Call for Industrial PhD Projects in Data-driven Life Science
Generic Description of the DDLS PhD Program
The SciLifeLab and Wallenberg National Program for Data-Driven Life Science (DDLS) is a 12-year initiative funded with a total of 3,1 billion SEK from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. The purpose of the program is to recruit and train the next-generation of data-driven life scientists and to create globally leading computational and data science capabilities in life science in Sweden.
DDLS will establish a research school for 260 PhDs, with two components, one focussing on academic PhD students and one for industrial PhD students. The aim of the DDLS Research School is to educate highly skilled and competent professionals who will make a significant contribution to the field of life science research in Sweden.
The industrial PhD students will be employed or recruited to a company in the life science sector in Sweden, aiming to link them up with strong local research environments at universities as well as with the national DDLS program. The admission process and training will take place at the participating Universities.
As the PhD candidates are admitted to a host University in Sweden, they will be enrolled as members of the DDLS Research School and are expected to take part in the DDLS Research School activities (networking events, courses, scientific visits, etc.).
The DDLS program will focus on four strategic areas of data-driven research: cell and molecular biology, evolution and biodiversity, precision medicine and diagnostics, epidemiology and biology of infection.
We are now launching a competitive grant call for the PIs to suggest exciting data-driven research projects and training opportunities for PhD students in the four strategic areas of data-driven life science. In this call, 7 industrial PhD projects will be awarded (each with a main PI at a University and a co-PI in the industry).
What is Data-driven Life Science?
Data-driven life science is a field of research that focuses on using data, computational methods and artificial intelligence to study biological systems and processes. This approach can include assembling, sharing, integration and advanced analysis of large amounts of data from diverse sources, including experiments, observations, and simulations, in order to gain a better understanding of how living organisms function.
For a PhD project to be considered data-driven it has to have a clear data science component such as the use of advanced data analysis techniques, from statistics to machine learning involving either method development or novel application of data science methods to life science problems. Projects that only involve laboratory research or that depend solely on the acquisition of large amounts of new biological data from e.g. laboratory experiments or patient materials will not be given priority. However, laboratory research to validate and extend data-driven insights can be included.
Role of the DDLS Research School
The focus of the research school is to engage the students with a national network and in annual network activities. The DDLS Research School will complement already existing graduate school and other training activities at universities. Specific national DDLS Research School courses will be provided to assure that the students will at the end of their education have proficiency in data handling and analysis, integration of multidisciplinary knowledge and ethics. The students will also have access to a plethora of other training and courses arranged by the SciLifeLab Training Hub.
Project proposals in the four DDLS research areas are welcome. The funded projects should be in line with the DDLS strategy and have a novel and original data-driven perspective, be of high scientific quality and combine the life science and data science topics and provide an excellent training environment. Two PIs/supervisors must be presented in the project application. One is the main supervisor who must have a primary employment at a Swedish University during the suggested PhD period and the other is an industrial supervisor (co-supervisor) who must also have a secured employment during the suggested PhD period at the company. The company should be financially sufficiently stable to take the responsibility for the doctoral student over several years and possess enough scientific competence to contribute to and benefit from the knowledge gained in the project. Both supervisors, as project applicants, are responsible and expected to advise the PhD student throughout the PhD period. The call is open to all researchers in Sweden who can act as a main supervisor or a co-supervisor for a PhD student and meet these expectations. Academic applicants can be the main supervisor in only one academic and one industrial project, but they can also act as co-supervisors in applications by other PIs. DDLS fellows can apply to the call for DDLS industrial PhD projects as main supervisor.
Project participants (supervisors and students) are expected to be active contributors and participants in the national DDLS community events, training activities, seminars, and symposia organized by the DDLS Research School.
The selected industrial PhD students will be employed by the company at least 80% of full time, and the company is responsible for any necessary co-funding which should be ensured by a letter of commitment from the company. The industrial doctoral student does not need to be identified at the time of application but must be admitted to the industrial doctoral program and be employed at the company before the start of this project.
- Letters of commitments from both the Head of Department of the academic supervisor and the research director (or equivalent) of the company.
- CV of the academic main supervisor (max 2 pages + 1 page Top 10 publications)
- CV of the industry co-supervisor (max 2 pages + 1 page Top 10 publications)
- CV of the co-supervisor(s) (if applicable) (1 page CV)
- Research project proposal: Up to three pages. Describe the field of research and the central questions, include the specific aims of the suggested PhD project, the material and methods and data analysis and computational approaches as well as the contributions from the team of supervisors. Indicate what additional costs are encountered in the project and how such costs will be covered from other funding sources. Explain the training plan for the PhD student. Indicate why this project and the PI and the co-PIs and the industry-academia collaboration are ideal to promote the goals of the DDLS and the specific DDLS research area, both in terms of research questions and the training of next-generation life scientists.
- Description of the research and training environment
- 1 page, including the following: what is the local research environment of the PI (laboratory, department, faculty, university) and what is the environment and input that the company PI provides. Describe how the team of supervisors will collaborate, how they ink to the DDLS program goals and how a good training environment with sufficient critical mass of expertise is ensured. Describe any local graduate school/doctoral program the student will be affiliated with.
Evaluation Process and Decisions
Project proposals and PIs are evaluated and ranked by international and national reviewers. Projects are evaluated according to defined DDLS criteria:
- Scientific quality of the project
- Merits of the applicant and co-applicants (scientific and training)
- Fit and contribution of the project to the DDLS program
- Impact for the industry
- Quality of the supervision plan and the training environment
We will also consider inclusiveness and diversity.
The projects will first be screened for eligibility, then considered by the DDLS Steering Group, which may resort to an international evaluation. Decisions are done by the SciLifeLab National Board. We will select about 7 projects. We are not able to provide detailed written feedback on each application. The accepted supervisor(s) are then eligible to be part in the next step, the selection of the PhD students. The supervisors(s) are then also invited to take part in the activities of the DDLS program, the DDLS Research School and contribute to associated training events.
The next steps in the process will be refined later on, but are described here for completeness.
PhD Student Selection: International Announcement
SciLifeLab will coordinate an international joint announcement for all DDLS PhD positions.
The international PhD student call will also be able to provide candidates for the industrial PhD program, but existing employees of the industry can also apply to these PhD student positions.
Application Process of the PhD student candidates
The PhD student candidates will submit their applications to the respective university, according to the local application instructions. The candidates can apply to multiple positions but will need to file an application separately at each university.
Required documents should include any documents typically required by the respective university, including a detailed description of the motivation, track-record and potential of the candidate in data-driven life science.
Evaluation of the PhD Candidates
PIs with approved projects can start the recruitment process of their PhD candidate at their local department and company according to the timelines set by the DDLS program. The purpose of the joint timelines is to promote the national aspect of the program.
During the recruitment process at each department with granted PIs, a DDLS representative is recommended to be present at the interviews but will not participate in selecting the PhD candidates. If the DDLS representative cannot be part of the committee, a one-page description of the selection process is requested by the DDLS office. All the selected candidates are at this stage approved by the DDLS Program Director and are eligible for funding.
Conditions for Funding
The DDLS program finances both 4-year full-time PhD positions as well as positions for 5 years at an 80% effort. It is currently expected that 7 industrial projects / PhD positions will be awarded in the first round of the recruitment. The PIs of the approved projects, together with the company, will be asked to sign an agreement containing the Terms and Conditions of the suggested DDLS funding. The granted funds will not be available until the PhD student is recruited by the company. The incurred project costs will be requisitioned according to the funding conditions for all DDLS activities.
The company and the academic PI also need to have an agreement regarding IP-rights. This agreement has to be signed and sent to the DDLS Support Team.
- The grants will be funded by KAW. The company where the PhD student is employed is responsible for any necessary co-funding needed for each project.
- 2,5 MSEK total KAW funding is dedicated for salaries and indirect costs for the employer of the industrial PhD student
- 750 KSEK total KAW funding is dedicated for University for supervision of industrial PhD student for the action period.
- A maximum of 18% of the amount granted by KAW can be allocated for premises and indirect costs (overhead).
- There is also a maximum coverage of 50% for LKP (payroll overhead) on personnel costs.
- The employer of the Industrial PhD student will send invoices, excluding VAT, to the University responsible for the student’s admission on a semi-annual basis. Once all costs associated with the Industrial PhD project have been registered in the hosting University’s accounting system, they will then issue semi-annual requisitions to KTH/SciLifeLab.
- The academic organization will coordinate the financial processes with the employer of the Industrial PhD student and also will send the final requisitions to KTH. KTH/SciLifeLab will send detailed information about these financial process flows and reporting templates at a later stage.
January 10 2024, 15:00 CET
Timelines for Selection of Projects (November 2023 – January 2024)
- Call for projects (November 24-January 10)
- Evaluation by DDLS (January)
- List of selected projects (February)
Tentative timelines for Selection of PhD Students (February – April 2024)
- Announcement of the positions (February)
- Evaluation of the applications (March)
- Interviews (end of April)
- List of selected PhD students – offer and acceptance (beginning of May)
- Start of the individual projects (August – October or upon agreement between PI and PhD student, preferably not later than October)
For questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org