The European Research Council (ERC) turned ten this spring. This event has been celebrated in Brussels and in many European countries with thematic events, highlighting success stories in research related to the ERC and examining possible future developments for this remarkable funding agency. Helga Nowotny, the first President of the ERC, has written an editorial in Science looking at the future of the ERC. In that editorial she summarized the first ten years by saying that, since its inception, through international competition, the ERC has awarded grants amounting to over 12 billion euros to about 7,000 researchers in Europe. Two- thirds of those awards went to young scientists with 2 to 12 years of experience after receiving their PhD.
I held a small opinion poll within the theoretical computer science (TCS) community to try and find out what TCS researchers think of the first ten years of the ERC and to see how this, undoubtedly very successful, funding agency can be improved. To this end, I wrote to 26 colleagues in TCS, who cover a fairly broad spectrum of topics within TCS research and have a diverse geographical distribution. Some of those colleagues have received at least one ERC grant at various stages of their careers, but some haven’t so far.
I received 21 replies, so my emailing effort had a good 80.7% success rate. I thank the colleagues who took time from their busy schedules to reply to my questions.
In case anyone is interested, I penned a contribution to the October issue of the Bulletin of the EATCS summarizing my findings. You can read it here.