What's the matter with FET-Open?

  • Walter Van de Velde profile
    Walter Van de Velde
    27 October 2015 - updated 3 years ago
    Total votes: 8

Is FET-Open victim of its own success?


FET-Open is an iconic scheme for FET. Being able to submit at any time a proposal for testing a bright idea for a radically new technological possibility is attractive. Indeed, it is so attractive that the probability to be funded has dramatically dropped because of the very high number of submissions. This is a problem that needs to be addressed if FET-Open is to remain credible as early detector of future technologies.

It is a fact that many proposals in FET-Open do not have a chance to make it pass the FET-gatekeepers (see FET Work Programme), and probably should not have been submitted in the first place. But it is also clear that there are many excellent proposals that do not receive funding, simply because there is not enough money. It leaves a lot of great interdisciplinary thinking unrewarded and a lot of people disappointed (though, judging from the high number of resubmission, not discouraged).  The budget for FET-Open is on the rise (budget in 2016-2017 is increased by 50%, reaching 240M€, compared with 160m€ budget for 2014-2015), but that alone is probably not going to solve the problem.

From your point of view, is this problem real? If so, shall we try to solve it? And how?

Note that the best ideas may be implemented as quickly as 2017 and impact on the last 4 years of FET in H2020.

UPDATE (23/12/2015): from inputs received so far the value and necessity of FET-Open is repeatedly stated. It is also stated that the problem of oversubscription is, if not caused by, at least amplified by external factors like that most programmes (European and national ones) are perceived to be too closed, too prescriptive and too down-stream for really new ideas and for newcommers (that often have the new ideas). A radical increase of the FET-Open budget is called for by most (it will probably grow to around 200MEuro per year for 2018, 2019 and 2020) and you all want the focus on breakthrough with impact to be kept, possibly with smaller grants. The call text should be clear and simple (are the current gatekeepers the right ones?), making sure that support servives, for instance from National Contact Points, are fully aware of what is expected. The quality of evaluators must be a priority and the evaluation process must be as transparent as possible (up to radically Open Access) and beyond doubt of fairness. Several contributions points at some form of filtering (before or after submission) or resubmission regulation (very strict, or at least with a clear message whether sensible to resubmit or not), but no consensus emerges on what it should be. However, the use of 2-stage submission is not favoured.

Keep on giving us your ideas on this. In the short term we may implement already for 2017 a combination of measures to reduce the indicated grant size (for instance up to 3MEuro instead of the current 4MEuro), and to reduce the number of cut-off dates to basically one per year, which should increase available funds per cut-off date and decrease the opportunities for resubmission. For 2018 and beyond we will consider more radical solutions as well, in the spirit of FET-Open.