And it seems to have done the trick: last year, the number of submitted applications dropped by more than one quarter compared to 2017, according to the first evaluation. While the number of applicants who already had a permanent position rose from 42 percent to 54 percent, the share of applicants with a temporary contract fell from 34 percent to 22 percent. However, “we need to wait and see what the results are in the longer term,” as NWO President Stan Gielen said in a recent interview with HOP. Still, he sees no reason to roll back the new guidelines at this point, as previously demanded by The Young Academy (DJA), a society of young researchers in the Netherlands.


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‘To roll back the NWO application guidelines would be wishy-washy’

Science funding agency NWO has evaluated the so-called ‘embedding guarantee’ for Vidi…


The Young Academy believes NWO’s evaluation is incomplete. The research funding agency hopes that preselection by universities will help raise the quality of the applications. But NWO hasn’t included this aspect in its evaluation, says The Young Academy – even though it does have the relevant data. When NWO awards a grant to a proposal, it also awards a score to the quality of the application.

The society is worried about researchers with a temporary position. Due to the embedding guarantee, this group is less likely to submit a proposal: in 2018, there were only 97 such applicants – compared to 200 in 2017. “It seems that specifically researchers in precarious positions lose out under the new system.”

This would be less of a problem if the average quality of their applications were lower than that of researchers with a permanent position. In that case, the measure would “obviously” be easier to justify. The Young Academy believes that excluding researchers on any other grounds than quality is undesirable.


The society would also like to see a breakdown of the applications according to institution and field. NWO says that “not a single discipline, institution or institute was barred from participating in the Vidi scheme.” But The Young Academy is far from convinced. The society wants NWO to evaluate the measure in greater depth and only then decide whether or not to continue on this foot.

According to NWO, The Young Academy makes some legitimate points. “We’ll be jointly examining the data once the grant awards and scores become known,” says an NWO spokesperson. For the time being, he sees no reason to cancel the embedding guarantee.

Earlier this week, Minister Van Engelshoven said that while she is pleased that the volume of applications has subsided, she does take the criticism of the measure seriously. Together with NWO, she plans to investigate whether researchers who don’t have a permanent position are less likely to land a grant.