As an ERC grant holder, your goal is to carry out ambitious research. But to get relevant exposure and make the fruit of your work broadly available, outreach activities are a must. You will find in this section useful information, tips and links, including how to contact the ERC's Communication Unit for help. Our mission is to support you.
7 reasons to communicate
- Show the exceptional project that you have in your hands: new science that could shape our future, leading to new technologies, innovation and future policies
- Prove to citizens, decision-makers and industry that investing in curiosity-driven frontier science is vital to us all: "high risk, high gain"
- Let European citizens know how the EU spends public money: investing in scientific projects with potential impact on their lives and on society
- Trigger new collaborations and opportunities for you and your team, sharing your project and results with the research community, the media, policy-makers, potential investors, funding agencies and the wider public
- Reach a good score in scientific assessments, as increasingly, these include your publications in communication tools, such as social media and web 2.0 platforms
- Contribute to the visibility of EU funding opportunities and the mission of the ERC: supporting the best brains in Europe and pushing the frontiers of knowledge
- Invest in public engagement: more and more researchers are active communicators, promoting their results and feeding the public debate on science
Some provisions to comply with
Although you were not asked to include a communication or a dissemination plan in your project proposal, the ERC grant agreement comprises some provisions regarding your communication activities. You are expected to:
- Communicate on your research and results
- Report back to the Agency on your outreach activities
- Give visibility to ERC /EU funding by using its visual identity
- Acknowledge the ERC funding in all your communication supports and activities
- Contact the Agency if you are planning communication activities that could have a major media impact (compulsory for Horizon 2020 beneficiaries)
The right moment for communicating?
Communication is an ongoing process: the more you practice it, the better it gets. This principle applies also to media work, where building long-lasting relations will increase your chances to get the right message through. Planning ahead is a prerequisite for success.
Good windows for opportunity arise when:
- You have a research breakthrough – be it exceptional or even controversial
- You are about to publish your research outcomes in a major scientific publication and/or to issue a press release
- You have interesting material on your project: images, video, sound recording
- You were established abroad and moved back to Europe to carry out your research
- You or your team have been awarded a major scientific prize
- You are part of a research expedition
- You have set up a new lab, tested new technology or developed new equipment
- You are invited to talk in a major congress/event
- Your research is related to current news and triggers media/social traction (there is a strong element of curiosity, dream, science fiction)
- Your research project (related to innovative products, tools, processes) attracts the industry, could be commercialised by yourself or others, creates jobs and growth
- You are featured in the press (for instance, when receiving your ERC grant)
Choose your channels
The shape of your communication needs to be adapted to your audiences and the channels you will use. While social media are good to reach wide audiences through punchy content and visuals, a blog will allow you to explain your research more in depth. A media mix can be a very effective way forward, allowing you to combine traditional supports, as printed material, articles and press releases, public talks, with audio-visual tools, web 2.0 and social media.
A word of caution about publishers
From time to time participants in projects funded under the framework programmes are contacted — often by telephone — by organisations seeking payment in return for publishing information on the work being done in their projects. As with ‘cold calling’ in general, the claims and assertions made should be treated with appropriate caution before deciding on the best course of action. Contrary to some of the ‘sales pitches’ used, these publications and their services have not been endorsed by the European Commission or the ERC. Common tactics to secure business include vague references to high-level contributions from decision-makers, or making project participants believe that their activities have been singled out on account of special merit, which may not be the case.
Note also a warning from the Participants Portal [01/02/2018]: users report spam messages pretending to come from the Participant Portal in which commercial services are being promoted.
Food for thought
Before developing your communication activities, think about…
- What is the news, the core message?
- Who is the target?
- How might this be relevant to the targets?
- Is there an opportunity? Is it the right moment?
- How can you address a lay audience, remaining catchy, concise and accurate?
- How can you avoid jargon and explain the basics?
- What good material do you have? (visuals, podcasts, video)
- Who can help?
Whether you have decided to communicate on your project, just planning ahead, or simply need suggestions and communication advice: Contact the press and communication teams of your host Institution. They are experts in the field and the first level of support. Don't hesitate to get in touch with us, ERC's PROJECT PROMOTION TEAM