Design and write your proposal

Phase three of the project life cycle. Click the image to return to the overview page.

After funding orientation, the next step in the project life cycle is to design and write your research proposal. These may be different phases, but in practice they will overlap. When designing your proposal, it is important to understand the call requirements of your funder, as well as the scope and evaluation criteria. Here you will find information on various aspects, including cooperation, designing a proposal or a large-scale programme, data management, privacy, ethics, societal impact, and writing, preparing and approving budgets.  

Below you will find information about Utrecht University's services, services specific for Geoscientists, and background information on the 'Designing and writing your proposal' phase. Click the boxes to jump to the information you're looking for.

Information and support for Geoscientists

The Research Support Office and your academic colleagues will be most valuable in this phase of your proposal. You can find specific information on data management and privacy as it entails to geoscientists on the Geo Data Support website.

Data management

It will save you a lot of time and effort if you consider data management, privacy an ethics from the beginning, even before submitting a proposal.  Note that these topics may also have implications for your project budget.

As discussed in the idea development phase, the DMPonline tool offers templates specifically made for researchers at Utrecht University and UMC Utrecht. These contain example answers and guidance relevant to Utrecht researchers.


If your research involves human subjects and personal data, then you must take action to protect the interests of you participants and to comply to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

You should do a Privacy Scan. This is an instrument to map the privacy risks of data processing. This scan is necessary because the GDPR prescribes that you must be able to demonstrate that the processing complies with important GDPR principles, such as lawfulness, transparency, purpose limitation and correctness. In the privacy scan, the privacy risks are identified - and measures to mitigate these risks.

If the outcome is that – even after mitigating measures – privacy risks are high, a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) should be made. A DPIA is like a privacy scan but goes more in depth. You will work together with the privacy manager to draw up the DPIA.

Note that data collection of personal data can only be started after a privacy scan (or if relevant a Data Protection Impact Assessment) has been approved.


In your project, ethics issues may occur. This is the case, for example, if your research involves human subjects and personal data, or if you take certain materials with you from another country to the Netherlands. Ethical aspects should be considered when writing your research proposal. On top of that, you can have your proposal reviewed by an ethics committee (only available for research with human subjects). On Utrecht University’s website you can find more information about ethics and ethics assessment.

Ethics related to human subjects and personal data

When writing a proposal for research with human subjects, such ethical aspects should be considered as: what is your target group, how vulnerable are the respondents and which measures will be taken to protect them? How will they be approached and informed? What is the burden for the participants? Discuss your ethics design with your colleagues. Ethics is related to data management, privacy and handling personal data, so we recommend reading the information on those topics as well.

It is advised to have your proposal for research with human subjects reviewed by the Science-Geo Ethics Review Board (ERB). Researchers that have done so, say that it improved their research and that they feel that it improves their chance for publication. When is the best time to do this? Most people have their proposal reviewed after it has been granted by the funder. In the Design phase however, we advise you to browse through the application form, to learn about relevant issues. You can also contact the ERB for advice about ethics issues when designing your research project.

Ethics not related to human subjects

Ethics issues may also occur if you do not work with human subjects. For example, are you planning to import materials from non-EU countries to the EU? Does your research involve lower-middle income countries? You can find more examples about ethics issues not related to working with human subjects via the Utrecht University website on ethics (assessment). Please contact the Research Support Office if your project raises ethical issues. 

Process flow regarding data, privacy and ethics

The process flow regarding data management, privacy and ethics is shown in the flow chart below. Please note that if a DPIA is necessary, you start developing the privacy scan into a DPIA, together with the privacy manager. Meanwhile, submit the proposal and the privacy scan to the ERB. The ERB will initiate the ethics review and give a conditional advice. The ERB cannot make a final decision until the DPIA has been reviewed and has also been received by the ERB.

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project life cycle


Collaboration with other researchers, industry or societal stakeholders is pivotal for the advancement of research. Under Societal impact below you will find more about the process of finding and engaging with societal partners and industry. On intranet you can find the basic premises of Utrecht University concerning cooperation in the sense of the indirect funding and contract funding.

Please contact the Research Support Office when setting up a contract.

Publishing open access

Find out in what journals you, as an Utrecht University author, can publish open access for free or at a discount.

Societal impact

Most funding bodies consider Impact a fundamental aspect of their research programmes. It is often expected that you complete an impact section in your proposal, articulating the impact you expect the research will have on society. Thus it is important to start thinking about societal impact and how to organise it at an early stage of your project, because it often affects the design of your research. For example, what is your research question? Would you like to collaborate with societal partners – and if so, whom? You can find more information, including links to support and other information in the Geosciences societal impact guide on intranet.


Every funder has its own rules with respect to budgeting, e.g. what cost can be claimed. While some funders, such as NWO, do not allow for the claiming of indirect costs, others do. The Research Support Office will help you prepare the correct budget for your funding application. They will ensure that the necessary approvals are obtained, for example when working with other faculties, or when then budget is over two million euros.

For projects in which the faculty of Geosciences acts as scientific coordinator, it is important to budget sufficiently for project management, as, generally, the coordinator is expected to take care of the project management. The Research Support Office has developed an overview of the different tasks related to project management to give you an idea which tasks we can take care of. Dedicated post award support (project managers) are part of the faculty of Geosciences Research Support Office team. Please discuss your projects needs and your expectations when writing your proposal. Note that communication and outreach is not always part of the project management. Therefore, we urge you to discuss the project needs with your partner organisations (for example: who is in charge of communication and outreach?) and ensure that sufficient budget is set aside for the planned activities.

Background information

If your envisaged project team has PhD candidates, your funder may request you to elaborate on the PhD policy. Read more about PhD policy, support and services, and quality assurance of the faculty of Geosciences on the website of the Graduate School of Geosciences.

If you need to prepare for an interview during the review process, please contact the Research Support Office. The flyer Dos and Don'ts on applying for a Veni, Vidi or Vici grant also has tips for interviewing. 

The Research Support Office can bring you into contact with colleagues who were previously successful in obtaining a grant. They can also provide you with key figures that could be useful for your proposals (e.g. National ranking), and they have prepared pointers and templates for certain sections of your proposal: e.g. data management, Open Science, management, risk assessment.