The purpose of this article is to shed light on the differences between the B1 and B2 forms in the ERC application. We will discuss the intended focus for each one of these forms, and what should be emphasized and elaborated in each section.
Background about the ERC application
The ERC application consists of 3 parts:
- The electronic forms (which are essentially the A form of the application), which include also the budget and resources justification.
- The B1 form which consists of two segments: (1) The extended synopsis (section a); and (2) the PI profile – the CV, track record and funding information (sections b, c and the Funding ID appendix, respectively).
- The B2 form which is the full research proposal (sections a: state-of-the-art and objectives; and section b: methodology).
The ERC evaluation process includes a two-stage peer review process, where only the highest-ranking proposals in step 1 will pass to step 2. Both B1 and B2 are submitted together on the same deadline, however, they are reviewed according to the following process:
- 1st review step – Only the B1 form is reviewed by the review panel members.
- 2nd review step – Both B1 and B2 forms are evaluated by the review panel members, as well as sent out to external reviews by experts in the relevant scientific field(s). The feedback from the external experts will be used by the review panel members and also taken into account during the individual interview phase (which is part of the 2nd review step).
Now, with a clear understanding of the ERC review process, let’s move on to the following recommendations that can make for competitive ERC applications.
A deeper review of the B1 form
The B1 form ‘opens the gate’ to your application. After reading the B1 form, the panel members decide whether to pass your ERC application to the 2nd evaluation step. Therefore, this document is very important and cannot be taken lightly.
As discussed above, the B1 form consists of two segments: (1) The extended synopsis (section a); and (2) the PI profile (sections b, c and the Funding ID appendix).
Let’s refer first to the PI profile, presented in sections b (CV), c (Track record) and the Funding ID appendix. Different from collaborative funding schemes and many other national grants, the ERC is an investigator-driven grant which focuses great attention on the PI’s excellence manifested by his/her background and experience in carrying through groundbreaking research. A lot of the review panel members’ decision rests on the PI’s profile, past achievements, previous research experience, and so on. Hence, it is of paramount importance to ensure that your profile is in line with the ERC expectations in this regard. For a more elaborate discussion on the PI profile for ERC, read our dedicated “ERC material” article.
The Extended Synopsis of your research project is a critical part of the B1. There is a 5-page limit for this section, which presents a great challenge in drafting a highly competitive and concise extended synopsis for your ambitious research project. Nonetheless, the Extended Synopsis must aim to include the following:
- Describe your project, while attending to all key ERC aspects, including the novelty, high-risk, high-gain, non-incremental, investigator-driven and (potentially) hypothesis-driven research project. All these aspects must be well reflected within the extended synopsis text.
- The scientific reasoning for your ambitious project must be well presented in the synopsis as well. Explain what is the state-of-the-art in the field, while highlighting the knowledge gaps that you are addressing. This should also lead to explaining the motivation and the project’s objectives, followed by the selected methodology.
The above elements are to be included in the B1 form of your ERC application. Further below, we’ll touch on some critical “Do’s and Don’ts” to keep in mind as well.
These guidelines contradict an existing urban myth that the extended synopsis should convey your research in general terms, while the B2 form should convey the project proposal in full detail. This is derived from the idea that the reviewers of the extended synopsis are ‘general’ reviewers, in comparison to the ‘experts’ that will evaluate the B2 form. This urban myth is inaccurate, incorrect and misleading, due to the following important points:
- The extended synopsis is evaluated by 3-4 selected panel members. While these panel members might not be experts in the very specific scientific niche of your research proposal, it is expected that they will be experts in the more general research field. Hence, they will certainly be able to review and evaluate your extended synopsis in a critical and relevant manner, suitable for the purpose of the 1st evaluation step.
- There is always an option that at least one of the selected panel members will actually be an expert in your field.
- In the 2nd evaluation step, the extended synopsis will also be evaluated by the external experts who are experts in your area of research specifically.
Given all the above, the biggest challenge in the extended synopsis is to craft a 5-page text that successfully addresses both types of reviewers – those from your specific research area, and the ones that come with a broader research background. Balancing both scientific depths with a broader explanation of your research can be very confusing, but this is the expected process for this section.
A deeper review of the B2 form
The B2 form is the main document that the external experts will review, in addition to the B1 form. In ERC, unlike many other grants, external experts are selected according to the specific nature of the project proposal. In some cases, experts can even be hired to review only a single proposal – your proposal, and they can be from anywhere in the world for that matter. Hence, you must write your B2 form with this information in mind, and draft the text as if you were presenting your research to your scientific peers or scientific advisors / experts in the specific field.
Being that the B2 form is the main research proposal, it should include a full project description. To achieve this, begin by addressing the state of the art and objectives, while elucidating both the scientific (potentially significant) knowledge gaps that your project addresses, as well as the chosen research approach. Next, the proposal should present the research methodology and a work plan.
The B2 form, similar to the B1 form, must convey the key ERC attributes, including the frontier-research nature of the application, novelty, high-risk, high-gain and non-incremental research. If applicable, it should present a hypothesis-driven research project at the level expected in ERC.
B1 and B2 forms – “Do’s and Don’ts”
Having highlighted the above key differences between the B1 and B2 forms, let’s now address more general “Do’s and Don’ts” for your ERC application.
- Ensure your text is clear and focused. Our ‘Top EU grant writing tips’ can help.
- Keep the visual aspects of how you present the text in mind.
- Remember who your audience is, and avoid the ‘Top 6 ways to annoy a grant reviewer’.
- Avoid ‘logic jumps’ in the text.
- Avoid long background texts.
- Although both B1 and B2 forms will be evaluated in the 2nd evaluation step, maintain each one of them as a stand-alone document. Therefore, refrain from cross-referencing between the extended synopsis and the full proposal provided in B2.
- There is no need to include the following items/aspects in the extended synopsis (B1):
- Detailed work plan
- Budget request / justification
- Presentation of the team members/collaborators, their skills and/ or role in the project.
- In the full project proposal and in the extended synopsis, make sure that the focus is on the PI, and not on the team, nor on collaborators. It is perfectly acceptable that the reference to the team members (or collaborators, in case there are any) will be done only when presenting the work plan, or even only in the budget justification text.
- In the Funding ID appendix, be careful not to exploit the fact that there is no page limit for this appendix. Provide all the information required within the boundaries of the tables, as presented in the template.
The above details the key focus points for the B1 and B2 forms of the ERC application. This is an excellent starting point if you are considering to apply to this highly competitive grant. We advise you to read further in the internal links attached, as they provide additional and important information to be taken into account. If you have any questions, or would like our dedicated support as your head out on the ERC path, do not hesitate to contact us.