Following receipt of an application, the FWF Office checks to ensure that it is complete and satisfies all formal requirements. The application is then entered in the FWF's computer system and the applicant receives an acknowledgement of receipt. The applications are assigned to a particular Reporter and Alternate. These assignments are based primarily on scientific expertise, but the FWF pays close attention to ensuring that the chosen Reporter and Alternate are completely impartial.
The Austrian Research and Technology Promotion Act (FTFG) requires all FWF employees and all members of the various boards to perform their duties conscientiously and in an impartial, unbiased manner. Where conflicts of interest arise, Art. 7 of the Austrian General Administrative Procedures Act (AVG) obliges those parties to refrain completely from participating in the procedure and in particular not to take part in any voting. In addition to the direct relationships mentioned in Art. 7 of the AVG, other important factors may make a Board member appear to have a conflict of interest, e.g. having a personal connection to the matter under discussion or to the applicant that might jeopardise that Board member’s impartiality. Members are deemed to have a potential conflict of interest even in where a third party might believe that this is the case.
In discussions of applications received from persons or from institutions or working groups to which a Board member has a specific professional or personal relationship, that Board member is not permitted to take part in the deliberations and is required to leave the meeting room for the duration of the relevant discussion. Specifically, the following rules apply to institutional biases / conflicts of interest; Board members who belong to certain institutions or organisational units are generally considered to have a conflict of interest with regard to all applications received from persons affiliated with that institution or organisational unit:
a) Members of any organisational unit with fewer than 900 academic faculty members (including professors) are automatically subject to an institutional conflict of interest. Specifically, this rule applies to the following universities (each in their entirety):
- University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna;
- University of Leoben;
- University of Applied Arts Vienna;
- University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, Mozarteum University Salzburg;
- University of Music and Performing Arts Graz;
- University for Art and Industrial Design Linz;
- Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.
b) At present, there are only two organisational units at universities in Austria which have 900 or more academic faculty members (including professors) and are therefore not automatically subject to an institutional conflict of interest:
- Faculty of Philological and Cultural Studies, University of Vienna
- Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Graz
In addition to institutional conflicts of interest, Reporters, Alternates and FWF employees are also subject to the same rules regarding conflicts of interest as reviewers (see Appendix).
In cases where an FWF Board member submits an application, it is not handled by the scientific and administrative project officers who normally work together with that member. The member must leave the meeting room while the application is being considered by the Board. All reviewers’ reports are generally made available at the meeting, exceptions to this rule must be justified appropriately.