CROSSING THE BRIDGE – September 2014

Nilay Papila

Turkish Researchers’ Performance in European Research Council Grants

Last week, the President of European Research Council (ERC), Prof. Dr. Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, visited Turkey to overview Turkish scientists’ ERC performance during the EU 7th Framework Program (FP7) (2007-2013) and exchanged ideas on how to improve it for the ERC calls for the Horizon2020 program (2014-2020). The President of Turkish Academy of Science, the President of the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK), rectors and vice rectors of the Turkish Universities, Turkish researchers and university research administrations attended the meeting.

ERC supports frontier research and top researchers from anywhere in the world ( These are most similar to U.S. federal agencies’ investigator awards, and the topics are open to “pioneering ideas” and “investigator- driven frontier research”. With increasing funding and scientific collaboration, the European Research Area has a lot to offer scientists from around the world. It provides up to 1.5 M Euros for starting researchers (with PhD younger than 7 years), 2 M Euros for consolidator grants (with PhD older than 7 year but younger than 12 years) and 4 M Euros for advanced researchers (with PhD older than 12 years) for five years. As a rule of ERC grants, at least 50% of the research must be carried out in an institution in a EU Member State or Associated State. This provides certain flexibilities for researchers outside Europe, who prefers to keep their appointments outside Europe during their ERC grant. At the last week’s conference, Prof. Bourguignon highlighted the importance of giving researchers “the freedom to choose their own research priorities” and encouraged Americans to come to Europe to “take part in the daring high-risk research that the ERC supports.”

The ERC President also presented a very interesting correlation between the ERC grants and the publications within the 10% most cited host is very high (0.97) and Turkey is the only outlier in the picture with high number of citations. He also presented the correlation between the ERC grants and the R & D expenditures as 0.81 and Turkey is again the outlier (ppt). Unfortunately, Turkish host institutions has only six FP7 ERC grant holders so far, even though Turkey’s publications within the 10% most cited host is approximately 1800 and GERD in 2010 is is around 5,500 M Euros. In addition to six grants in Turkey, there are 11 Turkish scientists at the other European institutes.

During the conference, Turkish authorities discussed the ways of encouraging Turkish researchers to apply these grants, providing some national and institutional incentives for the researchers who apply and win these prestigious EU grants. For example, TÜBITAK recently initiated a new incentive program just to increase ERC success rate, which provides almost 100 K Euro award for the PIs of the winning ERC proposals. In addition, it is highlighted at the conference that Turkish science diaspora mainly located in the US is very critical for improving Turkey’s performance.  To increase collaboration of TUBITAK and other R&D stakeholders of Turkey with the Turkish Scientific Diaspora, TÜBİTAK will be organizing series of “Destination Turkey” events across United States as a part of activities. The dates of these events will be announced soon. To get updates about TÜBİTAKs events, researchers can benefit from the “Database of Researchers Abroad” (ARBİS-Y – Yurtdışı Araştırmacı Veritabanı) at Please note that ARBİS-Y is also the main source to determine the participants of the “Turkish Researchers Abroad Congress” and the independent evaluator database to evaluate the project proposals submitted to TUBITAK.

In addition to TÜBİTAK, European Research Council also visits USA. In 2014, the ERC attended four events in the USA to take part in debates, nurture relations and present its opportunities to researchers in the USA.

We hope that you don’t miss the TÜBİTAK and ERC’s next visits to the USA in 2014!