Today is the official start date of my ERC Starting Grant project “The value of mothers to society: responses to motherhood and child rearing practices in prehistoric Europe”.
The European Research Council offers competitive grants for top researchers from all over the world. There are programs for all stages of career, Starting Grants (2-7 years after completion of the PhD), Consolidator Grants (7-12 years after PhD) and Advanced Grants for the most senior scientists. Competition is open for all disciplines. The host institution must be located in one of the 28 EU Member States or associated countries. As of 2016, the list of associated countries includes Iceland, Norway, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, Israel, Moldova, Switzerland (partial association), Faroe Islands, Ukraine, Tunisia and Georgia.
The Austrian Research Fund supported my FWF-pilot project that started in January 2015 and focussed on developing methodology. From this platform, I was in the position to apply for an ERC Starting Grant to significantly expand my research chronologically and thematically.
Although the completion of my PhD dates back to 2005, I could still apply for the Starting Grant scheme because my two children extend the eligibility window by 1.5 years each. This seems a fair solution for working mothers, at least it has worked for me!
The ERC grant scheme is competitive, but is one of the most generous one out there. It gives the principal investigator the chance to build a research group and focus extensively on the research topic for several years. Ideally, it builds the solid foundation of a scientific career, as well as advancing knowledge in all disciplines.
This, too, is my personal answer to the question “What has the EU ever done for us?”.