Shall I apply to ERC as CoG or AdG?
Researchers in the upper limit of the CoG eligibility window, tend to ask the following question: “Shall I apply as CoG now or as AdG next year?”. Just as a reminder – The eligibility window for Consolidator (CoG) applicants is 7 to 12 years post the PhD. If more than 12 years have passed since the PhD, one should apply as an Advanced (AdG) applicant. The question in subject is about the borderline between submitting as ‘mature’ CoG or as ‘early’ AdG.
This question is only one of the reasons for waiting. Other reasons may also include lack of relevant and significant fresh publications. A premature project concept and/or personal considerations are also good reasons to consider.
Normally, these reasons are legitimate for postponing any ERC application (regardless of the category). However, when it gets to ‘mature’ ERC CoG applicants, there is an additional thing to consider. The common belief is that ‘early’ AdG applicants have little chance to get the grant, because they compete against more ‘mature’ AdG applicants.
Is that really the case?
The simple answer is: No. To begin with, there are no official restrictions or guidelines that forbid early ERC AdG applicants to apply. On the contrary, the official documentation of ERC specifically states that applicants (at all stages) should be compared with researchers at a similar career stage. This is the key element for understanding why early AdG’s have the same chance as any other applicant.
ERC is looking for researchers that have not yet reached their career peak, but are on the way there. ERC AdG will normally not fund researchers that have passed this peak and cannot reach new heights.
When looking at the main reasons for rejections of ERC AdG applications, two stand out. The first has to do with the ‘incremental work’. ERC is constantly looking for major leaps forward which constitute as ‘non-incremental work’. The other reason is the lack in recent, ‘fresh’ significant publications.
On both counts, many post-CoG active and productive applicants may have a clear advantage compared to more ‘mature’ AdG applicants. One advantage is if they produce new relevant and significant publications. Another advantage is if they can offer an innovative competitive project concept that can lead to new scientific breakthroughs.