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I'm currently polishing a grant proposal for the ERC Starting Grant scheme. As is typical doubts beset me. There aren't many samples available, and every one I was able to find exists in a niche of its own.

What seems to be a typical pattern is to describe at a very high level the proposed approach: for instance, we will study issue A using method B but they don't go too much in detail. For example, how is this study exactly going to happen?

Where possible I have tried to explain in as much detail my line of inquiry and the expected outcomes. However, especially for a grant with a horizon of 5 years, it's difficult to explain how the last WPs will be studied, as they might depend on the outcomes of the prior ones.

It is highly likely that these proposals I have seen were the unsuccessful ones. If you have any experience of successful ones, how much detail did you give (or make up)?

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Try to look at it from the view of a reviewer. You'll have a limited amount of time to estimate whether

  1. the research will have a good chance of success (knowledge generation is success, so negative results are allowed!)

  2. the applicants know the field well enough to work on the topic without stumbling about too many obstacles (e.g. you should say which methods you are using and why)

  3. the work load is managable

  4. the project is well managed.

Every reviewer knows, that you can not predict the future. If you could detail the research you want to do in three years, it would not have been research in the first three years! But you should make clear you know of the risks of your proposal and demonstrante, how you will handle those uncertenties.

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