Scientific Advisory Board

The Scientific Advisory Board of the NWO Domain Social Sciences and Humanities assesses the suitability of the referees to be written to in funding rounds and assesses the progress of research projects. The domain board finds this important because – analogous to the principle that proposals are assessed by independent experts in selection committees – the choice of referees and the evaluation of progress reports should also be done independently and not by experts involved in the project. The members of the Scientific Advisory Board are appointed by the domain board.


The advisory Board, which currently has 47 members, has the following tasks:

1.   The selection of referees

The assessment and selection of research proposals and the funding of the best research is NWO's core task. In the selection process the various competences (committee, referees, domain board) are kept separate.The choice of referees is vital at the start of a selection round. If a proposal is to be assessed fairly and satisfactorily, then it must be submitted to the most suitable experts in the area of the proposed research.

Approach: the NWO office makes an initial choice of researchers and checks whether they are, in principle, suitable to act as a referee (check for balanced assessment, conflicts of interest, availability, willingness, et cetera). Subsequently, the names are submitted to the Scientific Advisory Board member for advice. The list of names as approved by the member of the Scientific Advisory Board is the list that the NWO office will use to find referees. If, for any reason, a referee cannot or will not issue an advice, then such a referee will always be asked to suggest possible alternatives.

The selection committees have the task of advising the domain board about the selection of the proposals on the basis of the proposals, the referees’ reports and applicants’ rebuttals. The board decides which proposals can be awarded funding.

2.   The assessment of progress reports

Research projects are increasingly measured for the aspect of intended results and impact. A condition for this is that the research funded is monitored for progress and timely completion. The mid-term and final reports for a research project are an important instrument in this regard. The final reports are assessed by the NWO office and the interim reports by the Scientific Advisory Board members.

Finding the most suitable referees requires considerable knowledge of the scientific field, both at a national and increasingly international level, as well as knowledge of paradigms, methods, approaches and schools within a certain discipline. Considerable experience in scientific practice is also needed for a proper assessment of the content of scientific reports and therefore an adequate estimation concerning the progress of the research funded by NWO. Members of the Scientific Advisory Board are therefore explicitly appointed for their demonstrated expertise and research experience.

The members participate in the board as individual researchers and realise the aforementioned tasks without any burden or consultation. Consequently, they may not transfer their Scientific Advisory Board tasks to other persons. The correctness and objectiveness of the NWO procedures is safeguarded as much as possible by requiring members of the advisory board to comply with the NWO protocol concerning conflicts of interests and the requirement for confidentiality in accordance with Article 2.5 of the Dutch General Administrative Law Act. These two aspects must be formally recorded in writing.

For the sake of completeness, it should be noted that members of the Scientific Advisory Board may also submit proposals during the period of their appointment. As a matter of course, they will not be consulted about the referees who could possibly be contacted regarding their own proposal.