ETUDE tries to understand and treat functional disorders

Judith Rosmalen, professor of psychosomatic medicine at the Departments of Psychiatry and Internal Medicine of the UMCG received a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovation Training Network (ITN) grant for her project entitled ETUDE to understand and treat functional disorders (2021–2025).

The background

I studied medical biology and psychology and started as a postdoc at the UMCG in 2001; since 2011 I am professor at the same institution.

ETUDE tries to understand and treat functional disorders, which are disorders characterised by somatic symptoms that cannot be explained by underlying pathological abnormalities.

About the project

ETUDE is about functional disorders, such as fibromyalgia and neurological disorders. People with these disorders have physical symptoms that cannot be explained by an underlying disease. There are various names for these kind of disorders, and the prevalence is not clear. The ITN has 4 main areas: understand the mechanisms underlying these disorders; improve the diagnosis of the symptoms; improve treatments; and reduce stigma, which is really important in this field, because doctors underestimate these disorders, since they cannot identify pathological abnormalities.

 The application

I was already involved in a EU network, the EURONET-SOMA, with well-known researchers in our field, which was initiated with a grant from the Ministry of Science and Research of Hamburg [Germany]. After two meetings, we became aware that we needed to further fund our activities and meetings. We decided to go for an ITN, which seemed to fit very well because the aim is to train the next generation of researchers, which is a need in our field. We also decided to apply for an ITN because you can choose the research topic. I had heard that this was the last attempt in Horizon H2020 and that in the following EU programme the number of submissions would be restricted, so I thought to try.

For the writing, I was supported through the Grant Support Hub by an external company that helped me a lot in the beginning with drafting the non-scientific parts of the proposal. I wrote the proposal by myself and asked the partners only for specific information.

The network

We already had a core network and added new partners from Southern and Eastern Europe to cover different geographical areas. It is important to have an established collaboration with a core network to develop such a proposal. For the non-academic partners, I simply searched for interesting companies online and approached them whether they would be interested to be involved.


Take a chance and do not get demotivated by the low success percentages. I applied and got the ITN in the first attempt. I hope this encourages people to apply. Then, try to make your proposal original, because everyone can write a proposal following instructions, but you need to make your proposal stand up. As I already said, it is easier to write a proposal by yourself; only ask specific questions to the partners. After you receive the grant, there are still a lot of questions you need to answer before you can sign the grant and the consortium agreements, which I did not expect; there is good support within the UMCG also for this phase.

Take-home message

Take a chance; write an original proposal; write it by yourself and ask for specific input; get support.