Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Mists, Mellow Fruitfulness & ERC Deadlines

Ah, Autumn. Season of mists, mellow fruitfulness and ERC deadlines. Yes, with the deadline for Starting Grants on 17 Oct and Advanced Grants on 22 Nov applicants should now be polishing and pimping their applications, fettling and finalising their bids. UKRO has been providing some useful workshops for those planning to apply (there's still time to attend the ones that are scheduled for later this month and October), and it's worth bearing in mind some hints and tips that have come out of these.

  • Firstly, try and get a look at previously successful applications. This is true for any funder, of course, but perhaps more so for the EU, as people are often confused by the specific language and structure that is expected. Seeing how someone else has done it really helps.
  • Secondly, and following on from this, make sure you 'give them what they want'. Look at the criteria, and make sure you are meeting them. These grants are about you and your project: be clear why you are the right person with an exciting, ground breaking project at the 'frontier' of knowledge.
  • In turn, leading on from this, the ERC are looking for something different. Perhaps more than any other funder, this is the chance to take risks, to do something challenging. So use your imagination and think big - but couch it in a robust managerial framework that will reassure those of a nervous disposition.
  • Get feedback. Lots of feedback. Here at Kent we've got the Internal Peer Review system, so get in touch with us as early as possible. But get feedback elsewhere, too: your proposal needs to be easily understood and inspiring by people who might not know the field, and whose first language may not be English. 
  • Submit early and often. Each time you submit it overwrites your last version. Don't leave it until the last minute when there will be, inevitably, a software crash.
  • If you're shortlisted for interview, prepare throughly. Set up a mock panel (we can help with this) and go through a dry run. Take on board the feedback. Go over to Brussels the day before the actual interview and scout out the terrain. You don't want to get lost and arrive breathless, confused and red faced, or get derailed by Eurostar holdups. 
  • At the interview, they will use reviewers' comments to question your proposal. You won't have seen these, but try and pre-empt them by thinking what elements of your project will be seized on.
  • Finally, think of the poor panel. Not only will they have ploughed through hundreds of applications, but they then have to sit for days in a small, stuffy room watching anxious academics perform. Engage them, and be enthusiastic and confident.

Thanks to Jo Frost at UKRO for running these events, and to Dr Lawrence Moon of KCL for sharing his experiences of applying to the ERC.

The Consolidator Grants came later, on 21 Feb, so annoyingly don't fit neatly into my Keatsian reference. But we never let the truth get in the way of a glib opening sentence here at Fundermentals Towers.

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