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Today NWO notified me that my VENI grant application passed through the preselection phase. According to the grant assessment procedure, this means that my project will now be forwarded to the external referees for peer review. Don’t let’s break out the champagne yet, but we’ve cleared the first hurdle.

From the 128 VENI grant applications in the humanities that NWO had received, only 69 will now go on from the short-listing procedure to the peer review phase. The external referees will be asked to assess the quality of the applicant, the quality of the proposal, and the impact of the research (i.e. “knowledge utilisation“). The external referees’ reports are due in the first half of April and I will only have a handful of days to prepare my comments. The proposals, reports and comments will then be submitted to the VENI committee and determine the ranking of the grant application. The committee may also decide to invite me for an interview at the end of May or beginning of June, though not everyone is asked to do so.

While this is of course very good news, I’m certainly not there yet. The pre-selection eliminated almost 50% of the grant applications based mainly on the 1 page “layman’s summary” and the applicant’s CV. The referees will now look in great detail and very critically at the research project proposal itself: is there a real problem that is addressed by the proposed research? Do the method and the materials fit the goal? Does the applicant have a reasonable research plan and strategy? Are we confident that the research can be completed by the applicant in the proposed timeframe? Etc. The VENI humanities committee still needs to reduce the pool of applicants by two thirds, as they expect that only around 23 projects can be funded within the budget. Any flaws the referees point out will make it easy for them to eliminate the surplus. In my comments to the referees’ reports and potentially in the interview it will be my job instead to make it difficult for them to eliminate my project or, rather and better yet, easy to include it among the ~18% that will make the cut.