Update hack: Return to original Veni planning for domains Science (ENW) and ZonMw)

Due to the hack in February, NWO was forced to revise the planning for the Veni funding round. At the request of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU)/Netherlands Federation of University Medical Centres (NFU), we have reviewed the revised planning and explored the possibility of accelerating the procedure so that the result can be announced in December 2021 instead of April 2022. Whereas NWO initially decided to defer the entire Veni round for 2021, it has now decided to split up the science domains. For the domains Science (ENW) (which has no pre-proposal phase) and Health Research and Development (ZonMw) (which was not affected by the hack), NWO is reverting to the original planning from before the hack.


Update 25 March: Revised Veni planning - return to original planning for domains ENW and ZonMw

Due to the hack in February, NWO was forced to revise the planning for the Veni funding round. At the request of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU)/Netherlands Federation of University Medical Centres (NFU), we have reviewed the revised planning and explored the possibility of accelerating the procedure so that the result can be announced in December 2021 instead of April 2022.

Whereas NWO initially decided to defer the entire Veni round for 2021, it has now decided to split up the science domains. For the domains Science (ENW) (which has no pre-proposal phase) and Health Research and Development (ZonMw) (which was not affected by the hack), NWO is reverting to the original planning from before the hack. The revised planning still applies for the domains Social Sciences and Humanities (SGW) and Applied and Engineering Sciences (TTW), because all of the preparations from the beginning of the year will have to be carried out again. Consequently, the result of the pre-proposal phase for Social Sciences and Humanities and Applied and Engineering Sciences will not be available before the beginning of June.

Domain

Result of pre-proposal

Deadline for final proposal

Expected date of result

ENW (revised)

N.a.

20 May 2021

December 2021

ZonMw (revised)

March 2021

20 May 2021

December 2021

SGW

Beginning of June 2021

2 September 2021

April 2022

TTW

Beginning of June 2021

2 September 2021

April 2022

 

NWO will announce the timelines for the Veni round 2022 as soon as possible (probably during May).


Update 19 March: NWO, NRO en SIA operational and accessible again from 22 March

NWO, NRO and SIA will resume operations and will be accessible again from Monday 22 March. From that day on it will again be possible to contact all of its employees by email and telephone and ISAAC will also be available. The information on the website regarding our calls and the information in ISAAC will then also be correct and correspond with the information provided in the earlier bulletin on the resumption of our activities. It will not be possible to amend the text of all the calls before Monday, but we will ensure that the revised texts are published on the websites of the individual calls as soon as possible. In particular for calls with a deadline in the coming weeks, this could mean that we will only inform applicants of the revised timeline after the application has been submitted.

In principle, NWO will be resuming all of its activities, including the administration of current projects and especially the start-up of projects. However, we will give priority to those rounds that are already underway and in which applicants are awaiting the outcome. Activities not directly connected with funding rounds or ongoing projects will resume more gradually.

We have succeeded in recovering most of the information, but some documents might still be missing. Some information (but none from ISAAC) from the week prior to 13 February has been lost. Messages that were sent to NWO between 6 February and 7 March also failed to arrive. Our staff will do everything in their power to assist you, but we trust you will understand that this will sometimes take a little longer than you are accustomed to.


Update 16 March: Resumption of grant procedure

On Friday 12 March, NWO, NRO and SIA announced that the grant procedure would resume in the week of 22 March. The procedure will then have been at a standstill for five weeks. We realise that this has had serious repercussions for everyone concerned and are doing everything we can to minimise the impact. Now that we have reconstructed our systems, we want to ensure that everyone is kept as well-informed as possible.

The information on the website about the calls and the new deadlines will be fully up to date in the week of 22 March. In this bulletin we outline the contours of the new call planning and explain the reasoning behind it. For a number of specific funding rounds, some information of a particularly urgent nature is already provided later in this bulletin.

We have received input from grant advisers of universities and universities of applied sciences regarding what they consider to be the absolute priorities when the procedure resumes and have taken that input into account as far as possible.

Read more


Update 12 March: NWO to resume grant procedure

NWO intends to resume the funding procedure for all grant rounds organised by NWO, the Taskforce for Applied Research (SIA) and the Netherlands Initiative for Education Research (NRO) in the week of 22 March. The procedure was suspended on 13 February after hackers had penetrated NWO's network. Since that day, no one has been able to access the network and the information saved on it. The systems have all been reconstructed over the last few weeks, and all of the connections with the ISAAC application system and the websites of NWO, SIA and NRO will be restored in the coming period. NWO has taken stock of the delays caused by the incident. All going well, NWO will publish a new integral call planning and reopen ISAAC to applicants, referees and members of committees in the week of 22 March.

The revised call planning will provide information about both grant rounds that had already started and the new calls that will be opening in 2021.

Points of departure for the restart

In general, the basic principle for the resumption of the funding process is that all deadlines will be put back by five weeks from the date they were originally planned. In certain cases the new dates will be corrected, for example if the relevant dates fall on public holidays or during holiday periods. It can also be assumed that no one will be required to meet deadlines that have already passed immediately after the grant procedure has resumed. In a future bulletin, which will be issued no later than 16 March, we will provide further details of the background to the decisions outlined above and will also specify a number of rounds for which we will expect an early reaction from applicants once the grant procedure has resumed.

NWO regrets the situation that has been created by the criminals for applicants, committee members, referees and everyone else who has been affected, but is delighted that it will soon be able to resume the funding process.


Update 9 March: Revised integral call planning will be published in the week of 15 March

NWO expects to be able to resume operations within the foreseeable future. The primary process is expected to be up and running again in the week of 22 March, with the necessary changes in deadlines and lead times. A revised integral call planning will be published in the week of 15 March. Until then, it will not be possible to reply to individual enquiries regarding specific calls. An update with the revised integral call planning will be published on this website.


Update 26 February: All NWO decisions suspended, ZonMw procedures are going ahead

Decisions by NWO relating to the current grant rounds have been severely delayed because of the hack. A number of these rounds are organised by both NWO and ZonMw. Since ZonMw has not been affected by the hack, the decision-making procedure at ZonMw can continue, at least for the rounds in which the allocation of grants is scheduled for 15 March, such as the Talent Programme-Vici. The allocation of NWO grants for the Rubicon programme, which is scheduled for April 2021, will not go ahead for NWO, but can proceed for the ZonMw component.

A number of programmes in programme line 2 of the Dutch Research Agenda (NWA) are also organised in association with ZonMw. All of the processes that are carried out using the ZonMw systems can proceed, but delays could be caused by the elements for which NWO's systems are used. The planned allocation of grants for the Women's economic resilience programme cannot proceed because the procedures at NWO are currently suspended. This could cause a delay in other NWA programmes.

At present, the focus is on resolving the current problems as quickly as possible. It is not yet possible to say how long this situation will last. Precise details of the consequences of the hack for the funding programmes will be published on the NWO website as soon as they become clear.


Update 24 February: Internal files leaked, NWO will not respond to demands hackers

On 8 February criminal group DoppelPaymer hacked the NWO network. On fundamental grounds, NWO, as part of the Dutch governmental institutions, isn't willing to pay ransom. On 24 February, DoppelPaymer therefore published the first internal NWO documents on the dark web.

Although NWO highly regrets the unfortunate situation of sensitive personnel documents being spread unauthorised, NWO will not alter its position. This can lead to a situation in the near future where more stolen documents could be made public.

In the meantime NWO is busy re-installing its network from scratch. Most likely, the network will be up and running within a few weeks. In the weeks thereafter the network will be made fully operational.


Update 19 February: Files, website no immediate risk

Reports have been appearing in various places asserting that files received from NWO since a particular date should be discarded. These reports are premature and are based on inaccurate
information. Reports that visiting NWO's website could cause an infection are also based on incorrect assumptions.

If there really was a substantial risk, we would already have taken additional measures and
immediately informed everyone concerned, directly or via this website and the FAQs.

NWO therefore requests everyone to accept only the information in the FAQ section of this website as correct. In the interests of security, you are naturally free to decide not to open any files originating from NWO. However, there is very little risk of infection from attachments.


Update 16 February: FAQs available, ask your question

Due to a hack of the NWO networkservers it is impossible for NWO to carry out its primary process - funding science. All related activities, from the opening of new calls to the assessment process, have therefore been suspended until further notice. Mails to NWO staff will not be delivered, and will therefore remain unanswered. A form has been opened to answer questions of relations of NWO. A team of specialists within NWO will provide an answer as soon as possible, and post the answer on a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page. So before submitting a question, please check whether your question may already have been answered.

Go to the FAQ page

Ask your question!

As of 22 March, NWO can again be reached by email addresses and telephone. The question form is therefore no longer available.


News item 14 February: NWO network hacked, application process suspended

None of the applications running on NWO's network are currently accessible. Therefore, the email addresses of NWO, Taskforce for Applied Research SIA and Netherlands Initiative for Education Research (NRO) are not accessible. Office software, including Outlook, cannot be used either. The NWO.nl website has not been affected by the hack.

Application process via ISAAC suspended

The application ISAAC, which is used to process grant applications, runs on an external server and does not appear to have been infected. However, for security reasons, this server is currently completely closed to all users until it is certain that no infection has occurred or will occur.

Specifically, this means that the entire primary process of NWO and of its governing bodies SIA and NRO are suspended indefinitely. Rounds with a deadline in the near future will be postponed and the assessment of calls with an expired deadline cannot continue. In the coming weeks NWO will review how and when the grant process can be resumed.

During the investigation or during the recovery process NWO will not make any further announcements either about the details of the hack, or the handling of the issue.

More information about the consequences for calls and awarding grants will be posted on the website as soon as possible.