Rubicon Fellowships

Some of MIT’s faculty have hosted or received requests to host Fellows from the Netherlands on Rubicon Fellowships. These are funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and consist of up to two years of support for researchers who have recently completed their doctorates in the Netherlands to do post-doctoral work at an institution outside the Netherlands.

Rubicon Fellowships are similar to Marie Curie fellowships and, like those, require significant negotiation for MIT to accept the awards. One of the main issues is that the NWO General Provisions give NWO ownership of any intellectual property developed by the Fellow while at MIT. This requirement conflicts with MIT policy governing visiting researchers, which requires a visiting researcher to assign all intellectual property he/she creates while at MIT to MIT (and sign an Invention and Proprietary Information Agreement (“IPIA”) to that effect).

To enable MIT to host Rubicon Fellows, MIT’s leadership has allowed a special exception to the MIT visiting researcher policy. Under this exception, MIT can host Rubicon Fellows if the following requirements are met:

  1. The Fellow will work on his/her own defined project, the subject of which does not overlap with that of any current or foreseeable non-federally sponsored research project conducted in the host faculty member’s lab;
  2. The sending institution agrees to provide a “bench fee” to MIT (for Rubicon Fellowships, this is usually in the form of Research costs and Overhead);
  3. The sending institution agrees that any intellectual property created by the Fellow while at MIT will be JOINTLY owned by the sending institution and MIT. These conditions must be agreed to in the Rubicon Award Agreement between NWO and MIT.

OSP has successfully negotiated agreements for a number of Rubicon Fellowships based on these conditions.  Because the resolution requires that we grant certain rights to NWO, the hosting PI will need to provide a list of current, pending and anticipated research awards and indicate whether they believe there is any overlap between the fellow’s project and the research project supported by the award.

That form is available here and should be completed by the PI at proposal stage to confirm that the fellow’s project is distinct and does not overlap any non-federal-sponsored research projects in the host lab.

Some Rubicon Fellowships contain a troublesome “clawback” provision allowing NWO to reclaim the funds paid to MIT and the Fellow (retroactively if necessary) for any reason. If NWO will not agree to remove this term during negotiations, OSP will only be able to accept the fellowship if the hosting PI confirms via email that he/she is willing to use funds in a discretionary account to cover any potential liability under such a “clawback” provision (basically an amount equal to the full amount of the fellowship grant) and provides OSP with the discretionary account number.