H2020 FET-Open: 1,8% chance on getting funded


Picture: Janina Vilén

A former colleague of mine , Frederik Vandecasteele, sent me the submission and success statistics on the latest FET-Open call for proposals (FETOPEN-2014-2015-RIA). The results are outright painful and cannot for a minute be presented by the European Commission as further evidence of the success of the H2020 programme and the evaluation system. Have a look:

  • topic budget for FETOPEN-2014-2015-RIA: €38.500.000 (deadline 31/03)
  • total budget requested for above-threshold proposals: €1.078.991.003
  • average requested budget per proposal: €1.078.991.003 / 326 = €3.309.788
  • estimated number of fundable projects: €38.500.000 / €3.309.788 = 12
  • number of proposals submitted: 670
  • number of above-threshold proposals: 326

The estimated chance of success to get funding under this Call was: 12/670 = 1,8% !!!

(data source: http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/portal/doc/call/h2020/h2020-fetopen-2014-2015-ria/1665116-fet_open_flash_call_info_en.doc)

FET-Open was always a competitive programme, but this is getting ridiculous. I wonder whether it would not be better to shut down the programme for a while, so all those hard-working researchers can spend their time on useful things rather than on writing proposal after proposal that go nowhere. How can not even 2 projects of every hundred submitted – and all above threshold ! – projects contribute  to maintaining Europe’s leading role in global science??

The numbers do not say anything about who is getting funded. They only show that too many people are competing over too little money. Assuming that the member states are not willing or able to significantly pump up the H2020 programme budget, the only solution that I see is a fundamental rethink of the number of themes/domains that are being funded. H2020 is presently trying  to satisfy everybody’s needs and achieving almost none of it… It is time to re-prioritize if Europe wants to have any chance at remaining a science leader in … something…

Making this type of hard choices will undoubtedly be difficult, but if nothing is done soon, then ultimately the H2020 programme will make itself irrelevant to the advancement of science.