It is generally advised for ERC applicants to familiarize themselves with the unique ERC evaluation process. Simply put – If you know what to expect, you know how to prepare. Specifically, the ERC Synergy grant (SyG) has its own unique and demanding specifications, and it is important to ensure that the proposal complies with these. To do so, it is essential to first become acquainted with the process that aims to assess the proposal in order to foresee expected queries and maximize the odds for positive feedback. So – if you are considering to apply to the ERC SyG – this is an important article for you to get to know the ERC SyG evaluation process better.
What is unique about ERC SyG evaluation process
Although the general conceptual evaluation outlines are similar to all ERC proposals, the review process of SyG proposals differs from the review processes of the personal Starting (StG), Consolidator (CoG) and Advanced (AdG) grants proposals.
First, unlike the two-step evaluation process of the personal grants, the SyG proposal review consists of three steps, including an interview.
Second, the uniqueness of the ERC SyG grant lies within the requirement for a highly interdisciplinary synergistic project. This requirement results in an unanticipated range of topics covered by submitted proposals. To account for this in ERC SyG, and allow an appropriate evaluation of the complex interdisciplinary projects, the panels’ composition is dynamic and subject to change in order to fit the multidisciplinary nature of the proposals. This is in contrast to the predefined panels of the StG, CoG and AdG calls.
In this regard, and to further facilitate the allocation process, the applicants are expected to select 4-6 ERC keywords out of a given list alongside free keywords that best describe their project. Additionally, the project’s abstract is also used for this purpose.
The 3 steps of the ERC SyG evaluation process
Upon submission, the ERC SyG evaluation of applications proceeds as follows:
- Step 1: The extended synopsis, alongside the CVs of the PIs and their corresponding track records (part B1 only), are evaluated by at least three reviewers out of a single panel comprised of panel members and chairs. After a remote assessment of the proposal, the SyG panel chairs and vice-chairs meet and select the proposals that are fit to pass to step 2 of the evaluation process. At this step, the number of selected proposals is up to seven times the indicated budget for the call of that given year. PIs whose proposals are rejected at this point may be subject to a blocking period, depending on the evaluation score at this step.
- Step 2: Five new panels are created out of the pool of panelists from Step 1, each consisting of 15-18 experts. These panels are formed so that they include the best expertise to cover the topics of the proposals selected to pass to Step 2. At this point in the evaluation process, the complete version of the selected proposals (Parts B1 and B2) is evaluated by the panel members as well as by external specialized reviewers. Following the remote individual assessment, the panels jointly discuss and select the proposals that will be further reviewed in the next stage. The number of selected proposals at this stage corresponds to approximately four times the indicative budget allocated per panel. For proposals that have reached this stage of evaluation, no restriction on further submission is applied upon rejection.
- Step 3 – the final stage of the review process: PIs of the retained proposals are invited to an interview with 3-5 panels (possibly altered as compared to step 2) where the presence of all PIs is obligatory. Usually, the interview lasts around 45 minutes. During the interview, applicants may be given 10-15 minutes to present their research project. The remaining time may be devoted to questions and answers. PIs are expected to scientifically intrigue the reviewers while demonstrating the synergistic nature of the project.
Ultimately, projects that meet the demanding requirements of the ERC and recommended for funding will be financed if sufficient funds are available. Projects will be funded in priority order based on their rank.
Provided the specifics of the ERC SyG evaluation process, few things should be considered when applying:
- When filling the online form, it is very important to specify the keywords that most accurately represent your project. These will further serve as an indication of the topics your project introduces and accordingly as an indication of the necessary expertise for its evaluation.
- To further assist with the allocation of the proposal to the reviewers that will properly realize its scientific and conceptual novelties, the abstract should present the interdisciplinary aspects of the project and focus on the different fields it comprises.
- The interview in the final stage of the evaluation is an opportunity to elaborate on the project. The aspects demonstrated in the presentation or otherwise discussed should clearly convey the synergistic nature of the project. The contribution of each PI to the overall collaborative work should be reflected in the budgetary considerations and in the conceptual and operational aspects of the project.
If you are considering to apply to the ERC Synergy Grant, check out our available services that can help you best prepare your grant application.