Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Advice on Applying for an ERC Starting Grant

The ERC Workshop last month
Last month we held a workshop on applying to the European Research Council. As well as getting an overview from UKRO, we heard from Dr Tracy Kivell, who won a Starting Grant in 2013, who talked about her experience of applying to the ERC.

The Project 

 Tracy is a paleoanthropologist, who looks at fossil remains to understand human evolution and development. Her €1.6m ERC-funded project, ‘GRASP’, examines two million year old hand bones to try and resolve two key questions in the field: did the earliest humans still use their hands to climb trees, and when did they start using tools.

The project uses innovative methods, including internal structural analysis using high-resolution microtomography (microCT).

Why Apply? 

Tracy applied to the ERC in 2012, five years after getting her PhD. She was motivated to apply because her vision - and the research questions she was seeking to answer - required a large and complex project which was unlikely to be funded elsewhere.

Furthermore, the time was right for her. She had been at the Max Planck Institute, but neither her publication record nor her funding success were huge. However, she had had two high impact papers, including one as lead author that had made the cover of Science. In addition she was looking for a way to move back to the UK, as her partner was at UCL.

 Writing the Application 

‘Understanding the Participant Portal requires a degree in engineering’, Tracy joked, but her underlying point was well made: give yourself time to prepare and understand what’s required. But understanding the Portal was only the beginning, and Tracy mapped out a series of points to consider when preparing a bid.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Schrodinger's REF

Schrodinger's REF: Portable and Non-Portable
Yesterday David Sweeney unveiled his initial plans for REF2021. ‘We’ve responded fully to the recommendations of the Stern Review, together with the comments and feedback we received in the consultation that followed,' he said.

‘Although they were diametrically opposed to each other, I’m delighted to say we’ve managed to create a hybrid framework for the next exercise which manages to accommodate all views.  

‘As a starting point we used the excellent 4* work of Erwin Schrödinger. To meet the conflicting views of all stakeholders, we have devised a system whereby everyone will be submitted, but at the same time there’s the option whereby no one will be. The system will be completely inclusive but absolutely exclusive. It will be a 100% submission and a 0% submission. I believe these two states of being can fully coexist.