ERC is highly competitive and perhaps the most prestigious amongst European grants. Its sole evaluation criterion is scientific excellence and success rates are relatively low. This alone could discourage many researchers from applying. Unfortunately, we often encounter that Social Sciences and Humanities (SH) researchers in particular are more discouraged to apply. This is often due to some common presumptions that might present a distorted view on the ERC grant. Such misconceptions refer to associating frontier and “high-risk” research only to “hard” science disciplines such as biology, chemistry, physics etc; or that the scientific profile of researchers from these disciplines are assumed to be better and more impressive than SH ones, therefore assuming they have a higher chance of securing an ERC grant. In reality, ERC is an incredible opportunity for SH disciplines that have much to offer for advancing ground-breaking research and be in the forefront of science. Moreover, many SH researchers might not be aware that they fully match the ‘’ERC material’’ profile and can exploit this funding opportunity. In this post, we’ll refute common misconceptions regarding SH researchers and why more SH researchers should apply to the ERC grant.
Breaking down SH research misconceptions in ERC
First, let’s address a few common misconceptions often raised by SH researchers themselves:
- ‘’I can’t compete with life/exact sciences’’. You don’t. There is a separate and dedicated budget for the SH domain, and all SH applications are evaluated by scholars only from the SH domain.
- “There is no ‘high risk’ in SH research”. Not accurate. High risk can be found in a first attempt at proving a novel hypothesis, suggesting a new theoretical framework to an open/unsolved question, or challenging a common approach by suggesting a paradigm shift, all of which are highly relevant to SH disciplines. In that respect, how you frame and structure your research could be critical. In most cases the high risk is there (or could be), you just have to state it.
- ‘’It’s highly time-consuming and the chances of winning are slim’’. Partially true, but so do most top grants. Preparing an ERC proposal is challenging and intensive. However, it is a relatively short proposal, and more importantly, it is a remarkable opportunity to pursue your dream research with the best possible conditions a researcher can ask for. This grant, on top of its prestige and reputation, is probably one of the most generous and flexible grants you’ll ever receive, especially for performing SH research. There is no call text to conform to, no partners to consider, and the administrative burden is very minimal. Think of it as your personal research endeavour that is just waiting to be realised.
Facts and figures about SH research and ERC
Between 2007, when ERC was first launched, and 2019, there were 2,139 ERC funded projects from the SH domain, out of 9,988 overall. This means that over 21% of the funded ERC projects were of SH disciplines.
In 2019 alone, nearly 27% – that is 245 out of 909 funded ERC projects – were of SH researchers.
Still, the total number of submitted applications in the SH domain is drastically lower than in the Life Sciences (LS) and Physical Sciences & Engineering (PE) domains. Much of that gap is due to the misconceptions discussed above.
Changing the conversation for SH research in ERC
We hope to have made a clear case for why SH researchers can and should apply for ERC grants. Most of them have full institutional support if choosing to apply, in addition to both internal and external assistance to consult and guide them through the process. Whether coming from psychology, political science, linguistics, philosophy, history, law or theatre – all you need to do is get one step closer to an ERC grant.
* Numbers and statistics are taken from the official ERC website.