How to start? Frequently Asked Questions & Answers

  1. What documents do I need for a STSM application?
  2. When do I apply for a STSM?
  3. Who can apply for a STSM?
  4. Financial matters: How much money can I be awarded at maximum?
  5. Will positively evaluated applicants all be chosen for an STSM?
  6. Can I re-apply for a STSM grant if my application was not successful, or apply again if I was a grant holder before?
  7. How is the evaluation procedure carried out?


1 What documents do I need for a STSM application?

The following documents are needed:

  • Your CV
  • Motivation letter: why do you apply for ’your’ STSM?
  • Brief project description (brief and succinct, max. 2 pages): Why is your project important with regard to developing and implementing biochar knowledge and technology?
  • Invitation letter of the host institution
  • Important: please fill out the COST online form in the eCOST system
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2 When do I apply for a STSM?

There are two application periods each year: applications are collected between 1 January and 31 March (or mid-April, depending on the call); and between 1 July and 30 September. Evaluation will then take place during the two subsequent months (April-May and October-November), and the outcome will be communicated at beginning of July, or beginning of December, respectively, so that successful applicants can make necessary travel arrangements in time. The relevant time line is the one given in the respective call. The figure below outlines the time line.


Summary: If you want to perform your mission

  • during July or later: apply within January – March/April (depending on the specific call)
  • during January or later: apply within July –  September (in the year before your mission)

The respective call will be announced on the Action's website, and via several biochar communication networks and mailing lists.

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3 Who can apply for a STSM?

The STSM program is designed in the first place for young researchers in their "starting phase" i.e. during their PhD or (early) Postdoc time. Senior researchers are also allowed, however, the (usually) shorter scientific CV and less extended publication list of younger applicants will be taken into consideration and weighed against their "scientific age" and life situation (e.g. birth-giving and child care duties), i.e. they do not compete with the CVs and publication lists of more senior, experienced researchers. Outstanding master students with interesting biochar research projects are principally allowed to apply. However, since the STSM can only deliver a contribution to the total expenses (which have to be partially covered by a PhD's scientific project or grant) they can only receive the same contributing funding and not a total reimbursement of all costs that may appear.

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4 Financial matters: How much money can I be awarded at maximum?

This depends on the time period that you intend to stay, and the special circumstances, e.g. traveling distance.
Please note: The STSM grant is a supplement for (e.g.) PhD students or Postdocs with an existing own income and own research project. The STSM money is just a "token" that may be necessary to enable a research trip if no money is available within the research project.

The STSM committee considers it unfair if a person receives the same amount of money for a 3-week stay which another person may receive for a 3-month stay. In special circumstances this may be justified, however, since the STSM money is not a full reimbursement but a contribution the STSM committee has set the following limits:

STSMs < 4 weeks duration       maximum 1000 €
STSMs < 2 months maximum 1900 €
STSMs up to 3 months maximum 2500 €

All exceptions from these limits have to be justified in the applications in a comprehensible way. However, there is no guarantee that the claim will be accepted.

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5 Will positively evaluated applicants all be chosen for an STSM?

The total amount of money within this COST Actions' budget is allocated annually and amounts to 14,000 € for the current budget period. Thus, if the number of positively evaluated applicants within a call, their financial requests and the available STSM funds match, the answer is "yes". However, if the number of positively evaluated applicants and their funding requests exceed available funds, those applications will be chosen who received the highest marks according to the evaluation rank list within the respective call. The "last" candidate on this list may be offered partial funding, according to the amount of funding that is left.
If the number of good applicants is high and if their projects are very interesting and valuable for biochar R&D, the STSM manager will act as advocate for a higher budget to be directed towards STSMs for the subsequent year (see question 6).

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6 Can I re-apply for a STSM grant if my application was not successful, or apply again if I was a grant holder before

Yes, as long as the decision suggested re-application, e.g. after correction of criticized items, or in case the budget was spent due to a high number of good applications (see question 5). If you have been a grant holder before you cannot apply again.

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7 How is the evaluation procedure carried out?

The STSM coordinator receives your application and checks it for formal correctness and missing documents. If something is missing or incorrect you will be notified and asked to correct / submit it.

The checked application will be sent out for review by the STSM coordinator. Two reviewers will usually be selected from the STSM Committee, and one or two additional reviewers will be asked from outside, and chosen for their expertise towards the applicant's topic. However, potential reviewers who have worked together (as documented by publication records) cannot be invited. (The potential reviewer will be asked for his/her potential bias beforehand.)

Subsequently the application will be evaluated by the reviewers using a set of criteria which are also provided to the applicant to aid in the preparation of his/her application.

The reviewers hand back their evaluation score and comments to the STSM manager who will compile a rank list according to the awarded score and further comments. When the call is closed and all applications have been evaluated and the rank list is finalized, the budget determines how many candidates can be funded. They will subsequently be notified as soon as possible to allow them to prepare their research stay.

The applicant is allowed to ask for one potential reviewer to be excluded e.g. due to severe scientific dispute or contradicting views, or other personal reasons. However the applicant needs to tell the STSM coordinator and/or the gender balance manager (Dr Ellen Graber) why he/she seeks exclusion of a potential reviewer. Such notes will be treated confidentially.

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