please note that proposals will only be funded if both FAPESP and NWO agree.

4.2 Timetable

30 June 2015  Call for proposals announced by NWO and FAPESP
1 September 2015  Deadline for submitting proposals
September 2015  Eligibility check
Sept-Nov 2015 Consultation of referees
Nov 2015  Rebuttal
Nov/Dec 2015 Meeting of the Assessment meeting
December 2015 Joint decision making NWO/FAPESP







4.3 Assessment criteria

All eligible proposals will be assessed against five sets of criteria: 1) relevance to the theme of the Call, 2) scientific quality of the research proposal, 3) quality of the research groups, 4) international co-operation, 5) knowledge utilization/cooperation with industry. All five of the sets of criteria will be taken into consideration.

a) Relevance to the theme of the Call

- Whether the proposal fits within the thematic focus of the call;

- Whether the proposal is in line with institutions’ priorities. For the Netherlands proposals need to fit within the ‘Strategic plan for astronomy in the Netherlands 2011-2020’ and the ‘Roadmap Advanced Instrumentation’ (Topsector High Tech System and Materials).

b) Scientific quality of the research proposal

- Quality of the project, including originality and innovative elements;

- Potential to make an important contribution to the advancement of science or technology;

- Importance and urgency of the proposed project;

- Suitability of the proposed method and technical feasibility;

- Adequacy of the budget.

c) Quality of the research groups

- Competence and expertise of the team;

d) International cooperation

- Added value of international cooperation to the research project, including the complementary expertise;

- The degree of inter-institutional co-operation between the project partners, including the balanced contribution to the research project;

- Perspective for long-term sustainable collaboration;

e) Knowledge utilization/cooperation with industry

- (Potential for) Involvement of and interaction with industrial partners in the project;

- The potential impact of the research results outside ‘astronomy’ in scientific, societal and/or economic terms;

- Actions planned to ensure that the results of the planned research benefit potential knowledge users.

5. Contact details

All questions related to this call for research proposals must be directed to: 

Diego Muñoz
Scientific Directorate São Paulo Research Foundation - FAPESP
E-mail: chamada_nwo@fapesp.br 

Saskia Matheussen
Email: s.matheussen@nwo.nl
Tel: +31 (0)70 344 0549