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Every year, the Niels Stensen Fellowship Committee awards seven grants to enable young, recent postdoctoral students to gain international experience abroad early in their careers. The committee is looking for young postdoctoral researchers who have shown outstanding ability in research, knowledge transfer and have a demonstrated high degree of social commitment. The fellowship is open to all academic disciplines.


Before you can submit an application, you first need to be nominated by two professors (no assistant professors) working at Dutch universities. After having been nominated twice, you will be sent instructions and login details so you can submit your application online. In parallel, you will be asked to approach three referees.

Selection criteria

  • Candidates can apply only if they have officially received their PhD from a Dutch university after 15 June 2022.
  • Candidates who have not obtained their PhD yet, must be scheduled to be awarded one before 15 June 2024 (a statement that the thesis committee has approved the thesis should have been received by us no later than 31 December 2023).
  • Candidates must be highly socially committed and must demonstrate this in an essay that describes how their research relates to society.
  • Their research must be carried out at a reputable university or institute abroad, where the candidate has not conducted out research or studied for more than three months during the course of their PhD.
  • The research project must start between 1 January and 1 September of the following year and must last 9 to 12 months. A stay in excess of this period is possible, in consultation, but it would not be financially supported by the Niels Stensen Fellowship.
  • It is the candidate's intention to return to the Netherlands after the research project in order to assume a position at a Dutch university or research institute.

The full application package of a candidate will consists of:
(You will be requested to upload the following annexes in PDF form)

  • The filled-out application form
  • Two recommendation letters
  • Three letters of reference
  • Your curriculum vitae, in which you can present yourself and your ancillary activities; there is no fixed format
  • An essay of no more than 1 page demonstrating your social commitment and your vision in relation to ethical dilemmas (see additional instructions below)
  • A list of your publications, making a distinction between peer-reviewed and other publications
  • An official letter of invitation from the university or institute abroad you will be visiting for the research project, describing the arrangements agreed (signed and on the organisation's letterhead)
  • A clear summary of the research project (max. 1 page)
  • An extensive working plan for the research project (max. 20 pages) covering at least the following points:
    - the situation in the field of your proposed research/study visit
    - the academic position of your host institute and of researchers affiliated with the host institute
    - the significance of your research/study visit for the relevant field
    - the extent to which your research is innovative or ground-breaking
    - possible relevance for other academic/scientific fields
    - the proposed research methods
    - the duration
    - the institutes or laboratories you want to work in, the academic/scientific leadership there, the contacts in place, the facilities offered to you, etc.
    - planned publications 

The application forms and all annexes will have to have been uploaded before 15 June 2023.

Additional instructions for the essay on social commitment

The Niels Stensen Fellowship programme is implemented by Porticus, the international charity organisation that manages the grant-giving programmes of the Brenninkmeijer family entrepreneurs. The work of both Porticus and the Niels Stensen Fellowship is inspired by Catholic social teaching. Human dignity and social justice are key values of this teaching. The Committee gauges the extent to which candidates are aligned with these values by asking about their social commitment.

A socially committed researcher will have developed a personal vision on the relevance and impact of their research. They will work with integrity, engage in dialogue with society and demonstrate a willingness to share their knowledge with colleagues and students. Social commitment is about the relationship between the researcher and society, not about the valorisation or social relevance of the research as such.

The Committee assesses the essays on:

- Authenticity (intrinsically motivated, plausible story)
- Unselfishness (teaching, helping peers)
- Versatility (not just your own field)
- Environmental awareness (recognizing ethical dilemmas)

You are requested to write an essay of no more than one page. There are no fixed rules for the essay, but we have suggested some aspects below that you might want to address:

- ethical dilemmas you experience in your work
- the way you relate to your professional peers
- your accountability to society
- how society benefits from your work
- your motivation for doing this work
- what you (as a researcher and/or leader) can add to society in the future
- the role played by your religion or personal beliefs in your work

The essay is intended to enable you to express your own vision rather than to obtain more information about your background or career. It will usually have more impact if you can support your vision with examples of actions you have taken or specific results achieved.

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