While waiting for NWO announcements, the Grants Office shares with the UT community its expectations on the impact of the cyber-attack, to grant submission and evaluation processes.
[update 18 February 2021]
This Monday, the research community in the Netherlands awoke to the announcement of a ransomware attack to NWO (Dutch Research Council). Reacting to the weekend’s event, NWO has stopped all IT services and systems. This will impact the timings of several activities relevant to the research community, including grant submissions and ongoing assessments (evaluation). What we know – and importantly, what we expect – is explained next.
System failure magnitude
While NWO is not yet able to give an estimation of how long its IT system will be down, the Grants Office anticipates situation to last at least a few weeks; first, NWO will have to identify and deal with all possible network failures, before a new network or assessment procedure can be started up again.
Relevant to grants, the NWO already announced that two parts of the system have either not been affected – the NWO website – or are unlikely to be affected – the NWO’s dedicated grant submission portal, ISAAC. As precaution, however, ISAAC has been shut down; ISAAC contains details on all grant submissions, including personal details and grant proposals or evaluations. In the eventuality of breaches in personal data announced by NWO, the UT community will be informed.
Impact on submissions and evaluation processes
While from a privacy point of view the shut-down of ISAAC is a necessary measure, it opens questions on what will happen to submissions to NWO calls. While deadline delays seem indeed unavoidable (especially for calls now close to date), the Grants Office advises applicants not to delay their preparation efforts. Since, as indicated, the submission system seems to be unaffected, it may be the case that system is reopened in time for (most) current submissions deadlines.
A given seems to be the delay on ongoing evaluation processes. This is a total unknown at the moment, and a topic the Grants Office feels is worthwhile waiting for news from NWO. We will follow up with the community as soon as more is known from NWO.
Communication by NWO
Finally, a word on the understandably impaired situation on communication possibilities by NWO. As also Outlook is affected at NWO, no emails will reach their destination. Most phone connections of NWO run via Skype for Business, which is also shut down. This gives NWO very limited communication options at the moment, towards all concerned applicants and evaluators. So for now, NWO is mainly using its website as communication channel: it gives the possible details on the situation, including a FAQ with further information (currently only available in Dutch).
Furthermore, in an attempt to leave an open channel to the community, a general contact form has been made available. If you do have questions, do consider directly addressing us at the Grants Office, before contacting NWO. We can most likely help you without delay; as a research organization, the UT is in close contact with NWO and is informed by the Council of ongoing processes.
Situations you may be experiencing
If you have any questions that haven't been answered in this news-item, please contact SBD-Grants Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.