Free Competition

Updated: about 5 years ago
Deadline: The position may have been removed or expired!

Free Competition
in the Humanities
Line of action : Opportunities for researchers
Secretariat : GW
Apply : Yes, you can apply now


This grant instrument is aimed at research programmes with a substantial humanities component. A programme proposal should request funding for at least 2 projects that target one central research question and are clearly interrelated. Apart from the results of the individual projects, a synthesized final product should be produced, thus showing the added value of the programmatic approach.

The programme should have a key research question that is further elaborated upon in the projects.

Two changes will apply from July 2012 onward. These concern: (i) the possibility to include an investment component, (ii) the requirement to fill out a knowledge utilisation section.

Who can apply

Senior researchers, in other words experienced researchers who hold a doctorate and are employed at a Dutch research institute. This could be a tenured appointment or a temporary appointment for the course of the application process and the research project.

Article 1.1 of the General Terms and Conditions of NWO Grants of NWO Grants states from which organisations a funding proposal to NWO can be submitted.

What can be applied for

Personnel costs:

  • a combination of postdoc and PhD projects, at least 2 of which are funded by NWO
  • hiring additional (junior) staff to release the main and/or co-applicant from educational and supervisory tasks in order to allow him/her to produce synthesising publications or other products in the framework of the project (maximum € 50,000)

Material costs: see the specification in the guidelines

Investment component: see the specification in the guidelines

When can be applied

Once the file is complete, it will be assessed by the evaluation committee and subsequently referred to the Council for the Humanities for a decision. On average, it takes approximately five months to put together the file and to assess the application submitted. On two occasions each year the Council for the Humanities decides whether or not to award grants for submitted proposals. These decision-making meetings will take place in around June and December of each year.

A single application may be submitted a maximum of twice (i.e. once as a reminder).

Applicants may only submit one proposal per calendar year, regardless of whether they are the principal applicant or a co-applicant.

Extra Information

Applications must satisfy the following criteria:

  • there is a substantial humanities component in the research
  • the budget applied for lies between € 500,000 and € 1,000,000. If this maximum amount is exceeded then cofunding from another organisation is required.
  • the maximum funding period for the entire programme is six years
  • the main applicant is a senior researcher and should be actively involved in the research programme
  • synthesis as one of the end products. It is for the evaluation committee to decide whether the application sufficiently satisfies the conditions for the synthesis requirement.
  • the person responsible for realising the synthesis must be named in the proposal; those responsible for the subsidiary projects do not need to be known at the time the application is processed


I. Scientific quality

II. Knowledge utilisation

III. Programme criteria

Please refer to the guidelines for the specification of these criteria.


The first step of the assessment procedure is determining whether the application may be considered, based on the conditions described in Chapter 3 of this call for proposals and the instructions described in Chapter 6 of this call.
All individuals involved in the assessment and/or the decision-making procedures and all NWO staff involved are subject to NWO’s code on conflicts of interest.

On 1 January 2012, NWO adopted a new qualification system for assessing applications. More information is available on NWO’s website:

The following steps in the assessment procedure are as follows:

  • External experts (at least three in number) will issue advice about each proposal;
  • The applicants may respond to the anonymous reports;
  • The evaluation committee
    • may invite applicants for a meeting and assign the results weight in the qualification and prioritisation;
    • prioritises the applications;
    • advises the Council for the Humanities.
  • The Council for the Humanities
    • conducts a marginal evaluation of the assessment and then decides on the final assessment, based on the recommendations put forward by the evaluation committee;
    • may deviate from the prioritisation by the evaluation committee based on policy considerations;
    • decides about the proposals to be funded in around June and December of each year.

Each applicant is notified by letter of the outcome of the assessment, and receives a report that gives, for each main assessment criterion, the average scores of the committee members, the average final score and, if necessary, a brief explanation. Applicants may lodge an objection with the Governing Board of NWO within six weeks after the date of the decision.


Committees (Dutch page)

Additional information

Minimum of 500,000 euro and maximum of 1,000,000 euro per programme application.


NWO Division for the Humanities.

  • Ms drs. R.M. van Kempen-Vonk
    phone: +31 (0)70 344 08 62, e-mail:


Free Competition in the Humanities | Call for Proposals
This file (PDF, 22 pages) offers a description of the objective, conditions, criteria and
instructions for the grant instrument Free Competition in the Humanities. Version August
Data contract for archiving and providing access 2011 | explanatory notes
This document (PDF, 28 pages) contains explanatory notes on the data contract with DANS for managing and providing access to research data from investment projects that are funded by NWO Humanities and Social Sciences (in Dutch, version March 2011).

last modified on 26 September 2012
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