Project Proposal

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PhD project proposal

As part of the formal admittance procedure of the graduate school PE&RC, 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. This form can be found here.


The following PE&RC PhD Project Proposal procedure was last changed on 27 May 2016. PhD candidates benefit from a well-conceived proposal that includes their ideas and ambitions, provides a quick start, and offers flexibility when needed. The PE&RC PhD proposal is written by the candidate with consultation 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 PE&RC 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 PE&RC for evaluation. These projects will be evaluated on those aspects that have not (sufficiently) been subject to peer review yet. PhD candidates who are registered with PE&RC while already in an advanced stage of their PhD project do not need to submit a full PE&RC PhD proposal but a proposal in which the following should be addressed: outline of the project, what has been accomplished so far and intended research activities in Wageningen.

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 (PDF) to the secretariat of the graduate school (, together with four to five suggestions for independent reviewers. 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
  • 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?
  • Intellectual challenge in the context of a PhD project
    Opportunity for broadening insight and activities to other levels of aggregation, systems, or situations, interdisciplinary options and implications of the research

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 PE&RC 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 PE&RC PhD proposal.

Selection of reviewers

The project team plays an important role in the selection of independent reviewers. A list of potential reviewers willing to review the project proposal is the most important aspect determining the speed of the review process. We stress that 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 and that therefore it is not a problem that potential reviewers are contacted by the project team to check their willingness to review prior to submission of the project proposal to PE&RC. Subsequently, PE&RC will select the actual reviewers from the proposed reviewers, and will send them the project proposal and an evaluation form. Preferably, a mix of reviewers from inside and outside the organisation is proposed.

Without the approval of a PhD project, a PE&RC education certificate will not be granted (in the case of WU a PhD graduation is 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 PE&RC PhD projects
  1. PE&RC PhD proposals (approved by the supervisors and in the PE&RC format (see 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 PE&RC 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 PE&RC office will determine how the review procedure will look like.
  2. PhD candidates who are registered with PE&RC while already in an advanced stage of their PhD project do not need to submit a full proposal but a proposal in which the following should be addressed: outline of the project, what has been accomplished so far and intended research activities in Wageningen. If needed this last component may be elaborated (upon request by PE&RC office) and subjected to peer review.
  3. The PhD candidate can submit a motivated request to the graduate school for a fixed-term extension of the deadline for submission of the PE&RC PhD Proposal. This request should always be supported by the supervisor(s) of the project.
  4. Once received, the PE&RC PhD proposal is sent to 2-3 independent reviewers, selected and approached by PE&RC 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. 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 inside and outside the university where the defence will take place. It is also recommended that the applicants check in advance the reviewers’ willingness to review the proposal.
  5. 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.
  6. Within two weeks after receipt of the last reviewer report, the scientific director of PE&RC will consider the reports and they will be sent, together with the comments of the director, to the applicants.
  7. When applicable, the applicants are asked to return their rebuttal digitally to the secretariat of the graduate school (, within 1 month after receipt.
  8. When applicable, the rebuttal of the applicants will be assessed by the director. 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.
  9. The procedure is finalised by an official approval letter that is sent by the director to the applicants. A CC of this letter, with the rebuttal and/or final version of the PE&RC PhD Proposal is also sent to the reviewers, for their information.
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