Example SOC proposal for MSCA IF: Abstract and Eval

I’ve decided to share an example proposal submitted to the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 for the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Individual Fellowship (IF) program. It was prepared for the SOC panel, which reviews all the social science research proposals, including educational and learning sciences, where my proposal resides.

Specifically, I do engineering education research (EER). I moved to Europe from the USA to develop mastery in EER, and MSCA funding has been fundamental to me developing as a researcher. Of the three proposals I have submitted to MSCA, two were funded (the first for the 2013 call and the second for the 2016 call) and one (submitted for the 2015 call) was not. I will be sharing parts of the 2015 proposal that was not funded along with the evaluators’ comments.

Over the course of the week starting August 3, I will be posting blogs on each of the following topics:
Abstract and Eval (here)
• Excellence Section 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4
Notes on using tables
• Impact Section 2.1, 2.2
Implementation Section 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4
Ethics Section
Final Report from 2016 submission

After enjoying a 2014-2016 IIF (International Incoming Fellowship under FP7) to Ireland, I was eager to stay in Europe with my new research skills rather than return to the USA. I submitted this proposal in 2015, hoping to go to the UK to work for a couple years. Although this 2015 version of the proposal was not funded, the score wasn’t terrible (87.8/100), and it left me with hope that I could secure funding if I did not meddle with the content too much. I had specific review comments in hand to guide me. A score of 92-93 is normally needed to garner funding.

I submitted a modified version of this proposal in 2016 and was funded for a 2018-2020 IF. It enabled me to spent two glorious years living in London and working at University College London–ranked #7 in the world for research. What a truly amazing opportunity!

I had spent 5-6 weeks full-time writing the 2015 version that I am sharing, and in 2016 I dedicated just about three days to revising that proposal using the evaluators’ comments. That version succeeded in winning the funding I needed to pack my bags for London.

I am sharing the 2015 submission because I feel this version is most helpful to others writing proposals. They can use these resources to learn to critique to their own proposals.

Just look to see what the evaluators said, and to what degree you agree with them….

In today’s blog post, I will share the abstract and the evaluators’ comments.


Individual Fellowships (IF)

Call: H2020-MSCA-IF-2015


“Designing Engineers”


Europe is suffering an enormous deficit of engineers and this adversely affects the number of patent filings, top tech companies, and level of R&D. In 2011, Germany alone fell short by 76,400 engineers. We urgently need more engineers, particularly ones who can work collaboratively and creatively. Failure to attract women exacerbates the crisis. Today, women comprise 26% of engineering professionals in Sweden, 20% in Italy, 18% in Spain, but just 9% in the UK.

As an MSCA fellow, Prof./Dr. Shannon Chance will receive crucial training at at University College London and will investigate overlaps between epistemology (‘what is knowledge?’) and design thinking (‘how is knowledge created and used in the process of design?’). She will evaluate the role of design projects in the learning, epistemological development, and retention of engineering students, particularly women. She will collect data in Ireland, Poland, Portugal, the UK and USA. A three-month secondment in industry will help her extend and exploit her research.

Overarching research objectives are to: (1) develop and promote better ways to teach and support engineering students, (2) help transform engineering into a more diverse and creative field, and (3) track results via five primary research questions surrounding the theme:

To what extents do design projects influence the cognitive and epistemological development of undergraduates in engineering and architecture?

Dr. Chance will produce: mixed-methods research in a ground-breaking field; new design project briefs (and pilot test them); outreach and dissemination to crucial target audiences; and publication of an educator’s handbook intended to revolutionize engineering teaching methods. The interdisciplinary approach draws from Dr. Chance’s unique skill set and synthesizes state-of-the-art in three realms: (1) practices from architecture education, (2) research on engineering education, and (3) theories on college student development. 

List of Participants

Evaluation Summary Report

Total score for my proposal: 87.80% (Threshold: 70/100.00)

Scoring Rubric

Scores can range 0-5. Interpretation of the score:
0– The proposal fails to address the criterion or cannot be assessed due to missing or incomplete information.
1Poor. The criterion is inadequately addressed, or there are serious inherent weaknesses.
2Fair. The proposal broadly addresses the criterion, but there are significant weaknesses.
3Good. The proposal addresses the criterion well, but a number of shortcomings are present.
4 Very good. The proposal addresses the criterion very well, but a small number of shortcomings are present.
5Excellent. The proposal successfully addresses all relevant aspects of the criterion. Any shortcomings are minor.

Criterion 1 – Excellence

Score for my proposal: 4.50 (Threshold: 0/5.00 , Weight: 50.00%)

Reviewers are scoring based on:
* Quality, innovative aspects and credibility of the research (including inter/multidisciplinary aspects)
* Clarity and quality of transfer of knowledge/training for the development of researcher in light of the research objectives
* Quality of the supervision and the hosting arrangements
* Capacity of the researcher to reach or re-enforce a position of professional maturity in research (You must earn at least 70/100 in this category to be eligible to receive funding)


  • This is an ambitious interdisciplinary proposal which includes original and innovative features.
  • The research objectives and questions are clearly formulated.
  • The proposal clearly illustrates the new competence and knowledge that the researcher would gain through training and supervising at the host institution.
  • The supervision and hosting arrangements are credibly described and match the needs of the proposed research.
  • The proposal demonstrates that the proposed research would contribute to the professional maturity of the researcher. The methodological framework is appropriate and gender considerations are taken into account.


  • Certain aspects of the research methodology are not explained in sufficient detail; for example, the sampling procedure and the quantitative survey, data analysis and the comparative aspects of collected data.
  • Some aspects of the state of the art are not well elaborated, e.g., no adequate information is provided on theories of student development as related to research on engineering education.

Criterion 2 – Impact

Score for my proposal: 4.20 (Threshold: 0/5.00 , Weight: 30.00%)

Reviewers are scoring based on:
* Enhancing research- and innovation-related human resources, skills, and working conditions to realise the potential of individuals and to provide new career perspectives
* Effectiveness of the proposed measures for communication and results dissemination


  • There is clear evidence that the researcher would benefit from the hosting institution’s participation in research and the international
  • The strategy for communicating results to non-academic audiences is well elaborated and is likely to be effective.


  • The proposal does not convincingly demonstrate that the measures planned for the dissemination of results are feasible within the duration of the fellowship.
  • The issues related to intellectual property are insufficiently addressed.

Criterion 3 – Implementation

Score for my proposal: 4.40 (Threshold: 0/5.00 , Weight: 20.00%)

Reviewers are scoring based on:
* Overall coherence and effectiveness of the work plan, including appropriateness of the allocation of tasks and resources
* Appropriateness of the management structures and procedures, including quality management and risk management
* Appropriateness of the institutional environment (infrastructure)
* Competences, experience and complementarity of the participating organisations and institutional commitment


  • The work plan is clear overall.
  • The proposal provides a clear structure of the project organization and management, taking into account financial and administrative
  • The institutional environment proposed for the project is well described and matches well with the needs of the proposal.
  • Quality and risk management are taken into due consideration and a basic contingency plan is described.
  • The institutional commitment of the host to the project is well described.


  • The level of institutional commitment of the participating organisations is difficult to assess given that not all of the partners are already secured.
  • The Gantt Chart has some imprecisions, e.g., it does not precisely indicate when the activities occur within the project timeframe.
  • It is not clear whether the deliverables proposed can be finished within the timeframe of the project.

In summary, you can see that the evaluators thought I was trying to accomplish an unreasonably high amount, and I also lost points for mentioning a possible secondment without providing a convincing level of detail.