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MERCI – Monitoring European Research Council’s Implementation of Excellence

The MERCI project aims to evaluate the "Starting Grants Program", introduced in the year 2007 by the European Research Council (ERC). The purpose of the "Starting Grants" is to provide "excellent" postdoctoral researchers with the opportunity to rapidly qualify for a professorship or leading position in science by leading an independent research group (up to € 2 million per grant for the duration of up to five years). The ERC set up this funding scheme based on the perception that Europe still offers insufficient opportunities for postdocs to develop independent careers which leads to a dramatic waste of research talents. Besides its intention to facilitate individual career development the ERC funding schemes aim to strengthen the European Research Area (ERA).

MERCI intends to assess the impact and outcome of the ERC funding program on the career development of postdoctoral researchers but it also relates to the dimension of the institutional environment as well as to the research structures within the ERA. Since the Starting Grants program has only been established recently, we put a strong emphasis on the program's implementation. Beyond monitoring the implementation of the program, our evaluation study contributes to clarify the question under which conditions young scientists can conduct excellent research and how funding programs should be designed accordingly. By doing so, we aim to contribute to the current discussion in science policy.

In order to analyze the impact of the ERC funding scheme, we apply a longitudinal design and a multi-method-approach (triangulation) comprising an online panel survey with two survey waves, semi-structured interviews as well as a bibliometric analysis.

Duration: February 2009 – September 2014
Cooperation partners: Prof. Dr. Michael Meuser (TU Dortmund),
Dr. Matthias Winterhager (Bielefeld University)
Funding: European Research Council – ERC (FP7-Ideas)
Contact persons: Dr. Nathalie Huber (project coordinator), Dr. Antje Wegner, Jörg Neufeld
Detailed information: MERCI – Monitoring European Research Council´s Implementation of Excellence


  Neufeld, Jörg / Huber, Nathalie / Wegner, Antje, 2013: Peer review-based selection decisions in individual research funding, applicants publication strategies and performance: The case of the ERC Starting Grants. In: Research Evaluation, Vol. 22, No.3, 1–11.
pdf Neufeld, Jörg / Huber, Nathalie / Wegner, Antje, 2012: On the Relationship between Peer Review-based Selection Decisions in Individual Research Funding and Applicants' Publication Performance: The Case of the ERC Starting Grants, in: Archambault, Éric / Gingras, Yves / Larivière, Vincent (eds): Proceedings of 17th International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators, Montréal: Science-Metrix and OST, Volume 2, 619-627.
pdf Huber, Nathalie / Böhmer, Susan, 2012: Karrierewege von Promovierten in der Wissenschaft, in: Huber, Nathalie / Schelling, Anna / Hornbostel, Stefan (Hg.): Der Doktortitel zwischen Status und Qualifikation. Berlin: iFQ-Working Paper No.12, 69-84.