Many ERC AdG applicants are distinguished and excellent researchers proposing excellent science. Still – there are a few critical points which are often more challenging when it comes to AdG applications compared to ERC Consolidator Grant (CoG) and Starting Grant (StG) applications. Continue reading to find out exactly what is unique about the ERC AdG grant.
6 unique points about the ERC AdG grant:
ERC applicants must be active researchers that have not passed their career peak, but are rather on their way there (or perhaps ready to conquer the next peak). A competitive AdG applicant should be an active and productive researcher. This should be reflected in a fresh and steady scientific track record. ERC will normally not fund researchers that may have passed their career peak and fail to present a project that will reach new heights. This is a highly sensitive issue which is both hard to assess and crucial in screening for competitive AdG applicants.
In order to meet the criterion of reaching new heights in their scientific career, competitive ERC AdG applicants must propose an ambitious, ground-breaking research project in ERC standards. Experience shows that the unique characteristics of ERC projects, compared to many other grants, may sometimes be counter-intuitive for ERC applicants. And, counter-intuitively, this may be even more challenging for those who are more established and experienced. Thus, AdG applicants, who are more familiar and experienced with other kinds of grants, may find it more complicated and demanding to accommodate to the unique ERC expectations.
All ERC categories are expected to present a novel, non-incremental research project. In the context of ERC, incremental research projects are a direct continuation of previous work in the lab/research group. Why is this especially tricky for AdG applicants? Many well-established AdG researchers have reached their research ‘comfort zone’ and apply from this position. ERC, however, expects the applicants to reach out and dramatically expand existing knowledge. In many cases, this requires stepping out of this ‘comfort zone’. That being said, ERC expects AdG applicants to be best positioned to execute the proposed research, hence stepping out of the ‘comfort zone’ should be done while leveraging on their track record. In this context, a distinction must be made between methods which are new to the lab/research group, and methods that are new to the field. While methods that are new to the field add to the overall novelty of the project proposal, ERC should not be expected to facilitate the implementation of methods which are established in the field but new to the lab/research group.
Naturally, as derived from their career stage, advanced researchers have on-going working collaborations with peers. These collaborations play a more central role in their daily research activities, compared to younger researchers. ERC projects are expected to center on the PI’s expertise and not to rely on collaborations for core parts of the research. When drafting ERC project proposals, it is apparent that many AdG applicants find this issue counter-intuitive. For more on this subject – refer to our collaborations in ERC post.
The timeline. ERC AdG applicants are naturally senior researchers, which means that they usually have more duties and responsibilities. Simply put – they may have less time to dedicate to the preparation of the ERC proposal. The ERC is a demanding proposal to write, and many PIs underestimate the amount of work needed (for both the thinking and writing processes). This may result in PIs not having enough time to properly develop their proposals, leading to non-competitive proposals or even a decision not to submit after all.
Writing an ERC proposal is a DIY project. As said above, ERC AdG applicants are senior researchers, having a lot of other responsibilities and hence limited time to dedicate to the preparation of this application. Thus, some AdG applicants are used to let qualified members of their team write the proposals, while they just supervise the process. Yet experience shows that writing an ERC proposal is not a mission to delegate to others. Due to the complexity, uniqueness and counter-intuitive characteristics of this grant, it is highly important that the applicant PI will write the proposal themselves and thus will be familiar with its each and every aspect. This may require some extra effort, but will definitely be highly beneficial for the proposal.
ERC is unique and requires special attention and dedicated preparation. This is true for applicants in any career category (StG, CoG or AdG), however, for AdG applicants the bar is higher and should be addressed as such.
If you do decide to go forward with your competitive AdG application, we are happy to offer our services and assist you in this process.