The funding process explained
Submitting a research proposal
Our funding instruments states the instruments to which a research proposal can be submitted. This overview gives concise information about each NWO grant. Detailed information can be found in the downloadable calls for proposals.
Who can apply is stated for each instrument. These are usually researchers employed at a Dutch university or a research institute recognised by NWO. The strictness of these criteria can differ per instrument.
A pre-proposal is required for some instruments. NWO can request a pre-proposal if it expects the number of proposals to greatly exceed the available budget. In this case, applicants are asked to submit a brief pre-proposal. NWO will inform each applicant whether a full proposal has a good chance of being funded. This approach avoids applicants spending a lot of time writing a full proposal when it has a limited chance of being funded.
Applicants should submit their applications for funding via NWO's electronic application system ISAAC. NWO first determines whether the research proposals satisfy the admissibility criteria for the funding instrument concerned. In principle, applicants are informed of this within two weeks. Admissible proposals are assessed against the selection criteria described in the call for proposals.
For most instruments, NWO consults external specialists for the research proposals submitted. The research proposals are first sent to these experts for peer review. NWO values the assessment of these external specialists.
A pre-selection of the proposals may take place to minimise the burden for referees. The aim of this is to ensure that referees receive only proposals that NWO thinks have a good chance of being granted. Pre-selection takes place if a large number of proposals are submitted. That is, more than four times as many proposals as can be granted funding.
The referees' assessments are collated in a referees' report. The applicant is given the opportunity to respond to the referees' assessment. This rebuttal plays an important role in the assessment process. If referees do not play a role in the assessment process then the proposals are submitted directly to the selection committee.
NWO appoints a selection committee or jury for each funding instrument. Its task is to compare and assess the research proposals. The committee or jury has access to all the research proposals as well as the referees' reports and applicants' rebuttals. An interview or site visit can also form part of the assessment procedure. Based on this information, the selection committee issues a funding advice to the NWO board that takes the funding decision.
The board that takes the funding decision is usually NWO's Governing Board, an NWO divisional board or a body mandated by an NWO board.
Firstly, the board assesses whether the selection committee worked according to the procedure and selection criteria described in the call for proposals. Board members have access to all relevant information such as research proposals, referees' reports, applicants' rebuttals, the description of the assessment procedure, the composition of the committee, and the assessment of the conflict of interest code. The board then takes a funding decision. Usually the board adopts the selection committee's advice. It may, however, deviate from this if it states its reasons for doing so.
Applicants are sent a formal letter informing them of the board's decision and the reasons underlying this.
When applicants do not agree with the decision, they can lodge an objection within six weeks of receiving the formal letter. NWO has an independent Appeals and Objections Committee that considers the appeals submitted.
Excluding conflicts of interest
NWO asks referees and members of the selection committee to sign the NWO Code of Conduct on Conflicts of Interest and to act in accordance with this. The code of conduct also applies to board members who take funding decisions, and NWO staff involved in the procedure. If a conflict of interest arises, then the code states how NWO will deal with this.
NWO Regulation on Granting
NWO's funding rules are established in the NWO Regulation on Granting. Specific conditions may also apply to some instruments. These are stated in the letter informing applicants about whether or not they have received funding.
The process after submitting an application
Important information on NWO funding
Important downloads on NWO funding
NWO Regulation on Granting, version December 2015 - In December 2015 a new NWO Regulation on Granting became effective. The regulations in the document 'NWO Regulation on Granting, version December 2015' therefore only apply to research that is based on NWO Calls for proposals published from 1 December 2015 onwards. PDF, 374 KB
NWO Code of Conduct on Conflicts of Interest PDF, 30 KB