Golden Tips

The Spinoza Prize is the highest accolade in Dutch science. Four Spinoza laureates graciously gave us their tips for writing a successful grant application.

Frank Grosveld (Spinoza laureate 1995, Professor of Molecular Cell Biology Erasmus MC)

  • Summarise the current position in the field and your contribution.
  • Define the question, its originality and why it is important.
  • Write the experimental part from little to increasing risk.
  • Maintain focus by limiting the number of questions.


Piek Vossen (Spinoza laureate 2013, Professor of Computational Lexicology, VU University Amsterdam) 

  • Quickly submitting something does not work. A proposal must be written carefully. Every word counts and the formulation is vitally important. Start writing the proposal on time and subject it to frequent and critical revisions.
  • A good idea is not automatically a good proposal. Elaborate the idea, look for good partners, make a plan and think about the details.
  • Make sure you have a good and reliable consortium, not so much to get the grant but for what you do after the grant has been awarded.
  • Be inspiring and realistic. There is a delicate balance between creativity, innovation, progressiveness and feasibility. Compensate the ambition with a well-thought-out and realistic plan. Pay good attention to the methodology, collaboration, dependencies and phasing of the work. The more details the better, but make sure that enough freedom remains for new ideas during a project as well.


Naomi Ellemers (Spinoza laureate 2010, Professor of Social Psychology of Organisations, Leiden University)

For young researchers good supervision during the grant application process is vital.


Bert Weckhuysen (Spinoza laureate 2013, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry and Catalysis, Utrecht University)

A successful research proposal is often one where the right balance can be found between originality and creativity on the one hand and an awareness of the research field’s current position on the other. A proposal that is too far ahead of the troops will be regarded as unrealistic and too risky unless supporting experiments are provided beforehand. Conversely, a very cautious proposal runs the risk of referees considering it to be more of the same. The ability to feel exactly where that balance lies is crucial for the writing of research proposals.


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