Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Opinions on the ERC after ten years

I am collecting some opinions about the European Research Council (ERC) from researchers who have received funding from it, and from some who have not.

What is your overall opinion on the ERC? Do you think that it is good for European research?

My interest in this matter started because the ERC is ten (and so it might be a good time to draw a preliminary assessment of its impact on the European research environment) and was piqued by the opinions aired by the Italian physicist Sylos Labini who claimed that the ERC has become the main problem in European research funding. He says that there are three main problems with the ERC.
  1. The first is that it uses "research excellence" to mask political choices.
  2. The second is that rewarding today's excellence does nothing to support the excellence of tomorrow. Moreover, one does not reward excellent research by giving money to the top 5% of those who apply. 
  3. The third is that the ERC gives a bad example to national funding agencies in Europe, who also reward excellence. 
See also http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/03/10-europe-s-excellence-fund-faces-calls-change, where Sylos Labini makes a cameo appearance in this paragraph:

But some chafe at the singular focus on excellence. Countries in southern Europe have cut their research budgets during the economic crisis, and now ERC is further weakening these countries by essentially redistributing their EU contributions to the research powerhouses in the north, says Francesco Sylos Labini, a physicist at the Enrico Fermi Center in Rome. And it’s not just the money: “The few Italian researchers that get an ERC grant go to Germany or another country to do their research,” he says.

I do not a long piece of text. Just a few lines would do. I'd be grateful if you could contribute to this discussion by posting your comments.

You might also wish to read Helga Nowotny's short piece entitled ERC---the next ten years.

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