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ERC strategy takes shape

The Scientific Council of the European Research Council (ERC) has published its outline strategy for the launch of the ERC, providing details of how it hopes to stimulate investigator-initiated frontier research across all scientific fields, on the basis of excellence. Meetin...

The Scientific Council of the European Research Council (ERC) has published its outline strategy for the launch of the ERC, providing details of how it hopes to stimulate investigator-initiated frontier research across all scientific fields, on the basis of excellence. Meeting for the third time on 26 and 27 April in Vienna, Austria, the 22-member Scientific Council confirmed that priority will be given to supporting independent careers of excellent researchers from all over Europe, and approved two strategy notes, one on the launch of the ERC and another on the ERC Starting Independent Research Grant. Speaking at the launch, Professor Fotis Kafatos, Chairman of the Scientific Council, said: 'we are releasing these strategy notes today to give a clear indication of our thinking at an early stage, enabling the research community better to prepare for the launch of the ERC.' The outline strategy for the launch of the ERC refers to two funding streams, operating on a 'bottom up' basis across all research fields, which will be the core of the ERC's operations for the full duration of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). In the start-up phase, priority will be given to an ERC Starting Independent Research Grant scheme, the objective of which will be to provide adequate support to the independent careers of excellent researchers from across the EU and associated countries that are at the stage of establishing their first research team or pursuing independent research. A second funding stream, the Advanced Investigator Research Grant scheme, will be established as soon as feasible thereafter, for projects led by researchers at all subsequent career stages. The Scientific Council is paying particular attention, the note says, to the potential oversubscription for funds and the problems that this may introduce, as well as to synergy between this scheme and the Starting Independent Research Grant scheme. A second note on the ERC Starting Independent Research Grant gives further details regarding the scheme's activities, budget, eligibility, and submission and evaluation procedures. Independence here, the strategy note explains, implies that the investigators have authority to apply for, hold and manage their own research funding, and to publish as senior authors. Approximately 15 panels, made up of scientists and scholars, will be established to span the spectrum of research areas covered by the ERC. They will be empowered to conclude, among other things, whether or not the applicants have been granted, or are being granted, independence. In terms of financial provisions for the grant scheme, the Scientific Council says that one-third of the ERC's overall annual budget (approximately 300-350 million euro per year) will be earmarked for some 200 grants, ranging from 100,000 to 400,000 euro, each for up to five years. The level of grant will depend on the size of the team, research field, and location of the project. The grant scheme will be open to young researchers who are less than ten years away from the award of their PhD. The first call for the scheme is expected to be published as soon as FP7 itself is approved, in early 2007 at the latest. Also announced at the Scientific Council's meeting was the publication of an open call for the position of Secretary General of the ERC, with a deadline for applications and nominations of 31 May 2006. Candidates must be senior persons with a recognised scientific profile and proven experience in science policy, and possess an acknowledged successful leadership record in scientific funding organisations. Both applications by candidates themselves and nominations by others are invited.

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