Instructions for making a doctoral thesis project application

The Nessling Foundation offers funding for active researchers that enable or support sustainability transformation that protects natural systems. Funding for doctoral thesis projects may be applied during the general grant call in the autumn. Before submitting an application, please carefully read the instructions and criteria provided below.

To the instructions for postdoc and science-based action projects
To the General grant call home page

Please review the following criteria first

We only provide funding for doctoral thesis to the same individual once. We do not provide funding for doctoral work of less than two years (e.g. finalisation). We provide personal grants along with funding for possible research costs for doctoral thesis projects for a maximum of four years. The doctoral student’s undergraduate degree must be completed and admission to the doctoral programme must be confirmed before beginning their grant-funded work – however, it is possible to apply for a grant from us before these conditions are met. The grant can also be used in a non-Finnish research institute.

Submit your application using the Nesslink system 

The grant application is prepared using the Nesslink system. The application form will be available in Nesslink from the start date of the application period, which in 2024 is Monday, 12 August. The applicant must be a researcher in the research project, i.e. the author of the thesis. The applicant registers as an individual applicant in the Nesslink system. 

The application form must be filled out with the applicant’s details, project details and objectives, a risk assessment, and a budget. A request for a statement is also sent to the supervisor of the thesis work through the form. The supervisor’s statement is a mandatory part of the application. 

The mandatory attachments of the application include a research plan, communications and interaction plan, doctoral thesis project plan, CV and list of publications and commitment form signed by the project implementation site. Please note that the application cannot be submitted without a signed commitment form. Download the template for the commitment form here.

You may submit your application in either Finnish or English. All attachments may also be prepared in Finnish or English. The only exceptions are the Project title and Project summary fields on the application form – these are to be given in both Finnish and English as we use this information in our communications if funding is granted for the project. 

The system allows you to save and edit an unfinished application. It will guide you forward and provide instructions. We only consider applications that are received through Nesslink by the deadline. 

How to fill in the application form 

Below, you find instructions for completing the application form fields in the order in which they appear in the form. 

Applicant 

The applicant must be the grant recipient, i.e. the author of the thesis. Each applicant may submit only one application during the call. We do not grant funding for a new project if the applicant currently has an ongoing project funded by the Nessling Foundation.  

On the application form, fill in the applicant’s degree, project implementation site, faculty or department, ORCID identifier, and a brief introduction of the applicant. Additionally, you can choose the language in which you wish to communicate with the Nessling Foundation. 

Project details

On the application form, enter the project title in both Finnish and English, and the estimated duration of the project. Additionally, select the project’s field of research from the following options: 

  • Humanities  
  • Business and Administration/Economics  
  • Education  
  • Natural sciences  
  • Social sciences  
  • Law  
  • Technology  
  • Health sciences  
  • Multidisciplinary  
  • Sustainability science  
  • Other, please specify 

Natural systems to which the project is connected

The Nessling Foundation offers funding for projects and researchers that enable or support sustainability transformation that protects natural systems. Natural systems are systems formed by other species and their habitats. These systems support all life, including human societies. Natural systems are threatened by the crossing of planetary boundaries. Read more about the planetary boundaries from Stockholm Resilience Center. 

In this section of the application, select the main planetary boundary to which your project relates. If desired, you can also select additional planetary boundaries that the project is connected to. 

The planetary boundaries to choose from are 

  • Climate change  
  • Loss of biosphere integrity  
  • Nitrogen and phosphorus flows to the biosphere and oceans  
  • Freshwater consumption and the global hydrological cycle  
  • Land system change  
  • Atmospheric aerosol loading  
  • Stratospheric ozone depletion  
  • Chemical pollution and the release of novel entities  
  • Ocean acidification 

Socio-ecological systems to which the project is connected 

During sustainability transformation, society as a whole and all of its socio-ecological systems undergo a transition. Natural systems, culture, the economy, energy solutions, food systems, cities and the well-being and functioning of citizens are undergoing a simultaneous transformation. Read more about socio-ecological systems in the Global Sustainable Development Report (2019) and on the Expert Panel for Sustainable Development website

In this section of the application, select the main socio-ecological system to which your project relates. If desired, you can also select other socio-ecological systems to which your project relates. 

The socio-ecological systems to choose from are  

  • Human wellbeing and capabilities  
  • Sustainable and just economies  
  • Food systems and nutrition patterns  
  • Energy decarbonisation and access  
  • Urban and peri-urban development  
  • Global environmental commons 

Brief summary of the project

In this section, provide a general overview of what the project entails and what the objectives are. This will be published on the Nessling Foundation’s website if funding is granted for the project. Maximum length 1000 characters. The summary is also requested in Finnish. 

Project objectives in brief and general terms 

In this section, describe the main objectives of the project and what the project aims to achieve. Maximum length 1500 characters. 

The project’s connection to promoting sustainability transformation and securing natural systems  

In this section, describe how the project contributes to a sustainability transformation that protects natural systems. You can concretise this by, for example, reflecting on the role of your project in changing socio-ecological systems or in securing planetary boundaries. In addition, please describe the societal significance and scalability of the results attained in the project. The Nessling Foundation pays particular attention to this aspect when making funding decisions. Maximum length 6000 characters. 

Risk assessment 

The maximum length of the risk assessment is 2500 characters. The risk assessment can be in free form and the following questions can be used as a guide:  

  • What internal factors of the project could slow down or prevent the achievement of the project’s objectives? How are these risks being mitigated?   
  • What external factors could slow down or prevent the achievement of the project’s objectives? How are these risks being mitigated? 

Supervisors

Name at least one supervisor for the doctoral thesis. A statement from at least one supervisor is a mandatory part of the application. The system will automatically send a request to the supervisor to submit a statement. When filling in the application form, make sure that the e-mail address of the supervisor submitting a statement is correct. The request for statement cannot be delivered if the e-mail address is incorrect. The statement must be submitted within two weeks after the closing of the application period. 

Project budget 

You can apply for funding for doctoral thesis for a maximum of 4 years and for a minimum of 2 years. We do not fund the finalising of doctoral theses. The grant is awarded to the applicant personally and it cannot be transferred to another person. The Nessling Foundation can also participate in co-funded projects.  

The amount of the personal grant in the 2024 call is EUR 30,000 for doctoral students, i.e. EUR 2,500 per month. If you are applying for a smaller amount, please provide clear justifications in the Costs breakdown section. 

The statutory insurance contributions of the grantee must be paid from the grant. The grant is tax-free up to EUR 26,269.46 (in 2024). 

On the Budget page of the application, enter the total amount of funding applied for from the Nessling Foundation and over how many years the expenses are distributed. Then, specify the costs for each year. When preparing a budget for a multi-year project, take into account the annual variations and moderation. In addition to the Budget page’s table, the distribution of the budget over the years must correspond to the project plan. 

Please report also all grants received during the preceding three years and any pending grant applications intended for the same purpose.  

Costs breakdown

In this section, specify in detail the purpose and object of funds sought for travel, analytical services, equipment and other research-related tools, communications and interaction and any other expenses. Please note that it is not possible to include the purchase of a standard laptop or office space in the project budget.  

Please note that no daily allowances can be paid for travel grants. Funding for research expenses is only awarded alongside a personal grant.  

NB: Without a detailed breakdown of costs, other expenses will not be taken into account when awarding the grant. 

Auxiliary staff

In research projects, we provide personal grants only to the main applicant, not to auxiliary staff. However, you may budget for salary costs for auxiliary staff. In research projects, auxiliary staff primarily refers to research assistants. When calculating the salary costs of auxiliary staff, please take into account the statutory social security, pension and insurance premiums. The auxiliary workforce will not have an employment relationship with the Nessling Foundation, but the employer is the research organisation, grantee or other party implementing the project. 

The Nessling Foundation Travel Guidance 

When planning and budgeting travel expenses, applicants must observe the Nessling Foundation’s travel guidance

Overheads 

We only pay overheads to research organisations. Check whether your research organisation requires an overhead share as it will not be granted retrospectively. Calculate the overhead share in the budget table of the application in its own section. The share of overhead costs may not exceed 15 per cent of the project costs other than the grant. 

Example: If you are applying for a personal grant of 30,000 euros and 5,000 euros for other expenses (such as travel and supplies), the maximum overhead share may be 750 euros (0.15 x 5,000 euros). 

Part-time personal grant and working alongside the grant 

Alongside a full-time grant, you may have a part-time employment contract with a research organisation up to 20 percent. You may also work part-time with the grant and receive, for example, only 80 percent of it. 

If you apply for a part-time personal grant, explain the reasons in detail (e.g. a part-time employment relationship with a research organisation). 

Attachments

Submit all attachments in pdf format. The maximum size of one file is 10MB. 

The mandatory attachments of the application are:   

Research plan

The research plan is a description of the content of your research. We use the information in the research plan as the main basis for funding decisions. The plan shall indicate the background, aims, methods and execution of the research, as well as links to other projects. If you are applying for funding for a project that is part of a larger whole and has several funders, please also provide a description of the total funding of the project in the plan. 

The maximum length of the plan is two pages (line spacing 1, font size at least 10). Longer research plans are not considered. One additional page for references or a bibliography may be added to this, i.e. these are excluded from the two-page limit. You can only download one pdf attachment with a maximum size of 10 MT. 

Communications and interaction plan 

The aim of the communications and interaction carried out during the project is to increase the impact of the project. The work of an active researcher promoting sustainability transformation that protects natural systems involves transmitting research knowledge to society. When assessing applications and making their decision, the evaluators pay particular attention to the quality and realism of the communications and interaction plan. 

The Nessling Foundation not only encourages communications and interaction, but also supports projects in various ways in these areas. For instance, we organise training sessions and provide sparring for grantees on the subject. 

By communications, we mean all the communication actions that are carried out during and after the project. Communications may include, for example, writing and publishing general-interest articles on different platforms, media cooperation and giving interviews, opinion articles, social media activity, speeches at public events and conferences outside one’s discipline, or policy briefs. The communications plan does not need to include scientific publications produced during the project. Instead, it is essential to describe the communications carried out on the basis of scientific publications and the results of the project. 

By interaction, we primarily mean cooperation with the users of knowledge, i.e. the various stakeholders of the project. We recommend that you work closely with the knowledge users throughout the entire research process. There are many different ways of working with stakeholders. These include, for example, workshops, training, school visits, bilateral meetings with landowners, NGOs, companies, policymakers or officials, or even campaigning at a street event. The most important thing is that you identify the key stakeholders in your own research and pay attention to how to work with them. 

A good communications and interaction plan can be prepared in many ways. The most important thing is that your plan supports your work and meets the objectives of your research. 

The format and layout of the communications and interaction plan can be freely determined. The attachment must be submitted in pdf format and its maximum size is 10 MB. The maximum length of the plan is 1 page. The plan must be easy to read, so avoid for example reducing the font size too much. 

In previous years, we have read excellent communications and interaction plans provided in the form of free text, tables, thought maps or bulleted lists. Structured and relevant content is more important than the format. We recommend including a schedule or timeline in the plan, which outlines the stages of the project where communication and/or interaction are essential. 

We may grant additional funding specifically for communication expenses alongside the main grant. These funds can be used, for example, to purchase visualisations or layout assistance from a graphic designer, organise an event, or hire translation services. Carefully consider any potential outsourcing costs for communication during the application phase and record them in the budget table of the application. 

When creating your communications and interaction plan, you may find the following questions helpful: 

  • What kind of change do you want to achieve with your project and how do communications and interaction contribute to this change? 
  • What is the societal relevance of your project and how do communications and interaction support it? 
  • How does your project contribute to a sustainability transformation that protects natural systems and how do communications and interaction support this? 
  • Who are the key stakeholders in the project and what means are used to interact with them? 
  • What means are used to communicate the project during the project and after the results have been published? 

For further help with identifying stakeholders and planning communications and interaction, see for example the Science communication recommendations by the Committee for Public Information, the Researcher’s Handbook on Science-for-Policy by the The Finnish Academy of Science and Letters, the From science to decision-making online course, the Biodiversa Stakeholder Engagement Handbook and the book Tutkimuksesta toimintaan (Koskinen, Ruuska, Suni, 2018; in Finnish). 

Plan for a doctoral thesis project

The maximum length of the thesis project plan is two pages. It should describe the formal content and structure of the thesis, the progress of the doctoral studies, the publication plan, the work schedule and the realistic estimated completion time. The thesis plan must correspond to the duration of the grant applied for. You can only download one pdf attachment with a maximum size of 10 MT. 

CV and list of publications

The CV should follow the template provided by the Finnish National Board on Research Integrity. The CV and list of publications can be in either Finnish or English. You can only download one pdf attachment with a maximum size of 10 MT. 

Commitment form signed by the project implementation site and the applicant

Please note that the application cannot be submitted without a signed commitment form. The attachment should be in jpeg, jpg, or pdf format. You can upload a maximum of two files, each up to 10 MB in size. The template for the commitment form can be downloaded from here.