European Research Council Grants Info-session and Workshop 10 September 2015

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1 European Research Council Grants Info-session and Workshop 10 September 2015

2 What we will cover today THEORY ERC Characteristics Measures of excellence Patterns from 8 years of existence Funding schemes and principles PRACTICE Proposal structure, evaluation criteria and procedure Mentality, language and approach

3 PART I ERC CHARACTERISTICS 3

4 ERC Characteristics (1/2) Basic introduction First European fund for creative, ground-breaking research Long-term individual grants: stress individual s autonomy One researcher (any nationality), one host institution (any country*), one project (any subject) *Host institution must be in European Member State or Horizon 2020 Associated Country (Israel, Norway, Iceland, Turkey ); Grants are portable A substantial budget! EUR 1.7 bn/year for EUR 2.2 bn/year for % of H2020 budget! 4

5 ERC Characteristics (2/2) Governance Led by an independent Scientific Council (22 members) Implemented by a dedicated agency (ERCEA) Accountable to the European Commission Evaluation by 25 panels (international peer review principle) This governance structure has helped the ERC gain a solid international reputation! 5

6 The most cited ERC grant publication citations: Michael Grätzel, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne. Article on the efficiency increase of dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs), Science, November 2011 (Yella et al., 2011) 6

7 Measuring excellence How do they know their funded projects live up to high expectations? High output: Average 35 publications per project (18 in SH, 23 in LS, 48 in PS) High ranking: Sample of publications: half part of the top 10% most highly cited publications in their scientific discipline and year of publication (Annual Report 2014, p. 54) 11% in the top 1% most highly cited publications worldwide On average, a third of all ERC projects have reported an article or review that ranks in the top 1% most highly cited publications worldwide 7

8 PART I PATTERNS

9 ERC: patterns from 8 years of existence The ERC prides itself in its reputation and efficiency In FP7: launched 18 calls, evaluated proposals, awarded grants (success rate 10%) to individuals at 600 host institutions in 30 countries June 2015: 5000th grantee, Dr Iva Tolić, a Croatian cell biophysicist Whoever has will be given more Strong concentration of grantees in a handful of institutions and geographical regions BUT: Scientific Council hopes to widen participation problem not lack of quality, but lack of infrastructures and culture! 9

10 Impact on ERC grantees careers A study sheds light on grantees career trajectories study to assess impact of grant on professional development StG: self-selection phenomenon (publications and independence similar for selected and rejected candidates) Difference: grantees have more time for research & have a more positive outlook on life and their professional future! 10

11 The ERC s exemplary action for gender equality Only 25% applications from women Tendency of lower success rate ERC Gender Equity Plan New in 2016 Work Programme: Limit of children for eligibility extension removed List of track record limited (quality vs quantity) Care of sick relative counts towards eligibility extension 11

12 ERC grants: Top regions Number of StG, CoG, AdG and average success rates for top 50 localities 12

13 ERC grants: top institutions Top organisations hosting ERC Principal Investigators (Feb 2015) 13

14 PART I ERC FUNDING SCHEMES AND PRINCIPLES 14

15 ERC funding schemes Three main schemes from two years after PhD upwards Starting Grants 2-7 years after PhD Up to 2 m Consolidator Grants 7-12 years after PhD Up to 2.75 m 5 year projects Advanced Grants achievements in 10+ years Up to 3.5 m Proof-of-Concept Grants (market potential, 150 k ) 15

16 Starting Grant expectations Starting PI: potential for research independence, evidence of maturity (at least one important publication without the participation of the PhD supervisor). A promising track record of early achievements appropriate to field and career stage (significant publications as main author in int peer-reviewed journals, record of invited presentations in int conferences, patents, awards, prizes ) TRACK RECORD: At least five publications in major international peer-reviewed multidisciplinary journals AND/OR leading international journals of respective research field Monographs, patents, prizes, awards Spend min 50% time on ERC project 16

17 Consolidator Grant expectations Consolidator PI: have shown research independence and evidence of maturity; several important publications without PhD supervisor. Promising track record of early achievements. Same as Starting grant TRACK RECORD: At least 10 publications in major international peer-reviewed multidisciplinary AND/OR leading international journals of respective research field Monographs, patents, prizes, awards Spend min 50% time on ERC project 17

18 Advanced Grant expectations Advanced PI: active researcher, track record of significant research achievements in the last 10 years. Be an exceptional leader, be original and have significant research contributions 10 publications as senior author, 3 major research monographs, at least one translated into another language (humanities, social sciences) Alternatives: 5 granted patents, 10 invited presentations, 3 research expeditions 18

19 2016 information Starting Consolidator Advanced Call ERC-2016-StG ERC-2016-CoG ERC-2016-AdG Opens 29/07/ /10/ /05/2016 Closes 17/11/ /02/ /11/2016 Budget 485 m 605 m 540 m Approx. funded projects Approx. budget/project ,45 m 1,8 m 2,3 m Project starts January 2017 April 2017 July

20 PART II THE ERC PROPOSAL 20

21 ERC applicants are excellent researchers. This is the very reason why proposal-writing is troublesome Your achievements and research are natural to you 21

22 Approaching the ERC proposal - First steps Plan the submission months in advance (the deadline is strict; you might not be eligible for the same grant the following year) Familiarize yourself with the ERC Work Programme, the Information for applicants, and the proposal template (specimen) Register at the Horizon 2020 Participant Portal Use the word-format template (to download from the Participant Portal) Prepare the supporting documents (Host commitment letter, PhD diploma, certified English translation) For questions, contact your internal support services, the National Contact Point, or the ERCEA functional mailbox (Starting, Consolidator) 22

23 Exercise 1 How would you evaluate a PI-driven grant proposal? What aspects could be relevant? 24

24 ERC Proposal Structure PART A ADMINISTRATIVE PART 25

25 Proposal Structure: Part A General and administrative part; filled in online (Participant Portal) General information Proposal title and acronym, duration, review panel, keywords for evaluators 2000 character abstract (non confidential) Declarations (financial capacity, absence of fraud ) List of participants (host organisation) Ethics issues table Humans (cells, tissues, embryos, data), Animals, Third countries, Environment, Dual use Ethics issues are self-declared at proposal stage. Detailed scenarii for ethics issues are provided (ERC Rules for Submission & Evaluation) Administrative data of participating organisations Host institution, host department(s), principal investigator (contact data, ResearcherID) The host organisations needs an identification number (PIC) to submit the proposal (it most probably has one) Budget overview Call specific questions (PhD date, permission to publish data) Excluded reviewers (up to three) 26

26 ERC Proposal Structure PART B RESEARCH PROPOSAL 27

27 Proposal structure: Part B Part B1 is evaluated at the first, part B2 at the second stage. Part B1: Synopsis Proposal summary (non confidential, 2000 characters) A. Extended synopsis of the scientific proposal (5 pages) B. CV (2 pages) C. Early achievements track-record (2 pages) Funding ID: On-going and submitted grants and funding (no page limits) Part B2: Scientific proposal (15 pages) A. State-of-the-art and objectives B. Methodology C. Resources (including project costs) budget table; project duration, % of time to be worked on project and spent in EU Host Institution Binding Commitment letter (template provided) Page limits applied strictly 28

28 Proposal Title, Acronym, and Summary Part B1 Title and acronym are short and clear (acronymcreator.net) The summary is the same as the abstract from part A. A crystal clear abstract explains the idea, the objective, and method 30

29 Imagine applying for a dream job. The recruiters have to sift through countless applications and make a first selection in a short period of time. The ERC proposal is no different. 31

30 A. Extended Synopsis Part B1 A first impression does not get a second chance. A stand-alone part, not a complement: Only part read in the first evaluation step. Page limit: 5 pages, references included Use the templates Respect formatting constraints (font, size, margins, page number) Clear formatting counts: bullet points, breaks, subtitles 32

31 B. Curriculum Vitae Part B1 A classical CV Mention the exact date of your PhD award The competition is high: sell yourself without bluffing Report on career breaks Page limit: 2 pages 33

32 C. Early achievements track record Part B1 The Principal Investigator (PI) must provide a list of achievements reflecting their track record appropriate to their research field and career stage No repetition from the CV is necessary Choose achievements that are valued in YOUR domain Publications seem to be the most relevant to evaluators You can give explanations on your publications, if necessary (explain if peer reviewing is not widely used etc) Representative Publications (max 5 for StG, max 10 for CoG) in international peerreviewed multi-disciplinary scientific journals and/or in leading international peerreviewed journals Research monographs (translations if applicable) Granted patent(s) Invited presentations to peer-reviewed, internationally established conferences and/or international advanced schools Prizes, Awards, Academy memberships 34

33 The Scientific Proposal Part B2 (only evaluated if the proposal is retained for the second stage) A. State-of-the-art and objectives B. Methodology C. Resources Some evaluation comments: The objectives are not very novel or beyond the state of the art The programme is not of particularly high risk/high gain research. There are many issues that are not addressed in the extended synopsis to enable an informed assessment of the feasibility. While feasible, the proposal does not represent a major advance in the field. The project is fascinating and innovative and will be pushing the frontiers. The proposal is written very clearly, the PI has a clear vision of the goal and the way to reach the goal. The project is clearly feasible. 35

34 EVALUATION PROCEDURE AND CRITERIA 36

35 Evaluation procedure ERC proposals Part B1 Step 1 Step 2 Grade A Parts B1,B2 Individual assessments Panel discussion Majority vote Peer review evaluation panel INTERVIEW Chair Members Remote evaluations Panel meetings Grade B Grade C Peer review evaluation panel Retained list Reserve list Resubmission embargo Not retained 37

36 Evaluation panels 25 panels, composed of panel members and a distinguished panel chair Chosen by the Scientific Council May be assisted by remote referees (evaluators) Final panel decision may deviate from individual evaluations Names of chair and members made public prior to/after the call deadline respectively but panellists should not be contacted Panels per scientific domains Physical Sciences and Engineering: 10 Panels Life Sciences: 9 Panels Social Sciences and Humanities: 6 Panels Link: Names of panel chairs and members 38

37 Formal Evaluation Criteria 1. Research Project Ground-breaking nature, ambition and feasibility Address important challenges Ambitious objectives, beyond state of the art high risk, high gain Scientific approach Feasibility Appropriate research methodology; development of new methodology Time and resources well planned and necessary 39

38 Ground-breaking? Examples theory or concept (PE1) synthesis of existing/dispersed ideas (SH) method, tool, technology, software, algorithm device/instrument (PE) New material (PE), model opening up a research field original hypothesis going against current theory insights (LS), findings (SH), empirical discovery that alters our understanding combination of disciplines to address a topic 40

39 Formal Evaluation Criteria 2. Principal Investigator Intellectual capacity and creativity Ability to propose and conduct ground-breaking research Prove creative independent thinking Achievements go beyond state of the art Leadership in training young scientists (Advanced Grant) Commitment Prove commitment on ERC project (50% StG, 40% CoG, 30% AdG of time respectively) 41

40 Evaluation: grades and resubmission Grades A. is of sufficient quality to pass to step 2 of the evaluation B. is of high quality but not sufficient to pass to step 2 of the evaluation C. is not of sufficient quality to pass to step 2 of the evaluation Restrictions to resubmission. Who can submit to the 2016 call? Step 1 Step 2 Grade obtained in past calls A B C A B funded 2015 Resubmission rules may vary from year to year. These rules apply to the 2016 call only. 42

41 Step 2: the interview Meet the panel that has evaluated your proposal in Brussels 3x more candidates invited that will be funded Objectives: see if you stand behind your idea and can explain it clearly; ask further questions on the proposal Interviewees will be briefed on presentation type, focus etc (varies from panel to panel). Total duration presentation, Q&A: minutes Possible questions: scientific aspects of the project; your person & background, project management, use of resources, personnel, budget. Be well groomed, show enthusiasm, speak without notes, foresee possible questions (weak points of the proposal)! 43

42 Exercise 2 Read three proposal abstracts. Match them with grades A,B, or C 44

43 Exercise 3 Go on the ERC website and search for funded projects in your domain. To what extent does the project comply with the ERC evaluation criteria? 45

44 Further reference ERC 2015 Work Programme ERC Calls Guide for Applicants StG and CoG Guide for Applicants AdG ERC website ERC newsletter ERC Annual Report Panel members 46

45 Katharina Horst Benjamin Questier European Funding Programmes LUXINNOVATION GIE 5, avenue des Hauts-Fourneaux L-4362 Esch-sur-Alzette T (+352) company/luxinnovation-gie Luxinnovation.Making.Innovation.Happen Luxinnovation Follow us on Subscribe to our newsletter: Thank you! Questions and answers 47

46 BACKUP SLIDES 48

47 Video: the ERC, step by step 49

48 Resources budget table Eligible direct and indirect costs Direct costs: research, management, training and dissemination activities Personnel Costs, subcontracting, travel/subsistence, publication, IPR Indirect costs: cannot be identified as directly attributable to the project. 25% flat rate of direct costs General management, office/lab space, maintenance, PCs..,) A low budget is no advantage. Salary rules of host apply; PI salary included if not covered otherwise Include cost of international conferences etc 50

49 Some tips for your proposal Approach: Prepare in the long run Embrace the ERC uniqueness and show understanding of its concepts (go beyond state of the art, high risk/high gain, feasibility) Style: Focus on I (not the team), be concise (shorter than max) Content: Promise a significant advance. Focus on risk assessment No Gos: plan for industrial application, promise only incremental advances, discuss context & background in great detail 51

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