Researchers that are medical doctors (with or without additional degrees), need to be aware of the unique aspects that can affect their eligibility as ERC candidates. In this context, there are three critical issues to consider: 1. Medical doctor (MD) degrees do not automatically qualify as eligible degrees, 2. Applicants holding an MD should be aware of a possible shift of their eligibility window, and 3. Applicants that underwent clinical training may request a further extension of eligibility in certain cases. In this article, we will address these aspects in order to clarify the options that ERC candidates with medical doctor degrees may have in this regard.
What renders a degree in medicine an eligible degree for ERC
In order to be eligible to apply to the ERC Starting (StG) or Consolidator (CoG) grants, a Principal Investigator must have been awarded a PhD or an equivalent doctoral degree. First-professional degrees will not be automatically considered as PhD-equivalent, even if recipients carry the title “Doctor”.
In the case of Medical Doctors – PIs should hold both a PhD and an MD, or an MD with proof of an appointment that requires doctoral equivalency (e.g. post-doctoral fellowship, professorship appointment) to be considered eligible. Additionally, candidates must also provide information on their research experience (including peer-reviewed publications) in order to further substantiate the equivalence of their overall training to a PhD.
A medical doctor degree (or other degrees in medicine) will not be accepted automatically by themselves as equivalent to a PhD award. Without relevant appointments and research experience (as detailed above), the MD degree will not qualify as an eligible degree for ERC.
How the eligibility window is affected for candidates with degrees in medicine
For applicants holding only an MD, and given that the above-mentioned requirements are met, the eligibility time-window will be shifted (and not extended like in career breaks) by 2 years with respect to the regular eligibility time window. Practically speaking, it will be 4 – 9 years and 9 – 14 years past the certified date of the medical degree completion for Starting and Consolidator Grants applicants, respectively. Note that due to the shifted time-window, Starting Grant applicants will not be able to submit an ERC grant in the first 4 years after completing the medical doctor degree.
The case of holding both an MD and a PhD
For applicants holding both MD and PhD degrees, the eligibility window will be determined according to the first eligible degree. If the applicant had been awarded an MD first and held any appointment that requires doctoral equivalency (e.g. a post-doctoral fellowship or a professorship appointment) before receiving their PhD, the first eligible degree will be the MD and the eligibility window will be calculated as described above – 4 – 9 years for StG and 9 – 14 years for CoG. If the PhD was awarded first or if the MD cannot be solely considered as an eligible degree, the eligibility window will be calculated as usual, according to the date of the successful defence of the PhD degree (2 – 7 years and 7 – 12 years past this date for Starting and Consolidator applicants, respectively).
A quick guide to calculating your eligibility window:
- If you have an MD degree but not a PhD: you are eligible only if you held an appointment that requires doctoral equivalency as well, and demonstrated research experience. In that case, your eligibility window will be 4 – 9 years, and 9 – 14 years past the MD completion date for StG and CoG, respectively.
- If you have both an MD and a PhD:
- If the PhD is first – your eligibility window will be 2 – 7 years past the date of the successful defence of the PhD degree for Starting Grant, and 7 – 12 years past this date for Consolidator Grant.
- If the MD is first – this will depend on whether you held relevant positions (as explained above) after your MD but before receiving your PhD. If so, the first eligible degree is the MD. In that case your eligibility window will be 4 – 9 years past the MD completion date for the Starting Grant, and 9 – 14 years past this date for the Consolidator Grant. However, if you have held no such positions between the MD and PhD, the MD will not be considered eligible and your first eligible degree will be your PhD. In that case, your eligibility window will be 2 – 7 years past the date of the successful defence of the PhD degree for the Starting Grant, and 7 – 12 years past this date for the Consolidator Grant.
Clinical training as a career break
In addition to the possible shift of the eligibility window, one should also consider that clinical training is an eligible career break which can extend the applicant’s eligibility window. This is mostly intended to allow medical doctors who specialised in a specific clinical area to discount the time spent on clinical training in the calculation of their eligibility window. However, the same rule applies to non medical doctors applying to the ERC calls. These cases are analysed on a case by case basis and will likely be reviewed by the Eligibility Committee before a final decision is made on eligibility extension.
The effective elapsed time since the award of the first eligible degree taken into consideration for eligibility can be reduced by the documented time (in days) of clinical training received by the PI. Extension will be considered only for clinical training received after the award of the first eligible degree, and specifically for this reason – the maximum extension is 4 years (counting up until the call deadline). No extension will be accepted for serving as a house doctor or hospital doctor unless it is part of a clinical training programme. In case of part-time clinical training, the exact total training time (in days) will be accepted on a pro-rata basis to extend the eligibility window of the applicant. If your first eligible degree is your PhD, only clinical training received after the date of the successful defence of the PhD degree will be considered. If your first eligible degree is your MD, this extension will be given in addition to potential shift of the eligibility window, as explained above.
As with all other applicants, medical doctors are entitled to an extension of their eligibility window for other reasons as well:
- Maternity and Paternity leave – For Maternity leave, the extension is 18 months per child or longer if documented. As for Paternity leave – the extension will correspond to the time of the actual leave taken, as documented. In both cases, this could be considered an eligible extension regardless of whether the child was born before or after the first eligible degree completion.
- Long-term illness (more than 90 days) of the PI or a close relative, as documented and if occurred after the completion of the first eligible degree.
- National (military) service, as documented and if occurred after the first date rendering eligibility.
- Natural Disaster – as documented and if occurred after the first date rendering eligibility.
- Seeking Asylum – as documented and if occurred after the completion of the first eligible degree.
Notably, extensions for the different eligible and documented reasons are additive.
As can be seen, there is a lot to take into account when calculating your eligibility window. This is exactly why we’ve created our helpful ERC Eligibility Window Calculator tool. To assess your eligibility for ERC – please see our eligibility window calculator.