Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

Capturing career paths of ERC grantees and applicants

Final Report Summary - ERCAREER (Capturing career paths of ERC grantees and applicants)

Executive Summary:
Excellence is a non-negotiable in science, as a necessary condition for success in terms of careers and funding. Scientific excellence is the sole criterion on the basis of which European Research Council (ERC) frontier research grants are awarded. The ERC's peer review evaluation process has been carefully designed to identify scientific excellence irrespective of the gender, age, nationality or institution of the Principal Investigator and other potential biases, and to take career breaks as well as unconventional research career paths into account. The evaluations are monitored to guarantee transparency, fairness and impartiality in the treatment of proposals. Despite these efforts, persistent inequalities exist between men and women scientists in ERC funding success as well as other career outcomes. At the same time, career systems put in place in research producing organizations (RPOs) and research funding organizations (RFOs) to promote excellence may not be sustainable, however, as they can no longer guarantee optimal outcomes under changing demographic conditions. On account of increasing labor force participation of women and growing numbers of dual earner and single parent households, low fertility, and low mortality, as are common to most industrialized nations, career systems that rely on breadwinner models are becoming obsolete. Allowing unconventional careers is one way in which the ERC as well as other RPOs and RFOs deal with these issues. In order for to this allowance to be effective, we need to know more about career patterns and (un)conventions in science. Despite the ubiquitous presence of the term “career patterns” in the discourse about careers in science, the existing empirical evidence is limited.

Within the context of ERCAREER, funded by the ERC (CSA-2012), we take a multimethod-multisource approach in studying career patterns and conventions in science, using CV analysis (from application data in the ERCEA database), a career history survey, and interviews with ERC applicants and grantees, men and women, from various countries, from the Starting and the Advanced Grant populations. Using Optimal Matching Analysis we have identified unique career patterns that represent combinations of positional and institutional sequences, different progression logics, and movements. Together, our findings show that “conventional careers” in science are inextricably tied to normative, shifting and contextual beliefs about the ideal academic, mobility, independence, and excellence. Dual careers are very prominent, making extended family support and organizational support crucial in sustainably combining career and care. The consequences of such career conventions on selection and promotion decisions, and of allowing unconventional careers on objective career outcomes, enhance our understanding of gender and careers in science and help develop evidence-based policies to promote sustainable excellence.
Project Context and Objectives:
ERCAREER – project overview
- Project for ERC-2012-CSA (Call "Gender aspects in career structures and paths“)
- ERCAREER: “Capturing career paths of ERC grantees and applicants”
- Started November 1, 2012, projected end date (amended) January 31, 2014
- Mapping the road to excellence: (un-) conventional careers;
- Charting the institutional role in shaping research careers for those with care responsibilities.
- Multimethod multisource study, 2012-2013:
- Existing archival data on careers (CVs), survey data, interviews
- Sequence analysis, namely Optimal Matching Analysis (OMA) of career histories
Desirable impact:
- Creating recommendations for the development and improvement of evidence-based policies, procedures, and practices to achieve greater gender balance among ERC applicants and grantees.

Project Results:
As this is a CSA (coordination and support action) project, there are no main S&T results. However the application of sequence analysis to complete career history data of ERC grantees and applicants is a unique contribution to the scholarly conversation on applying sequence analysis to enhance our understanding of what careers actually look like.

Potential Impact:
We have formulated specific and concrete recommendations for the development and improvement of evidence-based policies, procedures, and practices, including the ERC application and review process, especially on collecting and weighing career information as well as exemption requests on account of career breaks. We provide ideas on sharing best practices related to gender, dual career and work-family issues among ERC host institutions as well as other RFOs and RPOs. The results of this project will assist the ERC scientific council and the gender working group in working towards gender mainstreaming of all ERC processes, and achieving a more equitable gender balance among grantees.

List of Websites:
N/A contact PI at