The outcome of the ERC evaluation process is an Evaluation Summary Report (ESR). In case the applicant won the ERC grant, the ESR is usually pleasant reading material. However, this is not always the case. In this post we will discuss exactly how to read the ESR.
The main purpose of reading the ESR is getting professional feedback about the project. One of the outcomes is understanding if the reason for rejection precludes the project from reapplying in consecutive deadlines. Comment from the ESR may also motivate you to file a redress when relevant.
ESR Comments – Important, nice to have and irrelevant
The best way to analyze such ESRs is to categorize the comments into the following three groups:
- I – Highly important comments: usually refer directly to the scientific content and concept of the project, or to the suggested methodology.
- II – “Nice to have” comments: these comments tend to be more technical, and normally do not serve as main reasons for disqualification of an ERC grant application.
- III – Irrelevant / Unexplained / Unjustified / Personal comments: these are comments which do not reflect the essence of ERC and may come from uninformed reviewers. They have the tendency to be unfair and unjust.
Group I is the most important group of comments. First, the applicant must try to objectively assess whether the reviewer was right. If the answer is positive, the applicant must revise the project’s concept and/or the scientific presentation accordingly. However, if the applicant argues that these comments are incorrect, he/she should carefully reconsider the proposal’s presentation, and how to defend the scientific concept in order to avoid repeating such criticism. An important thing to check is how many reviewers repeated such comments addressing the same issue. This will give an indication of the severity of the issue in the eyes of the reviewers. Keep in mind that external reviewers are independent. For this reason, it is important to carefully address criticism on the scientific merit which repeats itself more than once.
In Group II we should start by checking if more than one reviewer mentions a specific comment. Getting a specific technical comment from only one reviewer ‘weighs’ less, compared to a repeating comment. After collecting these comments, consider which comments to address in the new application and how. It is not always recommended to attend to all the comments in this group.
As for Group III, review carefully, but note that in most cases the advice would be to ignore this type of comments.
It is important to remember that as ERC is a highly competitive grant, resubmission is not simply copy&paste of the previous proposal. First, the applicant must carefully review the ESR and consider the comments, criticism, personal and career considerations. It is highly advised to understand the ESR report and to see if the project proposal is ERC material, or whether it needs further improvement, modification and adjustments. If he/she wishes to reapply, it is critical to give the application process careful attention.