Call for new convergence environments

UiO:Life Science is happy to announce the third call for convergence environments. We expect to fund six applications this time.

Purpose

UiO:Life Science convergence environments give UiO's best researchers within life sciences the opportunity to reach ambitious scientific goals through interdisciplinary collaboration. Research in the convergence environments must be innovative and have major potential to generate groundbreaking results. The convergence environments work with complex problems where coordinated research efforts across disciplines are essential to achieving their objectives. The specific goals are to:

  • Perform excellent interdisciplinary science and research (“beyond state-of-the-art”)
  • Recruit, educate and develop talents
  • Promote innovation in the life sciences related to environment and health

Important dates and deadlines

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Upcoming activity: Information meetings 8 and 10 December 

See full timeline

  • Tuesday 3 November 2020
    The call is published. Invitation to create a scientific profile
  • Tuesday 8 December and Thursday 10 December 2020
    Information meetings (digital)
  • Thursday 21 January 2021
    Deadline for signing up for workshops and creating scientific profile.
  • Thursday 18 February 2021 and Tuesday 2 March 2021
    Workshop 1 and 2 (speed-dating).
  • Friday 26 March 2021
    Deadline for submitting project proposals (phase 1) and suggesting experts and review panel members.
  • Monday 7 June 2021
    Deadline for full applications (phase 2).
  • Thursday 4 November 2021
    Final decision by UiO:Life Science board.
  • Wednesday 10 November 2021
    Results publicly announced.
  • Monday 2 May 2022
    First date for employment in positions.

About the call

Before this application process UiO:Life Science funded 14 convergence environments, six after an application process in 2016/2017 and eight new converge environments in 2018/2019. This time we expect to fund six new projects. Successful applicants will receive funding for three or four post doc. positions or PhD scolarships and running expenses.

Who is eligible to apply?

The project leader must have a permanent research position at UiO. Groups that have previously received convergence environment funding from UiO:Life Science are welcome to submit new proposals.

Who can participate in the application?

Other principal investigators may come from UiO, University hospitals or other cooperating institutions.

Funding provided

  • Cluster funding with 3-4 positions each, including at least one post doc. position and one PhD scholarship.
  • The PhD candidates will be employed by the departments at UiO and will attend PhD programs at UiO. Their projects are expected to be rather disciplinary in nature.
  • The post docs. will be employed by the departments at UiO and are expected to work on projects with distinctly interdisciplinary profiles.
  • PhD candidates are hired for four years and post docs are hired for three years, including competence-giving compulsory work.
  • Running expenses: Up to NOK 200 000 per position per year for costly experimental work. Up to NOK 50 000 for theoretical positions. Expenses must be specified and justified in a few lines for each position. Up to NOK 150 000 per year for other activities for the convergence consortium. Expenses should promote convergence and must be specified and justified in a few lines. In addition, the convergence environments will be eligible to apply for further running expenses for costly experimental work or other convergence related costs throughout the convergence environment period.

Background and definitions

UiO’s vision is to be an important actor nationally and globally in the development of life sciences for better health, sustainable environmental measures and a growing green bioeconomy. “Convergence” – closer interaction between a diversity of research environments and disciplines – is needed to ensure quality and relevance. Special emphasis is put on Antimicrobial resistance, A sustainable life span, Neuroscience, Personalised medicine, and Enabling health technologies, which have been recommended as thematic areas within life sciences in the new life science building.

Life sciences

The 21st century is frequently described as “The century of the Life Sciences”, based on a completely new understanding of life and life processes. This paves the way for better health, sustainable environmental measures and a growing green bioeconomy. UiO’s vision is to be an important actor nationally and globally in this development. “Convergence” – closer interaction between a diversity of research environments and disciplines – is needed to ensure quality and relevance.

In the UiO strategy for the life scienceslife sciences are defined as including all scientific disciplines studying the composition, structure and functions of living organisms. Medicine and biology constitute the core, backed by chemistry, physics and mathematical subjects. This strategy also includes the social sciences and humanities when these examine causal relationships between behaviour or consciousness and the biological foundation, or analyse challenges arising in the encounter between the application of the life sciences and society’s values and priorities.

In order to encourage untraditional research collaborations, applications involving principle investigators from more than two faculties will receive a small bonus during the grading process (see "Assessment criteria").

Interdisciplinary research

Interdisciplinary research is founded on the need to produce the knowledge necessary to solve societal challenges, or a desire to develop new methods, theories and disciplines to achieve groundbreaking basic research. In distinction to multidisciplinary research, which involves multiple disciplines with multiple disciplinary goal settings under one thematic umbrella, interdisciplinary research crosses disciplinary boarders and develops new, integrated knowledge. Interdisciplinary research may address complex problems beyond the reach of traditional science as well as issues that are highly contested and where stakes are high. It can expand on existing scientific evidence and give rise to more innovative, holistic solutions, generating both new scientific insights and practical societal benefits.

Thematic areas within life sciences

Internal processes at the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Dentistry, seminars involving all UiO faculties and the UiO:Life Science Strategic Advisory Board, input from external players, and advice from relevant universities abroad have in April 2020 led to the following recommendation for thematic areas within life sciences in the new life science building:

  • Antimicrobial resistance
  • A sustainable life span
  • Neuroscience
  • Personalised medicine
  • Enabling health technologies

In order to support these future activities, applications associated with one of the thematic areas will receive a small bonus during the grading process (see "Assessment criteria").

Innovation

UiO:Life Science is dedicated to innovation and will award projects with potential to generate a foundation for new innovations and/or marketable products a small bonus during the grading process (see "Assessment criteria").

Educational aspects

PhD candidates are hired for four years and post docs are hired for three years. The PhD candidates will attend PhD programs at UiO. The appointment includes competence-giving compulsory work limited to 25 % of the position for PhD candidates and 10 % of the position for post docs. This time should be dedicated to career development, and the host departments are required to fill individual career development plans with relevant tasks according to the principles decided by the University Board (see Standarder for UiOs karrierestøtte til forskere i tidlig karrierefase, decision in University board's meeting 3 March 2020). Outreach work or other tasks assigned by UiO:Life Science can be included in the plans.

Assessment criteria and practical information

Reviewers will be asked to evaluate and score, on a scale from 1 to 10, the quality of each application and research team, with multiple questions sorted into three categories Research, Impact and implementation and Responsible research and innovation (RRI). Experts will only evaluate research, and will be asked to give qualitative statements, i.e. not grades.

Requirements for the application process

Workshop participation

It is mandatory for at least one principal investigator to register a profile and to sign up for at least one workshop (registration form for the workshop will be published by 8 Januar 2021).

Phase 1 - proposal

It is mandatory to complete a web form with project details, including suggestions for experts and review panel members and a short project description using a provided template (max 4 pages). The web form and template will be available from 8 Januar 2021.

Phase 2 - full application

The application, including all attachments, must be submitted in English.
All mandatory attachments must be included.
The project description (max 10 pages) must be written using a designated template (available after 26 March 2021).
Requirements relating to the affiliation of the project leader must be satisfied.
At least one position must be filled before 31 May 2022. Failure to fulfill this requirement may result in withdrawal of funding.

Mandatory attachments

A project description of maximum 10 pages using the designated template.
CVs (max 4 pages each) for the project manager and key principal investigators using the designated templates (standard NFR format). The templates will be available from 8 Januar 2021.

A separate Letter of Intent from each institutions that will host PhD candidates and post docs. confirming that:

  • the institution is informed about and endorse the application
  • the institution has capacity to accept the candidate should the application be grated.
  • the institution takes responsibility for their career plans.
  • no extra costs will be inferred on the project, such as rent for offices or laboratories.

Grant applications that do not satisfy the above requirements will be rejected.

Assessment criteria for review panel

1. Research
Novelty
The extent to which:

  1. the proposed research address important research challenges.
  2. the objectives are ambitious and beyond the state-of-the-art (e.g. novel concepts and approaches, development of novel methodology or development across disciplines).
  3. the proposed research has the potential to achieve groundbreaking results.

Solidity
The extent to which:

  1. the outlined scientific approaches are feasible and the proposed timescales and resources are necessary and properly justified.
  2. the proposed research methodologies are appropriate to achieve the goals of the convergence environment.
  3. the combination of scientific elements put forward in the proposal is appropriate and crucial to address the scope and complexity of the research question.

2.  Impact and implementation
Project leader

The extent to which:

  1. the project leader has the required experience, skills, personal capacity and motivation to lead the convergence environment.
  2. the convergence environment funding could be expected to guide the future scientific career path of the project leader towards interdisciplinary research or help maintaining such a research profile if already established.

Project leader and principal investigators
The extent to which:

  1. the project leader and principal investigators have demonstrated the ability to propose and conduct groundbreaking research.
  2. the project leader and principal investigators have the optimal scientific expertise and capacity to successfully execute the project.

Project organization
The extent to which:

  1. successful accomplishment of the main research objectives will exceed what the individual researchers could have accomplished on their own (scientific convergence).
  2. the structure, organization and size of the convergence environment is optimal for the proposed research with all principal investigators being indispensable.
  3. the application addresses the needs to create and maintain appropriate meeting places, group activities and a fertile student environment.

Impact and after-life
The extent to which:

  1. establishment of the convergence environment will contribute to innovative and integrated interaction between disciplines across UiO.
  2. the interdisciplinary culture, interactions and networks established throughout the project period can be expected to thrive and grow after funding from UiO:Life Science ends.
  3. plans are presented to attract external funding for the project.

Educational aspect and career development
The extent to which:

k)  the application considers the educational aspects of the PhD and postdoc positions and describes plans for a holistic and systematic approach to career development for the candidates.

3.  Responsible research and innovation (RRI)

The extent to which

  1. the planned RRI activities address probable societal concerns.
  2. the planned investigations are sustainable and ethically acceptable.
  3. dissemination plans are well developed and set to reach a wide audience.
  4. the applicant team is characterized by reasonable gender balance or appropriate measures are described to mitigate any initial imbalance during the project period.

Assessment procedure

A rating scheme from 1-10 will be used according to the following scale:

9-10: excellent
7-8: very good
5-6: good
1-4: poor

Each reviewer/panel member will receive all applications but will be asked to review approximately 7 applications. There will be three evaluations of each application. Applications are given one grade each for the three evaluated subheadings:

Research (50 %)
Impact and implementation (38 %)
Responsible research and innovation (RRI) (12 %)
When determining the overall grade, the percentages given in parentheses above should be used.


Bonus system grading

After calculation of the overall grade, each application will receive a bonus according to the following scheme:

Criterion

Bonus

Evaluated by

The project is associated with one of the thematic areas within life sciences

0.0 – 0.2

Review panel

Results from the project may generate a foundation for new innovations*

0.0 – 0.1

Review panel

The project involves principal investigators from more than two faculties**

0.0 – 0.2

UiO:Life Science administration

* Evaluators shall assess the potential for innovation(s) to:

a.       Fill an unmet need
b.       Generate novel solutions (novelty)
c.       Differ from current “gold standard” (uniqueness)
d.       Generate interest from end users
e.       Be protected (not necessarily patented)
**+0.1 for three faculties, + 0.2 for four (or more) faculties.

The maximum bonus is + 0.5.
 

Assessment criteria for experts

Please give a qualitative assessment (1 - 4 sentences) of the extent to which:

  1. the proposed research address important research challenges
  2. the objectives are ambitious and beyond the state-of-the-art (e.g. novel concepts and approaches, development of novel methodology or development across disciplines)
  3. the proposed research has the potential to achieve groundbreaking results
  4. the outlined scientific approaches are feasible and the proposed timescales and resources are necessary and properly justified
  5. the proposed research methodologies are appropriate to achieve the goals of the convergence environment
  6. the combination of scientific elements put forward in the proposal is crucial to address the scope and complexity of the research question.

Administrative procedures

Profile registration and workshops, 21 January, 2021 

It is mandatory to register a profile and to sign up for at least one workshop either Thursday 18 February or Tuesday 2 March 2021 (registration form for workshop will be published later). At the workshops you can meet to discuss mutual interests and the potential for initiation of joint projects. The project profiles and ideas presented will appear on the web page to facilitate contact between researchers.


Phase 1 – proposals, 26 March 2021

The proposals will not be subject to scientific evaluation; their main purpose is to give UiO:Life Science the overview needed to select experts and review panel members, and suggest a merge of related project ideas when appropriate. No proposals will be excluded. Applicants will receive feedback within approximately three weeks.


Phase 2 – full applications, 7 June 2021

Each application will first be sent to an expert suggested by the applicant team. The expert will not grade the application, but is asked to give qualitative assessments about the proposed project. The applications with comments from the experts are sent to members of the review panel.

Each application will be evaluated by three reviewers, of which at least one should have good knowledge of the research field. Typically, at least one reviewer is more peripheral to the subject. Applicants should have this in mind when describing their projects. In the evaluation of applications for the second generation of convergence environments in 2018, 16 reviewers handled 41 applications.

The evaluation will be executed digitally and take place in two steps.

In step 1 10-12 applications will be selected for step 2. Results will be announced to the applicants on 24 September 2021.

In step 2, taking place 26 and 27 October 2021, all the project leaders of the finalists will give short presentations of their applications and subsequently be interviewed by the review panel.

Final ranking of applications will take place when all projects have been presented. A decision will then be made by the UiO:Life Science board on 4 November 2021, results being made public on 10 November.