Research proposal

PhD project proposal

As part of the formal admittance procedure of the graduate school WIMEK, a full PhD project proposal needs to be handed in within 6 months after the start of a new PhD project. This proposal needs to be written by the PhD candidate and signed by the candidate, his/her promotor, and the head of the chair group. To ensure that all aspects of the proposed research are being dealt with, a PhD project proposal form has been created.

The general WIMEK Project Proposal form can be found here.

Introduction
PhD candidates benefit from a well-conceived proposal that includes their ideas and ambitions, provides a quick start, and offers flexibility when needed. The WIMEK PhD proposal is written by the candidate in consultation with and feedback from the supervising team prior to submitting it.

Even when a peer-reviewed grant proposal (such as NWO-granted projects) is already available at the start of the PhD project, we expect the PhD candidate to work out his/her take on the matter and develop this into a more elaborated WIMEK PhD proposal which is subsequently submitted (accompanied by the original peer-reviewed proposal plus reviewer reports and replies, plus the official acceptance letter of the funding agency) to WIMEK for evaluation. These projects will be evaluated on those aspects that have not (sufficiently) been subject to peer review yet.

Aim and Procedures
The main objective of the Graduate School is to safeguard quality of PhD projects with respect to scientific quality and originality, feasibility and intellectual challenge. When the proposal is completed and approved by the supervisors, the proposal is submitted in digital form (NOT protected PDF or word document) to the secretariat of the graduate school (wimek@wur.nl), including at least five suggestions for independent reviewers (item 14 of the proposal). The graduate school selects 2-3 independent reviewers and sends the proposal out for review. The reviewers are asked to evaluate the proposal on:

  • Scientific quality and originality
    Originality of the subject, methodology, relevance / importance / scientific perspectives
  • Social and environmental impact
    Contribution to the improved understanding of the causes and effects of environmental problems and solutions to solve these problems
  • Feasibility
    Can the proposed research be executed in the proposed time frame? Are the proposed methods / techniques correct, is the work plan adequate, are logistical issues adequately covered, is there sufficient supervision, is cooperation with other groups required and, if so, has this been initiated, and is there sufficient funding for this project?

In many cases, the suggestions of the reviewers lead to further improvement of the project proposal. In some cases major revisions are needed before the proposal is approved. In rare cases a proposal is rejected, which means that the project must be rewritten or the candidate may not continue at the time of the GO / NO-GO decision. The decision regarding the approval of the project proposal lies with the Scientific Director of WIMEK and is based on the reports of the reviewers, the rebuttal of the candidate and his/her supervisor(s), and potential amendments to the project proposal.

Full project proposals must be sent to the graduate school in the requested format within 6 months after the start of the PhD study. The PhD candidate and/or his/her supervisor(s) should contact the graduate school office a.s.a.p. in case of special conditions why this term cannot be met. The graduate school then takes this into consideration and may allow a fixed-term extension of the deadline for submitting the WIMEK PhD proposal.

Selection of reviewers
The project team plays an important role in the selection of independent reviewers. The most important task of the reviewers is to critically reflect on the proposal to safeguard and further improve quality and feasibility of a PhD project. That means that you should propose reviewers who might give valuable feed-back on the research proposal. Preferably, a mix of reviewers from inside and outside the organisation is proposed.

WIMEK will select the actual reviewers from the proposed reviewers, other suggestions proposed by these potential reviewers and the co-authors from relevant papers mentioned in the list of literature and references. WIMEK will send them the project proposal and an evaluation form.

Without the approval of a PhD project, an education certificate (SENSE diploma for specialized PhD training) will not be granted (in the case of WU a PhD graduation might be still possible but in that case the chair group will not receive the full output financing). Secondly, all WU PhD candidates need to pass a GO / NO-GO evaluation within 18 months after the start of the PhD Project. An approved project proposal is one of the prerequisites for receiving a GO decision, and the graduate school cannot register a GO decision in the WU PhD registration system PROMIS if the project proposal has not been approved yet.

Standard procedure and timeline for the approval of WIMEK PhD projects

  1. WIMEK PhD proposals (approved by the supervisors and in the WIMEK format (see LINK) have to be submitted to the Graduate School within 6 months after the start of the PhD project. In case of projects that already underwent a scientific peer review prior to submission to WIMEK the original proposal plus reviewer reports and replies, plus the official acceptance letter of the grant agency need to be sent along. In these cases the WIMEK office will determine how the review procedure will look like.
  2. The PhD candidate can submit a motivated request to the graduate school for a fixed-term extension of the deadline for submission of the WIMEK PhD Proposal. This request should always be supported by the supervisor(s) of the project.
  3. Once received, the WIMEK PhD proposal is sent to 2-3 independent reviewers, selected and approached by WIMEK office within 1 week after receipt of the proposal. The selection of reviewers is mainly based on the list of 4-5 potential reviewers put forward by the applicants and co-authors of relevant literature. It is allowed to involve reviewers that are part of other collaborations under the condition that these reviewers are able to provide an independent review. It is recommended to provide a mixture of reviewers from outside the university where the defence will take place.
  4. The selected reviewers are asked to return their review within 3 weeks after acceptance of the review request and receipt of the project proposal. When a reviewer has agreed to review the proposal (s)he will receive a reminder within a week after the deadline for submission of the review. A minimum of 2 completed reviews is required.
  5. Within two weeks after receipt of the last reviewer report, the scientific director of WIMEK will consider the reports and they will be sent, together with the comments of the director, to the applicants.
  6. When applicable, the applicants are asked to return their rebuttal digitally to the secretariat of the graduate school (wimek@wur.nl), within 2 months after receipt.
  7. When applicable, the rebuttal of the applicants will be assessed by the director. (S)he may then approve the proposal or send the revised proposal to one or more additional reviewers. In all cases, the applicants will be informed within 2 weeks after receipt of the applicants’ rebuttal.
  8. The procedure is finalised by an official approval letter that is sent by the director to the applicants.

Data Management Support
WIMEK attaches great importance to well managed research data. At Wageningen University, all expertise in relation to Data Management support is represented at the Data Management Support Hub. Here, you can find information on a wide range of topics like data management planning, managing your source code and publishing your final data. Data Management Support also offers a course on data management planning.