What are you looking for?


  • For Dutch and international scholars
  • Three to five members
  • Five months at NIAS
  • By application or invitation
  • Office
  • Accommodation for international members


Anja de Haas, anja.de.haasgruijs@nias.knaw.nl or (0)20 224 67 05

NIAS Theme Group Fellowships

Each year, NIAS awards up to ten fellows with a NIAS Theme Group Fellowship. A NIAS Theme Group is an international group. This group of researchers can be made up of three to five researchers for five consecutive months. Researchers work both individually and as a team on a clearly defined research topic.

NIAS Theme Groups are by application or may be initiated by the Director.

A NIAS Theme Group Fellowship consists of one semester to work on a project proposal of the coordinator’s own choice that fits within the scope of humanities and/or social sciences disciplines. Fellows can apply for a stipend or a replacement subsidy, commuting travel expenses for daily commute or subsidized accommodation in Amsterdam.

For more information with regard to the facilities offered during a fellowship see What NIAS Offers.

Who can apply

Only a researcher at a Dutch university (theme group coordinator) can apply for a NIAS theme group. In order to be considered eligible by NIAS for a Theme Group Fellowship, the following criteria and rules are applicable (for the coordinator as well as the other members):

  • At least three years of post-Ph.D. degree academic experience
  • The project proposal should be related to the field of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • The pre-proposal should be no more than two pages, excluding a C.V. of the theme-group coordinator
  • If invited by the NIAS Directorate to submit a full project proposal, the coordinator and all theme group members should individually apply with their individual project proposal. Proposals should be no more than a maximum of 1500 words including footnotes, excluding bibliography and abstract
  • On the date the application is submitted, all applicants must have a valid employment contract (permanent, temporary or “zero-hours” contract) with a university or research institute, or must be registered for tax purposes as a self-employed, independent researcher (in Dutch ZZP). The same requirement holds for the duration of the planned fellowship period. Applicants with a zero-hours contract are not eligible for a stipend or teaching replacement;
  • The NIAS Fellowship does not constitute an employment relationship: the fellow is and remains an employee of his or her own university or research institute, or self-employed. NIAS is thus not obligated to make social insurance contributions or to contribute to pension or unemployment insurances
  • The applicant may not resubmit a project proposal that was previously rejected by NIAS
  • Applicants can only apply for one type of fellowship per academic year (i.e. either a NIAS individual fellowship, a co-sponsored individual fellowship, a NIAS Theme Group Fellowship, or a co-sponsored Theme Group Fellowship)
  • An applicant who previously held a fellowship at NIAS may only apply for a Theme Group Fellowship or an Individual Fellowship if there are at least 10 years between the application date of the previous fellowship and the current application date
  • Applicants should provide the names of four international experts in their field who would be suitable to approach as referees (co-authors or scholars who are actively involved in the currently proposed research project are not permitted)
  • The application must be completed correctly and contain all the requested information and required documentation


Selection procedure

The selection procedure for a NIAS theme group consists of three rounds.

First round: pre-proposal

For the initial phase of the selection procedure there is no specific form: the theme group coordinator can submit a C.V. and short pre-proposal of no more than two pages that includes:

  • Topic and main idea of the theme group
  • A description of the interdisciplinary character of the proposal
  • Evidence of the benefit of group collaboration
  • Expected activities and, if applicable, the expected joint end product
  • A list of the preferred theme group members (max. 5)
  • Contact details of the main applicant


This document, together with a C.V. of the theme-group coordinator, should be sent by e-mail to: Application@nias.knaw.nl, citing NIAS Theme Group application, before 12 noon, 15 January 2020.

The Academic Advisory Board (AAB) evaluates the pre-proposals on the basis of the following criteria:

  • Originality, quality, interdisciplinary character of the pre-proposal and evidence of the benefit of group collaboration
  • The innovative character of the proposed project in the light of the previous work of the theme group coordinator
  • Whether the NIAS interdisciplinary environment will augment the research
  • Feasibility of the planned activities and, if applicable the joint end product, within one semester of group collaboration
  • The coordinator’s leadership qualities


Based on the evaluations of the AAB, the theme-group coordinator may be invited to send in a more elaborate (full) proposal.


Second round: full proposal

The full proposal is an expanded short proposal that contains both the theme group application as well as the individual fellowship application forms of all group members. The expanded theme group proposal (max. 1500 words, including footnotes, excluding bibliography and abstract) should include:

  • Topic and main idea of the theme group
  • A description of the interdisciplinary and innovative character of the proposal
  • Position in relation to current research in the field
  • Evidence of the benefit of group collaboration and the manner in which the NIAS environment will contribute to this collaboration
  • Intended manner of dissemination of the expected research products (e.g. lectures, articles, monographs, constitution of databases, websites)
  • A definitive list of the theme-group members (max. 5)


The full proposal must be submitted via the application form on this website. All theme-group members should also submit their application, including a research proposal for their own individual project. It is recommended that the theme-group coordinator organizes this process since only applications that contain all individual fellowship forms will be selected for further evaluation. The theme group coordinator should provide both the full theme group proposal and a proposal for his own individual project.

All correctly submitted full proposals are screened for eligibility on the basis of the above mentioned criteria under “who can apply”. Applications that fit the eligibility criteria are sent to independent external reviewers. If group members do not meet the criteria, the coordinator is notified by email. The individual applications are evaluated both on their individual merits as well as in terms of their contribution to the theme-group proposal.

The full theme-group proposal application and coordinator and members’ details are sent to external reviewers whose fields match the topic of the research proposal. They are asked to evaluate the application with respect to the following criteria:

  • Scientific quality of the project proposal, scientific relevance and originality
  • Theoretical approach
  • Methodological approach
  • Added value of carrying out the project in the Netherlands and specifically at NIAS
  • Planning and feasibility of the project within the requested fellowship period


Third round: final selection by the director of NIAS

Based on the reviewers’ assessments the Director of NIAS decides which applicant will be invited for a NIAS Theme Group.

The Director of NIAS decides the final selection of theme-groups and the composition of the year group on the basis of the following additional criteria:

  • Diversity of disciplines
  • Balance of Dutch and International scholars
  • Gender balance
  • Balance between early, mid and late career scholars
  • Available office space and, if eligible, accommodation


The Director of NIAS informs the applicants in writing of his decision no later than 15 December following the year that the application was submitted i.e. theme-group applicants who have been selected, and who have not been selected.

Applicants are sent a Preliminary Offer by email. If the applicant accepts the offer, all the terms will be incorporated into the official Fellows Agreement, a contract which is sent to applicants to sign before the fellowship. If the two parties have not come to mutual agreement by the 31 March of the year following selection, the offer expires.

The full selection process takes 11 months.

Time path

Call for NIAS theme-group proposals for the academic year 2021/22:

  • Call opens for pre-proposals: 15 December 2019
  • Call closes for pre-proposals: 15 January 2020
  • Assessment of pre-proposals by AAB: 16 January – 15 February 2020
  • Applicants are invited to send in a full proposal: 15 February – 25 February
  • Call closes for full proposals: 12 noon, 16 March 2020
  • If the application does not meet the formal requirements the application will be rejected and the applicant will be informed by email before 15 May 2020
  • Assessment of full proposals by external reviewers: May – October 2020
  • The Director of NIAS informs all candidates in writing of his decision no later than 15 December 2020