An eye on Indian scientists
The ERC is searching for scientific excellence in non-European countries report KumKum Dasguptaeducation Updated: Sep 22, 2010 09:20 IST
The European Research Council (ERC) is actively wooing promising scientists from non-European countries, including India. In the latest round of selection for grants, four Europe-based Indian scientists have made the grade. Currently, the ERC’s annual budget is €1.5 billion and this will reach €1.7 billion by 2013. The ERC is the first European funding body that supports investigator-driven frontier research through open and direct competition.
“The idea of supporting investigators solely on the basis of scientific excellence is not new. What is new, however, is that this is for the first time at the core of a funding agency for frontier research in Europe,” ERC president Prof Helga Nowotny told HT Horizons in an interview in Turin. The usual tenure of funding of a project is five years and ERC applicants must have at least two years of research experience after completing their PhD.
The ERC, which was formed in Brussels in 2007, offers two types of grants without pre-determined research priorities. First, the ‘ERC Starting Independent
Researcher Grants’ that supports independent careers of outstanding researchers who are at the stage of establishing or consolidating their first research teams or programmes. Applicants for this grant are eligible from two to 12 years after their PhD. Second, the ‘ERC Advanced Investigator Grants’ that supports pioneering frontier research projects by leading established researchers who have original and innovative ideas. For both the grants, there is no restriction on nationality and age, the only requirement being that the applicant must be willing to work at least 50 per cent of his/her time in Europe.
The ERC funds about 300 projects in each of the two grant schemes a year. As of this year, the ERC has funded around 1,200 projects of scientists and scholars at an average of €1.3 million for five years, but this sum can go up to €3.5 million.
Prof Nowotny says the ERC is different from other programmes in having no thematic priorities or themes.
Evaluation panels are multidisciplinary and consist of reputed scholars, engineers, and scientists. In each scheme, 25 panels carry out the two-staged selection process. As a result, some 1,400 distinguished scientists from across the world, selected by the ERC’s Scientific Council, evaluate ERC applications. They are assisted by an even larger number of specialist reviewers, again from all over the world.
“Compared to the average scope and infrastructure available [to scientists] in India, things are better in west European countries. The US is still the mecca of science but Europe is trying to catch up,” said Robert Bosch Stiftung Fellow Dr Saibal Chatterjee, post-doctoral fellow, department of epigenetics, Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, Basel, Switzerland.
KumKum Dasgupta attended the Euroscience Open Forum as part of the Robert Bosch Stiftung Fellowship Programme. For more details, visit erc.europa.eu