The 2024 ERC work program has been officially adopted and published on July 11th 2023. As indicated earlier by the ERC, this work program has introduced some significant changes as compared to previous programs. In this article, we have summarized the main changes.
Changes to the presentation of the PI profile:
The CV and Track Record parts (appearing in the B1 document) have been combined and simplified, and now account for one section limited to 4 pages.
This section should include personal details, education, key qualifications, current position(s) and relevant previous positions, a list of up to ten research outputs that demonstrate how the applicant has advanced knowledge in their field, with an emphasis on more recent achievements, and a list of selected examples of significant peer recognition.
Comparing to the previous B1 template, note that the “Early achievements” and “Ten-years” track record with respective requirements were removed.
Instead, the following expectations are mentioned:
- A Starting Grant Principal Investigator should have already shown evidence of the potential for research independence, for example by having produced at least one important publication as the main author or without the participation of their PhD supervisor.
- A Consolidator Grant Principal Investigator should have already shown evidence of research independence.
- An ERC Advanced Grant Principal Investigator is expected to be an active researcher and to have a track record of significant research achievements.
Another significant change in this section is that applicants are invited to provide a short narrative description about the information they include: e.g., “A short explanation of the significance of the selected outputs, the role of the applicant in producing each of them, and how they demonstrate the applicant’s capacity to successfully carry out their proposed project, as well as a short explanation of the importance of the listed examples of significant peer recognition” and “The applicant may also include relevant additional information on career breaks, diverse career paths, and life events, as well as any particularly noteworthy contributions to the research community. These will provide context to the evaluation panels when assessing the Principal Investigator’s research achievements and peer recognition in relation to their career stage.”
With regards to the researcher’s career path, please note that now upon a request for eligibility window extension, a respective document should be submitted indicating the request. A template found in the “Information for applicants” should be used.
Lump sum funding for Advanced Grants:
The lump sum will cover the beneficiaries’ estimated costs for the project and will be based on the work carried out and reported, irrespective of the actual costs incurred for the project and/or the successful outcome of the project activities. The maximum budget will remain EUR 2,500,000 for a period of 5 years, including additional funding up to EUR 1,000,000.
For Advanced Grants, the Principal Investigator will have the flexibility to use the lump sum contribution as they see fit, as long as the project is implemented as agreed. Where additional funding (extra budget) is awarded, the same flexibility can be applied to that part of the budget.
Changes to the evaluation process:
The following questions in the evaluation form were removed: “To what extent is the proposed research high risk-high gain?” and “To what extent does the proposal involve the development of novel methodology?”
The following questions were edited: “To what extent is the outlined scientific approach feasible bearing in mind the ground-breaking nature and ambition of the proposed research?“ (no high risk/high gain as before) and “To what extent does/do the PI(s) provide evidence of creative and original thinking?” (original thinking instead of independent thinking).
More consideration to the individual career path and personal input of the applicant regarding their achievements: “… the panels will evaluate the intellectual capacity, creativity, and commitment of the Principal Investigator(s), with a focus on the extent to which the Principal Investigator(s) has the required scientific expertise and capacity to successfully execute the project. During the evaluation, the peer review panels will take into account the phase of the Principal Investigator’s transition to independence, diverse research career paths and particularly noteworthy contributions to the research community, as well as possible breaks in the research career of the applicant and the effects of major life events or pandemic restrictions on the applicant’s progression as a researcher. Applicants may include relevant additional information on their research careers to provide context to the evaluation panels when assessing their research achievements and peer recognition.”
Procedure and ranking:
- For each panel, up to 44 proposals will be retained for step 2 of the evaluation.
- The ranking has slightly changed and proposals will now be ranked as follows:
- Proposals that were retained to step 2 will be ranked “A invited”
- Proposals that were not retained to step 2 will be ranked either “A not invited”, B or C.
- A candidate whose proposal is scored A at step 1 of the evaluation, but not taken to interview (i.e., A not invited), will be free to submit a proposal in the following year’s calls.
- “A invited” and “A not invited” were also added as outcomes for the first step of evaluation to SyG evaluation.
Changes to the panel structure:
The ERC has introduced changes to the panels in the Life Science and Social Sciences and Humanities domains. The main changes are as follows:
- The LS3 panel title has been changed from “Cellular, developmental and regenerative biology” to “Cell biology, development, stem cells and regeneration”.
- The LS5 subtitle and descriptors have been changed and include more examples.
- A new panel (SH8 – Studies of Cultures and Arts) has been added. It combines cultural studies, art history, architecture, music, performing arts, museum studies, cultural heritage, and other fields (from SH5) with social anthropology (from SH3).
- Some descriptors have been changed in other SH panels – particularly note the changes in SH1 and SH6.
The final Panel structure applicable to all 2024 ERC calls can be found here.
Restrictions on resubmission:
A new restriction on submission has been added: “An applicant Principal Investigator, whose proposal has been selected for funding and who is preparing a grant agreement under a 2023 ERC call, may not apply for a Starting, Consolidator, or Advanced Grant under a 2024 ERC call”. This is in line with previous restrictions, that state that a PI can participate in only one main frontier research grant at any one time, but is more explicit regarding the submission of a new proposal while a recent application has been selected for funding.
For Synergy grants, restrictions have been slightly relaxed and now apply only for proposals scoring C in step 1 in 2023 and 2022 and only on consecutive submissions to Synergy (i.e., no penalty for AdG).
A new prize for excellent public engagement was introduced:
This new prize was introduced by the ERC for recognising and rewarding outstanding science communicators among its PIs, who successfully engage audiences outside their domain with ERC-funded research.
In the context of this prize, “public engagement” may include, for example:
- Citizen science activities conducted in collaboration or consultation with the public;
- Public outreach activities putting the spotlight on a research topic, promoting discussion or inspiring potential future researchers;
- Activities that foster consultation and exchange with citizen groups to raise awareness on a topic, to address a societal challenge, or to contribute to an issue in the public debate. Examples of people and organizations that are likely to be engaged include journalists, policymakers at regional, national, or international levels, non-governmental organizations, citizen or patient groups, and product users.
Eligible applicants for the 2024 prize are PIs in an ERC frontier research project, that is either ongoing or has ended on or after 31 December 2021. Up to six prizes will be awarded under this work programme of a value of EUR 10,000 each.