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We are preparing a big European (HORIZON) project application (more than 10 million Euro) and with several partners. The deadline is in two months. Two partners are required to write their parts of the proposal, but they do not respond at all, or they say "yes, I will do it. Same answers after many requests. They are risking the project. We talked with them many times about this issue. We are thinking about getting rid of them directly. But before that, what would to do?

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    @RobbieGoodwin: in the workplace, you can always escalate in the hierarchy, which is often not useful in academia, and IMO done very rarely. Mar 2, 2023 at 8:03
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    @StephanKolassa try to not have a hierarchy with a cross-functional team of tens of people, working on a 10 mln research project. It's not going to be a a smooth ride (talking from experience...).
    – Cris
    Mar 2, 2023 at 16:43
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    If you get rid of the collaborators in question, will the network still meet the Horizon conditions with respect to being cross-national and having industrial partners? Mar 3, 2023 at 14:45

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In addition to the other answers, I will mention that getting the proposal written is only the first step. Assume it gets funded: Then you are on the hook for actually doing the work. And you have to write project progress and final reports. When you accept a grant, you basically sign a piece of paper saying "Yes, I will do all of that".

If you have collaborators who cannot spare the time to help with writing proposals, what is your confidence in them being able to do the actual work? If you can't be confident in that (or if they can't assure you of it), this is not the right collaboration for you. It will give you the prestige of having won the grant, but it will make your life miserable in the future. Think twice -- and discuss this point with your collaborators -- whether that is worth anyone's emotional energy and in some cases friendship.

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    That was my reasoning behind getting rid of these "collaborators" - but I now realise I didn't mention it explicitly. You are very very right! This is a tell tale sign and only the beginning of the collaboration.
    – BioBrains
    Mar 2, 2023 at 18:27
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BioBrains' answer makes some useful high-level suggestions on how to approach this in a general sense, to which I'll add a different practical suggestion:

Get into the same room as them. It's much harder to ignore someone across a desk than it is to ignore an e-mail! This can be with each challenging partner individually or all together, but meeting with them for a day with the explicit goal of getting the core of their part of the proposal written could effectively get things unstuck.

You don't necessarily need to phrase the objective of the meeting in quite those terms, of course, and meeting in-person to coordinate large grant applications is not uncommon. Indeed, our university even has funds set aside explicitly to support such meetings for large grant writing.

If they say they can't possibly find even a single day to discuss the grant, then that may be a stronger indication that you should consider how essential they are to the proposal, as suggested by the other answer.

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  • “Get into the same room as them. It's much harder to ignore someone across a desk than it is to ignore an e-mail!” +1! Most valuable thing I learned in college.
    – KRyan
    Mar 3, 2023 at 3:16
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    In my experience with Horizon projects, it is fairly usual that each partner is at the very least from a different institution/city, typically from a different country as well. A >10 M€ project is almost certainly a consortium spread all across the EU. So getting into the same room means either that the "room" is only online or you have to fly around.
    – TooTea
    Mar 3, 2023 at 9:12
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There are two things to consider here: You application (which they are jeopardizing) and your long term relationship with these partners (which you might jeopardize by ditching them).

You need to find a way to rescue both, ideally. If that's not possible or needed, then go for damage control.

So: Are these partners you only got on board for this application or are they people you will run into later? Will they be your reviewers or competitors? In either case you will probably never pick them as collaborators again, because now you know that they don't deliver when they need to.

Assuming you are the coordinator, you are well within your right to say that in order for this to work you need all partners to actively contribute as needed. If you can afford to lose them (or replace them), then it's better to do that now that it is still early days, using the argument above.

This is assuming that you have set clear deadlines and sent at least a gentle reminder. You final warning can be this: write the text by dd/mm/yy or we will assume you are no longer interested and take you off the application.

But also: Is the application viable without one or both of them? If they have a strong position (i.e. they are needed because of reason X), then they have the upper hand. In that case you might have to pick up the slack and do their work for them. This is, unfortunately, what happens a lot in these cases.

Fair? No. So up to you to decide what weighs more heavily.

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If you really, really want it, you can proceed as follows:

  • Write the whole project proposal, and send it to them with 'I prepared an possible outline of the project, see if you can use it as a basis for the proposal, or if you want to make changes'

  • Make sure that your project promises do not depend on the output of that group. Like having a fallback solution to demonstrate your output.

If I read you text correctly, the total number of participating groups is 3 and 2 of them dont reply. Forget it.

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The other answers already here are excellent, I would add (from experience) that putting pressure on senior academics via their admin or contracts teams might be successful if writing to them directly has failed.

Hopefully your own finance/contracts office will have contacts with the collaborating institutions teams, and they want the grant as much as you do so might have levers to getting things done.

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