COMFOCUS is a collaborative project across Europe aimed at integrating the field of food consumer science by linking researchers and their data. The project seeks to make food consumer science data findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR) through Open Science and Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) principles.
To achieve this goal, COMFOCUS integrates eight key European research infrastructures to promote optimal use and joint development, making high-quality services and resources available to the academic and private research community. The project aims to harmonize and professionalize the European food consumer science community, advancing it beyond its current level of fragmentation. This will facilitate the development of European healthy food choice public policies and private strategies, increasing the business and policy relevance of food consumer science insights.
The project works from the vision that Open Science is the basis for food consumer science to become future proof. COMFOCUS aims to enable the food consumer science community to make the next steps to become the data-driven science that can support evidence-based public food policies and private strategies. This will be based on FAIR data principles and RRI-proof way of working.
Ultimately, COMFOCUS will contribute to the end-consumers and citizens becoming co-creators of policies and strategies. The mission of the project is to advance the European food consumer science community beyond its current level of fragmentation, making it a harmonized and data-rich science in support of European healthy food choice public policies and private strategies. Optimal use and development of the common research infrastructure will be realized in close interaction with users and stakeholders, and at the interface with data science, computer science, and advanced data analytics.
Objectives and Domains of the Open Call #2
Aim of the Call
The aim of Open Call #2 is to provide an opportunity for early career researchers to gain access to European consumer science institutes specializing in psychophysiological measurements, virtual and augmented reality research, and conduct collaborative research on important food consumer science questions.
We are offering 67 positions for early career researchers to conduct research in one of the participating institutions across Europe. These positions are designed to accommodate research projects that align with the expertise and research priorities of the various institutes. Research topics covered in these positions are diverse and may involve similar stimuli or experimental contexts, such as images, product types, labels, or virtual environments, which facilitate data linkage in later stages. Each position offers a unique opportunity to conduct a study that allows researchers to gather data for their dissertations or articles (see chapter 7 for more detailed information on the offered infrastructures and their position).
Figure below Moreover, the COMFOCUS approach provides significant benefits. It enables data integration and the formulation of new research questions at a later stage. To achieve this, researchers will follow COMFOCUS defined harmonized protocols when collecting psycho-physiological measurements and use harmonized measures for self-reports to ensure that data can be integrated and linked for future research.
These 67 available research positions establish a diverse portfolio of innovative research questions that aim to provide unique and collective answers to essential food consumer science questions. Early career researchers selected for these positions will work closely with the responsible researcher at their chosen institute to develop their study setup and prepare for their one to three week visit between September 2023 and July 2024. During their stay, data will be collected with the support of institute staff and researchers.
By contributing data from their individual studies to the collective COMFOCUS Knowledge Platform, researchers become co-owners and can participate in additional studies, such as meta-analyses and scientific articles. This collaborative approach allows for the integration of data from multiple studies, enabling researchers to generate new insights, formulate additional research questions and publish together.
Successful applicants will receive funding to cover the costs of their study, including travel expenses, use of equipment and consumables and any other related costs. For successful applicants of Open Call #2, the main benefits include:
- Access to top-notch research infrastructures/installations in the field of psycho-physiological measures and virtual and augmented reality, state-of-the-art equipment to enhance their studies and develop their research.
- Technical and scientific support from experts to ensure a successful research project.
- Free access to the harmonised protocols and measures for self-reports.
- The Applicant retains ownership of collected data, but also aligns this data with other COMFOCUS data since the data collection is based on FAIR principles and harmonized measures.
- Becoming a “COMFOCUS fellow” and getting access to the following benefits:
- Connect to other COMFOCUS fellows who have used the COMFOCUS tooling’s and search for potential collaborations, linkages of data sharing and publish together.
- Access to different datasets and create larger datasets using and sharing stimulus material and connecting variables (similarly measured variables across studies).
- Access to the COMFOCUS Knowledge Platform: discussion forum, library (with harmonized measures and protocols), as well as tools and services developed in the coming years, as well as access to consortium expertise and mentoring.
- Making use of the Easy Questionnaire Tool part of the COMFOCUS toolbox (an easy way for researchers to make questionnaires with harmonized measures on self-report).
- Attending/participating in webinars and events to network with other COMFOCUS fellows and learn how datasets can be combined to answer research questions.
The COMFOCUS Open Calls #2 for Transnational Access is open to researchers working in EU Member States and Associated Countries as well as in Third Countries. A two-round application process will be adopted within this Open Call. Figure 2 shows the timeline for the application process.
List of Participating Countries in Horizon Europe: https://ec.europa.eu/info/funding-tenders/opportunities/docs/2021-2027/common/guidance/list-3rd-country-participation_horizon-euratom_en.pdf
Proposals for Transnational access need to fulfil certain criteria. The main criteria to be met are:
- Each applicant should be an early career researcher (based in academic or private sector), with at least an MSc degree in a relevant field in food consumer science or a related field.
- Applicants from both inside and outside Europe are allowed to apply to the Open Calls. The Open Calls allow for a 20% participation from countries outside Europe. Therefore, interested early career researchers from outside Europe (e.g., Canada) are also allowed to apply.
- Applicants may not apply to a participating institution located in their country of residence.
- An applicant should have a proficient level of use of English (at least B2).
- Number of proposals per applicant: everyone may participate in more than one application. In the event of sufficient proven suitability of the proposals,
a proportional distribution will be made among the applicants.
Upon being awarded, the applicant commits to the following:
- Join the COMFOCUS project as a ‘COMFOCUS fellow’ and adhere to COMFOCUS processes and procedures (protocols), including data sharing.
- Recognize that selected early career researchers are the primary owners of the data they gather but are open to sharing it for further analysis and incorporation into the Comfocus Knowledge Platform in consultation with other COMFOCUS fellows and project members.
- Sign a data deposition agreement which requires among others that (1) copies of collected data will be deposited – researchers shall otherwise be free to use the data they collect as they see fit, (2) all data is collected in accordance with applicable laws and include a warranty in this respect – Belgian (EU) law will apply to the interpretation of the agreement, and (3) data must be comprehensively anonymised at source. More information about the data deposition agreement will be shared on the COMFOCUS website soon.
- Acknowledge the role of the COMFOCUS project in all publications that include the results from the awarded project’s execution. Users must use the following (or equivalent) wording in their acknowledgments: ‘We acknowledge the COMFOCUS project [GA 101005259] for the support received. Specifically, we appreciate the support of using [name of installation facilitated by person/people] from [organization name], [country].
The proposal submission process for COMFOCUS involves three steps, Proposals will be evaluated based on the information provided in the completed application form, which should be correct, sufficient, and adequate, considering the evaluation criteria outlined above.
The evaluation process consists of four phases. Phase 1 involves an eligibility check, while Phase 2 involves a feasibility check. During Phase 3, two experts from the COMFOCUS consortium will evaluate the proposals, and finally, the COMFOCUS Independent Selection Panel will conduct the final selection process in Phase 4.
Stage 1 – Eligibility evaluation
Initial filtering to discard non-eligible proposals based on the eligibility evaluation. All proposals received within the COMFOCUS Open Call #2, will be first checked according to the following items:
- Type of Beneficiary: see above Eligible Applicants. [Y/N]
- Research positions: The proposal is submitted under the research positions. [Y/N]
- The Open Call requires that all mandatory sections of the proposal be submitted in English in order to be eligible. Proposals that contain mandatory sections in any other language will not be considered. [Y/N]
- Submission system: All the proposals should be submitted through the submission system on the COMFOCUS website. Proposals submitted by any other means will not be evaluated. [Y/N]
- Submission before the Deadline: Applications must be submitted by the closing time and date published in the Open Call. Late proposals will not be admitted. [Y/N]
- Absence of conflict of interest: Applicants shall not have any potential conflict of interest with the COMFOCUS project. [Y/N]
- Required documentation complete. All the requested documents must be submitted correctly. [Y/N]
Proposals being marked as non-eligible will get a rejection letter including the reasons (1 to 7) for being catalogued as non-eligible. No further feedback on the process will be given.
Stage 2 – Feasible evaluation
The TNA providers will discuss all eligible proposals to determine their feasibility and address practicalities such as timetable, technical-scientific details, and more.
Stage 3 – Individual evaluation
All feasible proposals will be evaluated by two COMFOCUS evaluators. The evaluators will be selected based on their expertise accordingly with the specific characteristics of the proposed project/research position.
The proposals will be evaluated on the following criteria:
|Researcher background, Research design (topic, questions/hypothesis, contribution)||Scoring (0-4)|
During the proposal evaluation process, each proposal is assessed based on how well it addresses the selection criteria. The evaluation is conducted using a scoring system ranging from 0 to 5. A score of 0 means that the proposal fails to address the criterion or cannot be assessed due to missing or incomplete information. On the other hand, a score of 5 indicates that the proposal successfully addresses all relevant aspects of the criterion with no or minor shortcomings. The scores in between reflect the proposal’s performance in addressing the criterion, with 1 being poor, 2 being fair, 3 being good, and 4 being very good.
Stage 4 – Final Evaluation
Once the individual experts to whom proposals have been assigned have completed their evaluations, a final evaluation meeting is convened to enable joint consideration of proposals by the COMFOCUS Independent Selection Panel. During the meeting, the panel members will consider each proposal and agree on a final mark for each of the evaluation criteria and an overall mark (score) for the proposal.
Proposals recommended for scheduling will then be ranked according to their overall score. Evaluators will justify their marks with constructive and informative comments. The COMFOCUS Independent Selection Panel will agree on an overall Final Evaluation Report. All applicants will be given feedback on the outcome of the evaluation.