Nessling Foundation Grants: How Are Projects Selected for Funding?

Written by: Nesslingin Säätiö | August 2, 2017 | In category: Grants

The Nessling Foundation’s purpose is to support research promoting environmental protection. Meaning that we do not just fund environmental research, but research that has an effect on improving the condition of the environment. According to the Foundation’s rules, the Foundation’s purpose is also to “cultivate a favourable opinion” towards research supporting environmental protection and its goal, environmental protection. Therefore, we pay special attention to the stakeholder engagement of the applicants and we also award grants for the communication and implementation of environmental information.

It is essential in the Foundation’s grant process that the Foundation receives applications that match the Foundation’s purpose today. Our Foundation’s criteria and instructions for grant applicants are intended to direct the call for proposals to the right target group. That is why we remind applicants in different forums to read our Foundation’s criteria and instructions carefully.

There are three parties involved in the process of assessing applications: the Foundation’s head of research, a ten-person expert committee representing the research fields emphasised by the Foundation and the Foundation’s six-member governing board. The head of research presents the expert committee’s assessment to the governing board, on the basis of which the governing board decides which projects will be funded. A two-month intensive assessment process takes place before the conclusion meeting is reached.

What happens in the Nessling Foundation’s application process after the application deadline has expired?

  • Upon receiving the applications, the Foundation’s head of research reads every application received (a total of 429 applications in the 2016 application process, for example) and checks that the applications fall within the domain of research or work supported by the Foundation and are formally correct (the required sections have been filled in, the budget is made correctly, mandatory attachments are included and instructions have been followed). If the application is contrary to the criteria or instructions, the head of research will not move the application on to further processing. The head of research selects two assessors for each application, of whom at least one represents the application’s research field. Prior to submitting the applications to the assessor, the head of research pre-examines any possible disqualifications of the assessor with regards to the application. The assessors are also to examine possible disqualifications themselves before assessing the application.
  • Depending on the year, each assessor receives 70-90 applications to read, which they must assess within three weeks (alongside their own job). The assessors evaluate the applications based on the criteria listed in the application instructions and award an overall rating of 1–5 for each application. 
  • The expert committee and the head of research convene for a three-day meeting where each application is reviewed. Applications for which each of the assessors has given a rating of 1–2 are moved directly into the “not funded” basket. Such applications usually have the problem of not matching the Foundation’s purpose, or of the application being contrary to the instructions and criteria. Applications for which each assessor has given a rating of 3–5 are make it into a discussion where both assessors justify their assessment. The discussion also takes into account the views of the other assessors participating in the meeting, which may both raise and lower the overall view of the project. After the discussion, the project is moved either directly into the “funded” or “not funded” basket, or into the “maybe funded” basket to await a second round of processing. At the end of the three-day meeting, the ratio of the sum reserved for the grants to the projects moved into the “funded” basket is estimated to give an idea of how many projects can still be funded. The projects moved into the “maybe funded” basket are distributed to two new assessors to be processed again.

  • After the expert committee’s meeting, the expert committee’s chairperson and the head of research present the decisions of the meeting to the governing board’s research committee. The research committee’s members can still comment on the projects at this stage.

  • The expert committee then still convenes for a one-day meeting to hear the assessments of the “maybe funded” projects moved on to the second round. The projects are ranked and the best ones are moved into the “funded” basket within the limits of the remaining grant budget while the other projects are placed on the reserve list.

  • The head of research prepares a summary of the projects proposed for funding on the basis of the expert committee’s meetings, which is presented at the governing board’s grant meeting. 

  • The funded projects are announced on the day after the governing board’s grant meeting, after which comments related to your application can be inquired from the head of research at separately announced times. Meeting notes have been recorded at the expert committee’s meetings, on the basis of which a statement can be provided. The Foundation does not have the resources to prepare written statements on projects that have not been funded.

  • The expert committee and the head of research convene for a three-day meeting where each application is reviewed. Applications for which each of the assessors has given a rating of 1–2 are moved directly into the “not funded” basket. Such applications usually have the problem of not matching the Foundation’s purpose, or of the application being contrary to the instructions and criteria. Applications for which each assessor has given a rating of 3–5 are make it into a discussion where both assessors justify their assessment. The discussion also takes into account the views of the other assessors participating in the meeting, which may both raise and lower the overall view of the project. After the discussion, the project is moved either directly into the “funded” or “not funded” basket, or into the “maybe funded” basket to await a second round of processing. At the end of the three-day meeting, the ratio of the sum reserved for the grants to the projects moved into the “funded” basket is estimated to give an idea of how many projects can still be funded. The projects moved into the “maybe funded” basket are distributed to two new assessors to be processed again.

  • After the expert committee’s meeting, the expert committee’s chairperson and the head of research present the decisions of the meeting to the governing board’s research committee. The research committee’s members can still comment on the projects at this stage.

  • The expert committee then still convenes for a one-day meeting to hear the assessments of the “maybe funded” projects moved on to the second round. The projects are ranked and the best ones are moved into the “funded” basket within the limits of the remaining grant budget while the other projects are placed on the reserve list.

  • The head of research prepares a summary of the projects proposed for funding on the basis of the expert committee’s meetings, which is presented at the governing board’s grant meeting.

  • The funded projects are announced on the day after the governing board’s grant meeting, after which comments related to your application can be inquired from the head of research at separately announced times. Meeting notes have been recorded at the expert committee’s meetings, on the basis of which a statement can be provided. The Foundation does not have the resources to prepare written statements on projects that have not been funded.

The competition over research funding is constantly tightening. Applications in which application criteria or instructions have not been read or followed are automatically disqualified from the competition. Therefore, we strongly recommend that grant applicants carefully read the Foundation’s instructions and criteria in order to save the resources of both grant applicants and those involved in the assessment process. If the Foundation’s purpose does not seem to fit in with your research, it is not worth trying to force it in your application. Many innovative, solution-oriented projects of high scientific quality that also meet all the other criteria of our Foundation are left unfunded simply because there are too many brilliant applicants compared to the amount of money distributed.

Each year, however, many wonderful applications receive funding. The success rate of new projects at the Nessling Foundation is about 10 percent.

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