Writing an ERC proposal: What to put in section B1 versus B2?

So, you’ve decided to write an ERC proposal to fund your groundbreaking research idea! Your idea is novel, timely, and substantially goes beyond the current state-of-the-art. How to write the two scientific parts of your proposal? What information should go in section B1 versus B2?

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Know your audience

As with any (grant) writing, it is important to know the audience you’re writing for. For ERC, this audience differs between the synopsis (B1) and the full scientific proposal (B2), while both parts of the proposal need to be submitted at the call deadline. Specifically, B1 is reviewed by the members of the ERC panel you submitted to. For B2, the panel can decide to include additional expert reviewers. These can be selected either from other ERC panels or external experts. When passed to step 2, the reviewers will review both B1 and B2.

B1: The synopsis

To put it bluntly: based on your B1, the panel members decide whether the outside world will ever get to read your B2… Step 1 of the evaluation procedure is based completely on your B1, which contains not only the synopsis of your research proposal, but also your CV and track record. Only the top 40% of ranked proposals is passed through to step 2 of the evaluation.

The main purpose of your B1 is to show how you and your idea fit the main goal of the ERC: to fund high risk – high gain, groundbreaking research projects by excellent and creative PI’s. It is your ‘pitch’, written for generalists. You should therefore avoid jargon and focus on the promise for the field. Why is this project innovative, necessary and timely? What will be the scientific impact of this proposal when successful?

B2: The scientific proposal

Exactly how you deliver that promise is part of your B2. Here, you have more space to describe the work plan, including timelines and personnel, as well as previous work leading up to this research idea. This includes a more detailed description of the current state-of-the-art and expected progress beyond that state-of-the-art resulting from your project. Also, the feasibility and risk mitigation plans should be described in more detail here.

Since reviewers in step 2 of the evaluation have access to both B1 and B2, copying texts is not a good idea. Rather, in B2 you should expand on all items briefly mentioned in B1, such as the innovative aspects and timeliness of the proposal.

Can we help?

Writing and optimizing a strong ERC proposal is something that takes time and several rounds of reviewing. Apart from your research idea and work plan, it takes moving texts around, summarizing and strategizing. For example, which aspects should you highlight and summarize in B1 and what should you expand on in more detail in B2? We offer separate reviews for B1 and B2, and full support trajectories.

Author: Linde van Ittersum

Co-founder and Research Funding Professional at Fundament.

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