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Last updated on June 19, 2024

Submitted ERC proposals are reviewed by independent evaluation panels. Panel members are selected by the ERC’s Scientific Council for their expertise and standing in their research fields. For the individual calls, i.e. Starting, Consolidator and Advanced Grants, there are 28 defined peer review panels distributed within three scientific domains – physical sciences and engineering, life sciences and social sciences.


The panel members per panel vary between categories, alternate between years and may undergo changes within the alternating years. 


ERC applicants are required to choose an evaluation panel to review their proposals. For some, the panel choice may seem fairly straightforward. In other cases, the panel selection is more complex. This is particularly relevant for multidisciplinary projects or for projects whose scientific topic is not covered in the panel’s keywords list. In these cases, choosing the ‘right’ evaluation panel can be critical. 


So, why is the panel choice important? what should you consider when choosing your evaluation panel? and when should you consider opting for a secondary panel?


The importance of panel choice

Along with the project abstract and keywords, the panel selection will guide the ERC to allocate the proposal to suitable reviewers. The evaluation panel will manage the review process throughout its stages, including the final interview. 


Although applicants are required to choose their evaluation panel, the ERC treats it more like a recommendation. Indeed, the initial allocation of the proposal to a panel follows this recommendation. However, in cases where there is a mismatch between the focus of the research project and the selected panel, the ERC can redirect the application to a different panel. To avoid this, it’s important to lead the panel choice to ensure your application is evaluated by the desired evaluation panel. 


Having familiarised yourself with the ERC panels list, we recommend looking at past panel members and their scientific backgrounds in the relevant panel. This can help you predict the potential panel members and assess whether this would be a good choice for your project. 


Once you have a panel in mind, try tailoring the proposal to the desired panel by “feeding the reviewer” to meet their requirements and expectations.


We advise choosing a panel early on rather than waiting until the last minute when you submit the proposal, as the panel choice and the proposal writing process affect each other reciprocally. The chosen evaluation panel could affect the nature of the project when tailoring it to the panel, and vice versa – if the nature of the project changes, perhaps the panel choice should be adjusted. This might require ongoing evaluation during the proposal writing process, to ensure the project description matches the panel choice as the proposal matures. 


Considerations when choosing a panel

The ERC panel members are instructed to evaluate proposals based on their scientific excellence. This includes assessing the ground-breaking nature, ambition and feasibility of the research project, as well as the intellectual capacity and creativity of the applicant, including their research achievements and peer recognition, to determine their scientific expertise and capacity to successfully execute the proposed project. 


These two aspects should essentially lead the panel choice. Having looked at the panel list, ask yourself the following questions:


Firstly, which panel speaks the project’s scientific language? which panel will be able to best understand and appreciate the scientific merit and groundbreaking aspects of my research project (including its terminology, approaches and proposed methods)? 


Secondly, which panel will be able to acknowledge my scientific expertise, research achievements and leadership? 


In most cases, the answer will lead you to the best panel choice for you and your proposed project. 


If there is no ‘perfect’ match or a clear choice, ask yourself which panel will be the ‘next best thing’. 


If the answers to these questions result in more than one panel, you might consider opting for a secondary panel.  


Opting for a secondary panel

In addition to the mandatory primary evaluation panel, the applicant can also choose a secondary panel if necessary. The secondary panel can be chosen either within or across the scientific domains. Although this option is mostly relevant for multidisciplinary projects, not all will require two evaluation panels and this shouldn’t be viewed as an obvious choice. Opting for a secondary panel should be carefully considered and well justified. In addition to the questions we listed above, try answering the following ones – 


What is the leading research discipline of the project’s core idea? in which scientific area does the weight and focus of the project lay?


Which panel best reflects the scientific excellence and expertise of the PI (according to their track record and research achievements)? 


These questions will help determine not only if a secondary panel is essential, but also the hierarchy of the selected panels. This is critical, as the primary panel will lead and manage the evaluation process, and may (or may not) choose to include the secondary panel in the evaluation process. 


Another consideration when involving an additional panel in the evaluation process is that it might expose the proposal to a wider variety of reviewers and potential criticism. 


Therefore, we recommend opting for a secondary panel only if you think that the primary panel will fall short in evaluating your proposal, and a complementary panel is critical to its evaluation. For example, a project involving engineering and clinical aspects at its core might necessitate two evaluation panels. 


If you opt for a secondary panel, make sure that both topics are properly covered in the proposal, and justify your choice by explaining the complementary nature of the two panels and why their combination is essential for the project’s evaluation. 


Synergy grant

Unlike the individual ERC grants, the Synergy grant exclusively funds highly multidisciplinary projects of 2-4 PIs with complementary expertise. The evaluation process is inherently different as it requires a wide variety of reviewers with diverse scientific backgrounds to assess each proposal. As such, the composition of the evaluation panels is not predefined. Instead of choosing an evaluation panel, Synergy grant applicants are requested to choose keywords that best describe their proposal. This, along with the project abstract, will guide the allocation of the proposal to suitable reviewers. Read more on the Synergy grant evaluation process here.



The panel choice is an important part of preparing a competitive ERC proposal. Choosing the best panel for your proposal can increase its chances of success. Therefore, we recommend taking the time to review the panel list well in advance and ensure you’ve made the right choice. 


A final tip is to go over the ERC’s funded projects and evaluated proposals list. Looking at panels that evaluated similar projects or topics to yours can help you choose the right panel. 


Good luck!


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