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MERCI — Result In Brief

Project ID: 228473
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Germany

The impacts of the ERC Starting Grants programme

An EU-funded project has developed instruments supporting the assessment of European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grants (StG) for researchers. Data and information collected through interviews and bibliometric studies provide greater insights into the impact of this funding scheme at different StG stages.
The impacts of the ERC Starting Grants programme
The StG programme offers postdocs up to EUR 1.5 million for a maximum of five years to set up or consolidate their own research group in pursuit of independent, investigator-driven frontier research. Placing strong emphasis on the programme's implementation and practical outcomes, the project MERCI (Starting Grants – Monitoring European Research Council's implementation of excellence) focused on the funding scheme's direct and indirect effects.

Activities targeted delivering a broad picture of how the StG impacts funded researchers' scientific careers and merits, mobility, selection of and relation to the host institution, job satisfaction, soft skills and prestige gained. Work also addressed StG financial strength and broader conditions, and included a comparison to other funding schemes from the perspective of the grantees.

Led by a consortium of four German partners, MERCI drew on comprehensive empirical evidence based on three StG cohorts and over 1 000 ERC applicants. The work sheds light on the research funding strategies of applicants and their motivation to apply to the ERC. Other results include information on whether the ERC reaches excellent young researchers, the extent to which the scheme facilitates postdoctoral researchers' independence and career advancement, and the sustainability of ERC funding.

The study determined that, in the researchers' overall project portfolio, the relevance of the StG project differs across research domains. Bibliometric analysis showed only a moderate difference in the past publication performance of approved and rejected ERC applicants. However, it gave clear indication of the recognition of the ERC's principle of scientific excellence.

Comparing StG applicants to their peers at the same career level, the project found that the scheme complements existing scientific independence with the added value of financial autonomy. However, it has less impact on teaching activities and institutional co-decisions. Another finding was that the StG facilitates a substantial increase in the time that approved (versus rejected) applicants can dedicate to their research.

Finally, the study found that approved applicants report higher levels of satisfaction across all aspects of their work, with significantly greater grantee satisfaction regarding long-term career perspectives.

Related information


Starting Grants, funding scheme, MERCI, European Research Council, funded researchers
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