ERC vs NSF

The EU is often criticized for being a big, unwieldy bureaucracy. Here, however, are the review criteria for European Research Council proposals (from page 10 of this document):

Excellence is the sole criterion of evaluation

Here are the review criteria for the US National Science Foundation:

Reviewers evaluate all NSF proposals through the use of two National Science Board approved merit review criteria: Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts, which are based upon Merit Review Principles. Reviewers are asked to consider five elements in the review for both criteria. For more information on merit review principles and criteria, see PAPPG Chapter III.A.

(If you are keeping track, that’s two criteria and ten principles)

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3 thoughts on “ERC vs NSF

  1. I don’t know about ERC, but I have a very positive impression of the NSF review process. The panelists do try their best, and the POs frequently go over and beyond their call of duty and try their best to give the applicants a fair chance — especially junior applicants. Every time I go to NSF for a panel, I come back extremely humbled at the kind of good work people are doing.

  2. I completely agree, and I have had the same experience.

    One thing that NSF does well is making program director positions rotating positions.

    So everybody involved in the review process (not just the panelists, but also the program director who has to make the final choice and, for that matter, has to select the panel) is an active scientist who is knowledgeable about the subject and committed to to do the right thing.

    This firewall between the regulators and those that make decision on individual grants makes the system work. But imagine if even the regulators (from congress down) focused one excellence instead of mandating the use of domestic airlines, banning the reimbursement of alcohol, requiring geographic diversity, and so on (the proliferation of evaluation criteria and principles is just a symptom of a certain mentality that focuses on process because process is all they understand).

  3. “Excellence is the sole criterion of evaluation” is what they officially advertise, and tends to be far from what happens in reality. Still, there’s a good emphasis on the excellence of the work and the person, and you don’t have to write much beyond the actual work (but on the other hand, if shortlisted you’ll have to attend a business-type interview in which you may be asked about things that are unrelated to “excellence” and be judged based on your improvised responses). I’d say the overall bureaucracy aspect is still greater for ERC than NSF.

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