B2 is the part where the review panel dives deep into your proposal. In the following, you will find a description of things to consider when writing B2.
You may intuitively think that it makes more sense to write B2 after going through part A and B1. But actually, many people prefer to start with part B2, and then write B1. One could say it is similar to writing the abstract of a paper after you wrote the paper itself. In part B2, the panel will focus on the methodology of your project and how you place yourself in the state-of-the-art. It is important for you to be clear when describing what you expect to do and what your work plan is. Explore your hypothesis and any supporting evidence (if you have it). Write and rewrite your proposal until you are fully satisfied with it.
Here are 5 tips from the ERC for writing B2:
- Make sure you clearly explain the quantitative and qualitative differences of your project to the state-of-the-art. What do you expect to achieve with your project? How is it different from what has already been done? Prove how well you know your field and how your project plays its part. Of course, include the appropriate references whenever needed.
- Provide alternative strategies to mitigate risks. Proposals often include little risk assessment, but this needs to be done very well. In contrast to other EU grants, the panel does not need to see a dissemination or a management plan.
- Make sure there is an obvious link between part B1 and B2. It is recommended that you do not spend all the effort on B1 and present a “rough” B2. This will disappoint the reviewers, which is something you should avoid. The ERC recommends that it is better to start writing part B2, do it really well, and then focus on B1.
- Use the evaluation criteria to structure your proposal. This means you could use them as headings. For example, use “groundbreaking nature”, “potential impact”, and “scientific approach” as headers or as trains of thought through out the proposal.
- Make the proposal easy to read and attractive. Write your proposal in a way that is understandable, also to people who are not necessarily experts within your specific field of research. Use paragraphs, correct typos, and maybe even ask a native speaker to check your text. The language will not be what makes or breaks the proposal, but just make sure that you don’t misspell words or use weird grammatical structures. Check the coherence of the figures, use the full space available, and make sure you give full references (they are excluded from the page limit, so make them readable). Also, include a timeline that has information on the people you will employ, justify your resources, and explain your budget properly.
The panel focuses on budget analysis only in step 2 of the evaluation process. They have to ensure that the resources requested are reasonable and well justified, so they look at everything in detail. For example, they will look at how many postdocs you want to include in the project and make sure it is appropriate. A good tip is to make sure you ask for funding for “open access”, as this is compulsory. If the panel considers there should be cuts made to the budget, these are justified on a proposal-by-proposal basis. Panels are not allowed to cut across the board to reach a certain budget.
The work programme and information for applicants include the specifics about what you should consider for both your publications and your research data. The guidelines can change, so make sure you read this information thoroughly when preparing your proposal.
Submitting your proposal
The ERC recommends not to wait to submit until the last minute, nor do proof-reading on the last day. It is encouraged that you save a version of your proposal on the portal, and then you can submit and resubmit different versions up until the deadline. A submitted proposal will overwrite any previous version, you can do this to avoid losing all your work (accidents can happen!). Only the final version uploaded before the deadline will be considered.
Reasons for rejection
There can be a wide variety of reasons for why a proposal is rejected. However, here we share with you 5 typical reasons for a rejected proposal:
- The project can be too narrow or too broad and unfocused.
- The project is incremental research.
- The project is a collaborative effort between several PIs.
- There is not enough information: the proposal isn’t detailed enough.
- There isn’t a sufficient risk management strategy.
There are also 3 typical reasons for rejection based on the researcher’s profile:
- Insufficient track record.
- Insufficient potential for independence.
- Insufficient experience leading projects.
If you are a less senior researcher applying for a StG, explain how you are independent from your supervisor and how you’ll split the work if you collaborate with them.
Best of luck in writing your proposal!
This information was extracted from an ERC video, you can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fpHkhitwA0