science funding

GeoPolicy: Have your say on Horizon 2020

GeoPolicy: Have your say on Horizon 2020

The European Union provides almost 75 billion euros of funding through the Horizon 2020 scheme. This money can fund research projects, studentships, post-doctorates and scientific outreach (to name but a few!). The EU is now calling for feedback and comments about the scheme. This month’s GeoPolicy explains how you can have your say.


Are you a PhD student funded by European Research Council (ERC) or have you received grants from the ERC? If so, this money will have come from the Horizon 2020 (H2020) scheme, funded by the European Union (EU).

Essentially, H2020 provides financial support to scientists and businesses wishing to establish projects that overlap with the EU’s policy objectives (promoting excellent science that benefits society). H2020 was introduced in more detail in a previous GeoPolicy post entitled ‘An overview of EU funding for the Earth, atmosphere, and space sciences’. The scheme runs from 2014 to 2020. Now, at this halfway stage, the EU requesting feedback through an online survey.

The objective of the consultation is to collect information from a wide audience on different aspects of the implementation of the Joint Undertakings operating under Horizon 2020.

The survey is open to all and feedback will be used to improve the second half of H2020 and to support discussions currently being conducted on the next EU funding project: FP9 (Framing Programme 9, 2021-2030).

Contributions are particularly sought from researchers, industry, entrepreneurs, innovators and all types of organisations that have participated in Horizon 2020 and in calls for proposals published by the Joint Undertakings in particular.

So, if you have been part of the H2020 process then consider completing the survey. Deadline for complete is the 10th March 2017.



NB: Applying for ERC research grants is done through the EU Participant Portal. More details about the process can be found here.

Finding Funding: a how to guide to applying for research grants

Finding Funding: a how to guide to applying for research grants

Drafting your first grant proposal can be daunting. Grant writing improves with experience, so how do early career scientists compete on an equal footing with those who are more established?

At this year’s General Assembly we tackled this very question at the Finding Funding (SC46)  short course. Grant Allen, an atmospheric scientist, who has plenty of experience in applying for funding  spoke about the key steps to building confidence in your research ideas, how to frame those ideas into a clear grant application for reviewers and funding agencies, and how to structure your proposals to make sure your proposal fits the goals of the organisation you are applying to.

Grant has authored a book, entitled “Effective Science Communication”, which contains detailed chapters on grant writing, as well as other aspects of science communication from conference presentations to dealing with the media. Keep an eye out for this this summer. It will be released as an e-book by the Institute of Physics, UK.

It is all about confidence

There is no doubt that your first grant application will be daunting, not least because so much of your career can hang in the balance while you prepare it and because it is so far removed from anything you may have done before. Start by accepting it is outside your comfort zone and most importantly: be confident in yourself and your research ideas.

An investment in you

It may be counterintuitive but funding bodies are looking to fund you and your potential as a future research leader, almost as much ) as they are looking to invest in a great research idea (especially in the case of research fellowships).

That’s why your application should showcase you as a great potential researcher. This means highlighting your track record as a way to demonstrate your future potential. Show reviewers what skills and experience you already have and show that you can look forward and think of your career beyond the project by establishing partnerships and knowledge exchange opportunities throughout the duration of the grant.

The funding procedure

typical porcedure

The typical funding procedure. Credit: Grant Allen

Each funding body has its own application structure, so we won’t go into too much detail here. It is worthwhile spending some time, before you put pen to paper, getting to grips with the stages involved in the process. The funder’s handbook is usually a good place to start.

A typical procedure will be orchestrated by the funding body, who will bring in reviewers to rate your proposal in the first stage of the application process. You may get the opportunity to rebut the reviewers’ comments before a final decision is made on whether your proposal is to continue on in the selection process (more detail on this, as well as dos and don’ts of rebuttals in Grant’s slides). Should you be successful, you may  go on to present your research idea and yourself to a panel or committee who will make the final decision on who gets the award.

Writing your proposal

Remember reviewers will read upwards of 40 proposals at a time, so put yourself in their shoes – make reading your proposal easy!

Overall, you should aim to keep things simple, logical and concise. Start off with the bigger picture using general language, and slowly build up a narrative as you guide the reviewer through the application by giving greater detail about the approach. It helps to remind the reviewer about the key points throughout and to structure each subsection clearly with a start, middle and end.


  • Use the present perfect: ‘although much work has been done’
  • Use constructive phrasing: a problem is in fact, a challenge
Writing tools. By Pete O'Shea via Flickr

Writing tools. By Pete O’Shea via Flickr

You’ll have heard this endlessly since you were an undergraduate, but it is never truer than in a grant proposal: a picture is worth a 1000 words. Include carefully chosen informative figures, which add value to the written content and make your proposal look good at the same time.

It is heart-breaking how many great proposals get thrown out by reviewers because the applicants don’t follow the formatting guidelines or text includes typos, spelling mistakes and/or poor grammar. Just as it pays to understand the application process in full, take the time to follow all the guidelines, no matter how fastidious they may seem.

And finally, remember that the majority of proposals are unsuccessful, especially the first time. Accept this, learn from any feedback you are given and be resilient and try, try again. It will be worth it in the end.


Writing your thesis/papers will have prepared you, at least to some extent, for authoring the proposal, but one area which presents a bigger challenge still is the budget of your project. Figuring out how much money you need to see your project through is no easy task, so it is worth asking for some help from a mentor, senior researcher or your faculties finance team to make sure you get it right.

Less is more? When it comes to preparing the budget for your project this doesn’t necessarily apply. In fact, don’t under resource your project. Proposals don’t fail if the bottom line is high, they fail if it isn’t justified or if the reviewers get the impression that your numbers are ‘too good to be true’. Use the resources you need, nothing less and nothing more.

Panel Interview

By Vector Open Stock - [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Use the panel interview to shine and show the panel what makes you and your research unique, interesting and achievable. By Vector Open Stock –  CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The final stage of the application process (especially in the case of fellowships) will involve a panel interview, where you present your research idea and project to a funding committee. Use this opportunity to shine and show the panel what makes you and your research unique, interesting and achievable. The focus of your presentation should be fully, and solely, on the science. Details of the methodology and budgeting shouldn’t feature in your presentation, but do have some extra slides prepared on these topics should it come up in the subsequent Q&A.

Structure your slides carefully and anticipate questions by addressing issues that may have been thrown up by the reviewers of your proposal. While it may be tempting to cram in lots of information to your slides, the less is more approach certainly applies now. Stick to approximately one slide per minute and have no more than one take-home-message in each sheet. Finally, make sure you dedicate some time to explaining why you are the right person for the job and why the time and place are right for the project.

Do’s and Don’ts

You’ll find plenty more details on each of the topics covered above in the Grant’s slides, be sure to take a look at them and use the comments section of this post to share your tips for grant writing too. We’ll finish with a short selection of do’s and don’ts.


  • Be ambitious, passionate, clear and concise
  • Write for decisions makers – make sure there is enough detail without it being inaccessible for non-specialist-scientists
  • Stress how your research will contribute to solving economical, societal and/or cultural challenges
  • Follow the format guide
  • Get letters of support from project partners if you have any
  • Use your CV to prove your track record
  • Do ask for help!


  • Your application shouldn’t be a simple extension of your supervisor’s current project (if you are a PhD or PDRA) – emphasise what is new.
  • Use negative or defensive language (in your proposal, rebuttal or presentation Q&A)
  • Treat the proposal as a paper
  • Be afraid to ask for help!


By Laura Roberts Artal, EGU Communications Officer

This blog post is based on the presentation by Grant Allen at the Short Course: Finding Funding (SC46) which took place at the 2016 EGU General Assembly in Vienna. The full presentation can be accessed here.

GeoPolicy: An overview of EU funding for the Earth, atmosphere, and space sciences

GeoPolicy: An overview of EU funding for the Earth, atmosphere, and space sciences

Are you thinking of applying for funding? Or are you considering a career in academia and want to know where your research funding could come from? The European Union (EU) has large financial resources available for academic scientific research and innovation (R&I). This is in addition to national government funding bodies. This blog post, the 5th in the EGU’s GeoPolicy series, introduces R&I funding policies in the EU, and lists the major funds available for EGU scientists.

The EU aims to ensure EU scientific research is at the forefront of knowledge discovery. EU member states are encouraged to invest 3% of their GDP by 2020 to provide funding for R&I. Its goals are to tackle the ‘challenges of our time’ (food security, energy demand, climate change, an aging population etc.) and to boost European economy through a single European Research Area [1].

The EU has a variety of interlinked programmes which offer funding for R&I. These are available to public and private sector organisations and total a staggering 130 billion euros. Funding for academics is primarily available through the Horizon 2020 (H2020) programme, although some other initiatives, which are sector focused, are also open to researchers. The figure below shows all EU R&I funding opportunities, and the amount each programme has to spend (in million euros).



H2020 is by far the largest available funding resource for EGU academics. Some specific areas of EGU science have additional funding sources available. These include:

  • Space: There are two programmes which offer funding for space related activities (in addition to H2020). The Galileo initiative aims to improve global satellite navigation, with the intention of launching over 300 satellites around Earth by 2020. Funding is available for R&I into the development of ‘fundamental elements of the satellite system’ i.e. electrical components. The Copernicus programme provides ‘accurate and reliable information and data in the field of environment and security’ using both satellites and in-situ equipment. Funding is available for the development of Earth observation techniques.
  • Agriculture & forestry: The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development provides grants for those performing research and innovation activities in the fields of agriculture, food production, and forestry.
  • Research networks: The European Social Fund can be used for ‘the training of researchers and to support networking between research institutions’.

As a side note the EU also indirectly provides funding for students through the Erasmus+ scheme to relocate ‘in the pursuit of education and training opportunities’. [2]


H2020 offers funding for successful applications that meet some of their policy objectives. There is little under 75 billion euros available for R&I. The H2020 subsections which are relevant to EGU scientists are listed below:

How to apply

The video below gives a basic introduction to applying for H2020 funding. [3]

Funding for research grants (i.e. from the ERC or a Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant) is done through the Participant Portal. This is where scientists can submit a research proposal of their own design. Alternatively, funding for specific projects, proposed by the EU, can be applied for through the Calls for Proposals webpages. Calls are uploaded to this website throughout the running of H2020 (2014-2020) so it is worth regularly checking for recently postings. [4]

The application process involves submitted proposals to be evaluated by academic and industrial experts, rather than European Commission employees. More information about the application process can be found here. Academics who wish to apply as a registered expert to review research proposals can find more information here.

Edit: The Marie Curie Alumni Association website lists 10 direct links where european research funding can be found.

Sources used for this blog post

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[2] –

[3] –

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