From stereotypes to brain research

The Rotterdam-based laureates will use the funds to conduct research into racial stereotypes in football journalism (Jacco van Sterkenburg, ESHCC), identical positions from political opposites Willem de Koster, ESSB), blood flow of the heart muscle (Rik Vos, Erasmus MC), the role of the enzyme CAMK2 in brain development (Geeske van Woerden, Erasmus MC), the effect of viruses on the brain (Debby van Riel, Erasmus MC) and interventions in criminal behaviour (Olivier Marie, ESE).

Low success rate

The 15 percent success rate for Vidi grants was unusually low this year. It was particularly hard to get funding in the humanities: nine of the 91 applicants eventually received funding from the research funder, making the success rate less than one in ten.

“The success rate in the humanities is definitely lower this time than in previous years,” the NWO spokesperson confirmed. “This is because the number of requests increased, while the budget remained the same.”

In other fields, the success rate was higher. In medical sciences, nearly one in five applicants (18 percent) received a Vidi grant, with applicants in the exact disciplines and natural sciences faring the same.

New method should help

This could be the last time that the success rate is so low. The pressure of funding applications on NWO has been the topic of conversation for many years and the research funder has plans to relieve this pressure.

The main change: applicants will now have to provide an ‘imbedding guarantee’, an undertaking from a university that they can actually start work there with their research funding. Until now, subsidies from the so-called ‘Vernieuwingsimpuls’ [Innovation Incentive] (to which Vidi belongs) were granted to a person, so laureates were not offered to a specific university. “An applicant receives funding from NWO and then often shops around the universities,” according to NWO president Stan Gielen last year. “When someone knocks on the door with a load of money, the university naturally says: come in. So no one was ever rejected. But if the completed research is not imbedded in the university itself, the researcher will often have to leave. That creates a lot of frustration.”
Whether the new approach helps will soon become apparent: the deadline for the next Vidi applications is October of this year.