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Counting down to the MSCA-DN proposal submission deadline – the updated MSCA-NET’s Doctoral Network Handbook is available just in time

10th October 2023 at 3:12 pm

This year’s MSCA Doctoral Network (DN) proposal submission deadline is rapidly approaching. The European Commission opened the call on 30 May 2023, with a deadline of 28 November 2023 at 17:00 Brussels time.

The most important documents for MSCA-DN proposal preparation

With the opening of the call, the European Commission published the three most important documents you should have at your disposal while preparing your proposal:

The Guide for Applicants provides an overview of MSCA-DNs in general and the open call in particular, while the Standard Evaluation Form describes the proposal evaluation process and award criteria. The Standard Application Form contains an annotated proposal template providing the mandatory structure and required/expected content of every MSCA-DN proposal, with detailed instructions on what to include. Many of the instructions, however, can be rather confusing, especially for inexperienced applicants, and some may seem repetitive, even to experienced proposal writers. Consulting more experienced applicants or seeking professional support may be an option for you, but as the deadline gets close, many experts are already committed to other proposals, making it progressively more difficult to receive external input.

The MSCA-NET DN Handbook as a useful guide

The MSCA-NET DN Handbook, published on 6 September 2023 by the Network of the Marie-Skłodowska-Curie Actions National Contact Points, may contain the information you’re looking for. While it does not substitute for the official documents published by the European Commission and is not available through the Funding and Tenders Portal, it does contain substantial additional information. The MSCA-NET DN Handbook provides a comprehensive overview of the open call, definitions, requirements, consortium structure and the required documents.

Most importantly, the handbook provides additional information on how to populate the proposal documents compared to the annotated proposal template of the Standard Application Form. One example is the annotations regarding the Quality and credibility of the training programme (Section 1.3 of the Standard Application Form), a mandatory sub-section of the excellence part. The first required sub-heading is the Overview and content structure of the doctoral training programme. The annotated Standard Application Form suggests including “network-wide training events and complementarity with those programmes offered locally at the participating organisations”. The MSCA-NET DN Handbook goes into more detail:

Notably, there is a clear emphasis on training that will enhance the career perspectives of doctoral candidates beyond their research focus. Designing a four-year training programme for up to 15 doctoral candidates (DCs) within an interdisciplinary research programme can be very challenging, and you may want to refer to our previous blog on designing a comprehensive training programme. While scientific training can usually be covered by the DC recruiting academic and industrial beneficiaries of the consortium, for transferable skills, you can always approach professional training providers.

Where can transferable skills training providers be found at such short notice?

With less than two months to go, our team at accelopment can fill some of the gaps in your draft training programme and advise on suitable complementary training providers. Thanks to our longstanding involvement as a project partner, we have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with your project partners. We can support your DN in transferable skills training, such as research project management and grant writing, as we currently do for some still ongoing H2020 Innovative Training Networks, the Horizon Europe DNs BREAKthrough, MITGEST, SYNSENSO, CONcISE, MIRELAI and the newly funded DarChemDN and MobiliTraIN. You are welcome to contact one of our trainers or share your interest with us in our online form.

Emily Rose Ciscato
Training Programme Manager

Jörn-Frederik Wotzlaw
Research & Innovation Project Manager