General information on the calls
QUSTEC held three Calls for applications: 1) from May 15th to August 19th 2019, 2) from January 7th to March 9th 2020 and 3) from August 19th to September 30th 2020.
The selection and evaluation procedure followed open, transparent, merit-based principles and was built on international peer review. The target group were early-stage researchers (ESR) with a background in the STEM fields, of all ages and nationalities.
QUSTEC followed the eligibility criteria of MSCA work programme 2018-2020:
- Level of experience was ‘Early Stage Researcher’: applicants had to be, at the date of the respective call deadline of QUSTEC, in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of their research careers and not yet have been awarded a doctoral degree.
- Mobility criterion: The applicants were not permitted to have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the country of the future host organisation for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately before the respective call deadline. Short stays such as holidays were not taken into account.
There were no exceptions to these rules. The QUSTEC programme manager checked the eligibility of applications after the submission deadline.
The dedicated application form was opened during the dates corresponding to the QUSTEC calls. The applications were considered valid only when submitted through the online form before 17.00 (Brussels time) of each call deadline. The only exception was made for reception of applications from the researchers at risk, in which case the application documents could be alternatively sent by post.
A complete application consisted of: Motivation letter, CV, Ethics self-assessment, Eligibility self-declaration (the form was added in the 2nd and 3rd calls)
The templates for CV, the ethics self-assessment and eligibility self-declaration were provided on the application page. There could be also found the EU guidelines on how to fill the ethics self-assessment.
It was also recommended to submit the copy of the most recent diploma. The essential information on the education (e.g. the grades, the name of the institution that awarded a degree) should have been obligatory added to the CV.
The selection and evaluation process of QUSTEC followed the principles of the H2020 Grants Manual regarding Excellence, Transparency, Fairness and Impartiality, Efficiency, Speed, Ethics and Security. The participating member universities of the EGTC Eucor and the partner institutions also adhere to Charter and Code for the recruitment and employment of researchers and have extensive experience in recruiting researchers.
The following section describes the main step of the selection process.
All applications respecting eligibility criteria were sent for the written evaluation, which was carried out by two independent external evaluators. The evaluations were done following a standardised procedure using the evaluation template of the QUSTEC programme. If application received at least 70% of the maximum score, the candidate was invited for an interview.
The oral evaluation (interview) was carried out by a panel consisting of the future PhD supervisor, one of the independent experts who performed the written evaluation, and one partner organisation representative. At least one member of the selection panel was woman (or conversely, at least one man). Interviews were carried out mostly via teleconference system, or in some exceptional cases, in the blended virtual-physical formal.
The final candidates ranking for each of the proposed PhD projects was established by taking into account the written and oral evaluation scores with the efficient weight 60/40. In case of the same scores, priority was given to ‘Degree and Skills’ criterion (written application) and to the ‘Match with and contribution to the proposed topic’ (oral application).
The ethics assessment of PhD projects was done a) via submission of the ethics self-assesment form by the candidates and b) via the local ethics experts at the partner organisation.
Feedback to candidates. The candidate received a written report from the project manager based on the external experts’ assessments after each evaluation step.
Reserve list placing was established consisting of all candidates who took part in the oral evaluation stage but did not receive a sufficient score to be offered a position. Candidates from the reserve list could be contacted in case the selected candidate did not accept the position.
The candidates had the possibility to apply for redress after receiving the written evaluation result or the interview result by writing a one page letter stating their case to the redress committee (per email, via the project manager). The redress committee evaluated, within 2 weeks after receiving the letter, the case and informed the candidate of the outcome. The redress procedure only assessed the evaluation procedure and perceived incorrect application of the eligibility criteria, but not the scientific judgements of the evaluation and selection committee members. In case the redress was deemed justified, the application was again evaluated and/or the interview has been carried out.
The redress committee consisted of the PhD supervisor, one another senior researcher from the QUSTEC community and one integrity officer or HR manager from one of the Eucor member Universities. In each case, at least one member of the committee was woman (or, conversely, at least one man).
Step 1: Written application
The written application consisted of a motivation letter, a CV, the Ethics self-assessment and the Eligibility self-declaration. The ethics self-assessment form and eligibility declaration were not accounted for in the evaluation score calculation.
Degree and skills – 50%
Excellent MSc degree or equivalent qualification, within top 15% of respective grading system.
Excellent skills and knowledge in quantum science and technology, as shown by a Master & Bachelor degrees in relevant scientific fields of physics, chemistry, materials or computation.
Motivation letter – 30%
Up to 2 Pages.
Explanation why candidates see themselves as excellent match for the topic/s and what special skills they can contribute towards the topic’s success.
Working experience – 20%
Proven by internships and/or results (e.g. publications, patents, etc.) in a relevant area of research.
The candidate had to pass the threshold of 70% to continue with the evaluation process. The review of the written application then weighed 60% of the final result, and the oral application 40%.
Step 2: Interview
The oral application took the form of a 40-minute interview assessed according to the following criteria.
Presentation of CV and previous achievements – 15%
– Clarity and consistency of presentation
– Ability to answer CV related questions
Match with the proposed topic/s – 15%
– Match of topic/s with CV and further skills
– Motivation and initiative to contribute to the topics
General scientific culture – 10%
– Ability to take part in a scientific discussion
– Oral English expression
– Team skills
QUSTEC specifically encouraged researchers with disabilities to apply. All QUSTEC partner organizations followed a strict equal opportunities policy which were adhered to throughout the QUSTEC project and especially during the evaluation and selection process. QUSTEC avoided any discrimination related to gender, age, ethnic, national or social origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, language, disability, political opinion, social or economic condition. Fellows with a disability had the right to ask for a disability allowance.
QUSTEC encouraged researchers at risk to apply. They were supported with specific measures (flexible mobility rule regarding refugees etc.). Our selection process allowed for fair competition between the applying candidates and followed the Open Transparent Merit-based Recruitment (OTMR) principles, including international peer review and merit-based selection. For refugees under the Geneva Convention, the refugee procedure (i.e. before refugee status is conferred) was not counted as period of residence/activity in the country of the host organisation. QUSTEC allowed for researchers under refugee status to also submit applications by regular post if online submission was not be possible.
Information for refugees: University of Freiburg, KIT, University of Basel, University of Strasbourg.
QUSTEC is in line with the principles of Charter and Code: Our recruitment was open, transparent, efficient, qualitatively and quantitatively merit-based and our selection was carried out in balanced and trained panels. Career breaks and other multidimensional career tracks were not penalised and we trained evaluators to take the evolution of a career into account.
Additionally, the University of Strasbourg holds the HRS4R logo and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and IBM Research follow the highest standards in the non-academic sector regarding the recruitment and employment of their staff.