Horizon 2020 evaluation briefing
I undertook my first Horizon 2020 (H2020) evaluation recently. A few common themes emerged which I thought might be of interest to H2020 proposal writers. Also included is a summary of the evaluation process itself, providing background context.
Charles Henderson, Project Director
Suggestions for H2020 proposal writing
1. Do your homework: the evaluation process is formally documented and transparent for all to see. Despite that, some proposal writers do not respond fully to the impact statement and other requirements. No excuses.
2. Boom...have impact!: ensure the outcomes of your proposal are clearly stated up front. Ultimately, you are addressing a societal need, so make sure your central concept is expressed as such;
3. Make it beautiful: write nicely, use images, schematics, infographics and mock ups. It needs to jump to the top of the pile and stick in the mind of the evaluator, who's time and attention span are limited;
4. Use evidence judiciously: evaluators are scientists too (usually!). Substantiate key assertions. Don't overpromise - this undermines credibility;
5. Be innovative: calls are less prescriptive than previously to encourage applications for new methods and techniques. The novel use of existing technologies is also encouraged;
6. Join forces: cross collaboration between disciplines (e.g. social science and humanities for end user assessment) is encouraged. The involvement of external stakeholders such as industry, SMEs and the public sector is also expected;
7. Be demonstrative: piloting techniques and processes with end users is encouraged. Bold and impactful dissemination and communication approaches are also favoured;
8. It's yours to lose: with the front-running proposals, the evaluator's job is effectively to identify shortcomings and weaknesses. So ensure you are thorough and don't let any aspects slip in importance. It's ultra-competitive out there!
A three-step process:
Individual evaluation: a number of evaluators (in my case, four apiece) are appointed to review proposals for a specific call. An Individual Evaluation Report (IER) is submitted to a rapporteur for each proposal, with positive and negative comments against a number of sub-criteria. Scores are allocated by criteria.
Consensus meeting: evaluators meet in Brussels to run through and finalise a Consensus Report (CR) which has been compiled by the rapporteur, based on the evaluator IERs.
Ranking and feedback: once agreed, this CR is then quality checked, panel reviewed and used to compile the proposal ranking. The CR forms the basis of the Proposal Evaluation Form which is sent to each applicant, regardless of success.
Three criteria are considered for each proposal:
Scores are given for each criteria in increments of 0.5, out of five in total. The positives and negatives for a number of sub-criteria are summarised, particular to the call. Negative aspects are each considered in turn to assess whether they are a shortcoming or weakness. These are used to decide the points deducted by criteria, and thus whether the proposal meets the thresholds (minimum score of 3/5 per criteria, and 10 overall usually).
Funding is allocated to as many projects as possible under the call budget. In the event of a tie, scores in Excellence and Impact criteria are considered (with priority for Excellence for RIAs, and Impact for IAs).