Research proposals


Research proposals

On this page: How to submit your research proposal 7 Questions before submitting | Procedures for reviewing  research proposals | Procedures for reviewing program grant proposals | Procedures for reviewing other proposals

How to submit your research proposal: format

We do not have a specific format for research proposals. You can for example use the proposal you have written for a funding agency, or you use your own format. Just make sure that the proposal contains sufficient information about all 12 criteria listed below, as the Science Committee assesses research proposals on the following criteria:

  • Structure, clarity, use of language
  • Goal and motivation
  • Central research question
  • Research design
  • Sample size
  • Measuring instruments
  • Plan of Analysis
  • Research implementation plan and timeline
  • Staffing
  • Budget
  • Feasibility
  • Scientific Output

Please find here those criteria explained in more detail.

Only submit your proposal when your answer is ‘yes’ to these 7 questions

1. Has your project not yet started? 
All new research proposals and grant applications should be submitted to the Science Committee before the start of the project. It is advised to submit the proposal as soon as the proposal has been funded by a funding organisation. Projects that have already started will not be reviewed by the Science Committee and consequently, will not be embedded within the APH Institute. A project is considered as having started when the first participant has been recruited, or the first interview or the first measurement has taken place. 

2. Is a researcher appointed at one of the APH-VU/VUmc departments involved with this project?
Only if an APH researcher of VU/VUmc is involved in the project or when the PhD will take place at the APH Institute the proposal will be assessed. Projects where a senior researcher or a professor has only an advisory role will not be assessed.

3. Is your proposal complete?
Submitted proposals are reviewed by the office assistant to assess whether they fulfil the minimum requirements and are complete. Incomplete proposals will not be taken into consideration. Check carefully whether your proposal includes detailed information on the work plan, personnel, budget, scientific output and analysis plan. In some cases, the proposal approved by a funding agency does not contain all information needed. In these cases an appendix should be included with additional information. Proposals that cannot be assessed because of missing information will be given a negative review. They will be reassessed after you have provided the additional information. Please note that the Science Committee assesses proposals only twice. When the second review is negative, there is no third chance for a re-review. In case of a second negative review, the research project will not be embedded within the APH Institute.

4. Have you fully completed the attached form?
Proposals should be submitted together with the form providing additional information, to the Secretary of the Science Committee by e-mail:

5. Does your proposal consist of 1 pdf file?
Please make sure that all attachments belonging to your proposal (proposal text, budget information, time planning etcetera) are merged into 1 pdf file. Your submission to consists of 2 documents: 1 pdf containing your proposal and the form with additional information.

6. When participants are recruited at a VUmc department: have you included a letter of the department?
When your proposal involves inclusion of patients of a VUmc care department, the head of the department should be informed. Please include a letter of the head of the department in which he/she states that the department is informed about the study proposed.

7. Does your proposal concern a full research proposal?
The Science Committee only assesses full proposals. Pre-proposals will not be assessed.

When your answer is ‘yes’ to all questions, please submit your proposal with the attached form providing additional information, to the Secretary of the Science Committee by e-mail:

Procedures for reviewing research proposals

This procedure was developed to determine whether the proposal is suitable for embedding within the APH Institute. In addition, the procedure is designed to monitor the scientific quality of APH-VU/VUmc research projects and to meet the formal review criteria set by third parties (including the Medical Ethics Committee and the PhD Committee).

Review of the proposal consists of two phases. First, its relevance to outpatient health care and the degree to which it is in line with the Institute's research programs will be reviewed by the program leaders. Subsequently, the scientific quality of the proposal will be reviewed by the Science Committee. If a research proposal has been funded by a funding agency that adopts a thorough peer review system (see list below), a short review will be performed. A short review is performed by only one member of the Science committee. In case of doubt, the proposal will be discussed during the Science committee meeting. If a research proposal has not been funded yet or is funded by an organisation without a thorough peer review system, a thorough review will be performed. To protect the work situation of PhD students in particular, much attention is paid to the practical feasibility of the research project. Items that are reviewed are the work plan, the budget, the personnel, the scientific output and the analysis plan. Only after a positive review by the Science Committee a new PhD student can be appointed on a project.

List of grant providers eligible for a short review:
a. NWO, ZonMw and related organisations (e.g. EW, WOTRO)
b. Netherlands Heart Foundation (Hartstichting)
c. NIH
d. Dutch Cancer Society (KWF), including Alpe d'Huzes
f.  Diabetes Fund (Diabetesfonds)
g. EU
h. Lung Foundation Netherlands (Longfonds - before; Astmafonds)
i. Dutch Arthritis Foundation (Reumafonds)
j. Netherlands Brain Foundation (Hersenstichting)

These are the major grant providers. Please contact the secretary when your project has been granted by a provider with a thorough peer review system that is not on this list.


All research proposals and grant applications are reviewed on two independent aspects:

a) suitability for an APH program

With respect to embedding the proposed research in an APH program, the proposal is sent to the appropriate program directors who will evaluate the proposal on:
- its relevance to the APH mission
- the degree to which it is in line with a specific program

Program directors are requested to submit their decision to the Secretary of the Science Committee within two weeks.

b) methodological quality and feasibility

One (in case of a short review) or two (in case of a thorough review) referees will be appointed to assess the methodological quality and feasibility of a research proposal: one member of the Science Committee and one APH senior researcher of VU/VUmc. If the specific content of a project requires a review by a referee from outside APH, the Science Committee (in consultation with the Directorate) will consult an external expert. All reviewers are requested to submit their comments on the proposal to the Secretary of the Science Committee within two weeks.

The review categories are:
A) positive, with recommendations for improvement
B) negative, offering the possibility of resubmission after the recommendations have been processed
C) negative.

In case of a negative review (option B or C) by one referee and a positive review by another, the proposal will be assessed by a third referee (a member of the Science Committee), whose decision will be decisive. If two referees have rated the proposal negatively the possibility of revision based on the referees' recommendations (category B) is offered to the submitting researchers. A research proposal may be resubmitted once. The applicant should specify in a covering letter or by highlighting in the document where and how the recommendations made have been incorporated. The same referees will be asked to review the resubmission. When the resubmission is assessed as negative (option B or C), there is no possibility to resubmit.

The final advice on embedding, methodological quality and feasibility along with the referees' comments will be sent to the APH Board VU/VUmc. The applicants will be informed about the final decision by the APH Board VU/VUmc. 

Time schedule
A period of six weeks is necessary to obtain a final decision, given the frequency of meetings of the Science Committee (every 4 weeks), the review time granted to the referees (two weeks) and the frequency of the meetings of the Directorate. If a third referee needs to be appointed, this period may be extended to 9 weeks. 

The Science Committee acts as an advisory body to the Institute's Directorate and its reviews have an advisory status. If the applicants disagree with the final decision, they can submit an objection to the Directorate.

Procedures for reviewing program grant proposals

The Science Committee APH frequently receives proposals for which a so-called program grant has been awarded. Program grants are awarded for comprehensive research programs consisting of several research projects that are executed by several researchers. Experience has shown that proposals for research programs of this kind tend to be so general that the Science Committee is unable to adequately assess them, in particular in terms of the feasibility of their various subprojects (and the associated appointments).  Such proposals can be submitted in two possible ways, as set out below. Only program grant proposals or sub projects that will be executed at APH need to be submitted to the Science Committee.

Submitting a proposal for a full program grant
Proposals for a full program grant are submitted to the Science Committee. The project should be described in sufficient detail in order to enable the reviewers to assess the methodological quality and feasibility of the entire program. Subprojects are described more generally. In this case, a single Science Committee (WC) number is assigned to the program grant.

Submitting separate proposals for subprojects
The full program grant proposal will be assessed for relevance and suitability by the program directors. A reviewer will globally assess the scientific quality and feasibility of the project. Subsequently, the proposals for subprojects are submitted separately to the Science Committee. This means that the project managers need to describe each separate research project in sufficient detail so that the reviewer can properly assess the methodological quality and feasibility of the subprojects. In this case, each subproject is assigned a separate WC number and the project database will specify that the subprojects form part of the same program grant. If the full program or one or more of the subprojects that have their own WC number have already been approved, the applicants should indicate this on the form providing additional information.

The project database specifies which subprojects belong to which program grant (i.e. which WC numbers form part of the same program). Applicants should clearly indicate on the form providing additional information whether the research grant proposal submitted relates to a program grant or to a subproject of a program grant.

Procedures for reviewing another type of proposals

Besides standard research project proposals and program grant proposals, the Science committee distinguishes various other type of proposals:

  • Ongoing project
  • Internship project
  • Doctoral plan of study for non-VUmc employed junior reseachers/PhD students
  • Doctoral plan of study for VUmc employed junior reseachers/PhD students (embedding of approved PhD theses)

Fixed procedures apply for the assessment of:

  • Projects that have already been approved by another science committee
  • Infrastructure projects

Please read our Handbook ‘Procedures Science Committee to find out if and how you should submit these types of proposals. [last update 09-05-2017]

[updated 14-06-2017]