Grant defence

September 28, 2007

Christian Fleck faults the European Research Council on many counts, the main one being the great number of applications and the small ratio of success ("Grant contest proves ill-conceived lottery", September 7). There were more applications than expected, so what? What are the alternatives? To lower standards to have more winners?

The ERC chose to reinforce the selection process with external evaluators. Each project was assessed by four independent evaluators and two positives led to a full panel discussion. True, the best projects came from strong countries and centres. This can be dealt with (the report of my panel signalled this) but not when you have to judge only the scientific quality of projects and researchers.

Fleck sneers at the fact that survivors had to resubmit "within a matter of weeks", but this is an appropriate length of time for redrafting a good research project.

It is also questionable that the large number of rejections is a waste. These should not be regarded as failures, but as an important resource of a network of young, talented scholars to whom the ERC will dedicate a great deal of attention, including ways to reduce contextual biases without lowering quality.

Guido Martinotti
Chair, Panel SH2 Institutions, behaviour, values and beliefs

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