When funding agencies all of a sudden change the rules

When I went abroad to do my post-doc, I was determined to apply for funding from the homecountry's national science organization to be able to fund my project. This was a little tricky, because you were only allowed to apply once, and could only do that in the year after obtaining your PhD. My dilemma was whether to wait until my high impact factor paper was accepted (if it would be accepted in time of course), or apply as soon as I could. At that time, all of a sudden the science organization announced that the next round of that fellowship would be the last one ever, without a clear picture of the type of funding that would replace it. I did not hesitate and applied, as did many others. In fact, they received three times more applications as they did otherwise, and mine was ranked such that in any other round it would probably receive funding, but in this round it fell just outside the ones that were funded. I was seriously bummed, especially when the next round the fellowship reappeared. It still exists today, but of course I was only allowed to apply once, so I had wasted my chances in the worst round ever.

Now, the Dutch science organization is announcing that for the next round of two prestigious personal fellowships - the kind of funding that can make or break a young researcher's career - all of a sudden applicants need to have a guarantee from the university that they can stay there. This is very similar to the NIH's requirement that you need a faculty position in order to apply for an R01. However, before this rule got into place, many young groupleaders only got permanent positions at a university AFTER they obtained this funding. And because of that, very few permanent positions are being advertised at the moment. Changing the rules so suddenly means that for individuals this can literally break their career because it robs them of the chance to apply for funding to establish themselves as a group leader. It specifically affects those people who have made the effort to go abroad for a post-doc, because some of the people who stayed will by now have a permanent position at a university. It will surely reduce the number of applicants, which is the reason NWO is doing this, but at what cost for individuals...?

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