Selection criteria of the PRIME committee

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Dear applicants for PRIME,

The first call for PRIME applications was announced in 2014. Interest in the first four application cycles in the years from 2014 to 2017 was very high and so was the number of applications we received. We are delighted that the programme is clearly in accord with the requirements of early-career scientists. However, due to limited funds, the high number of applications led to rigorous selection procedures. The average funding ratio for the previous four selection cycles was only 10,6 %. While this is rather low, one should keep in mind that PRIME offers a (temporary) position at a German university. When comparable researcher positions are advertised the number of applications per job offer is often considerably higher.

We hope that the fact that in 2018 the selection may once again be rigorous will not put you off. We recommend that you check carefully whether you fulfil the selection criteria listed in the call for applications before applying. If you only partially fulfil any criteria, you should as far as possible provide reasons for these shortcomings. Your referee may also be able to comment on these matters. In any case it is important that you highlight your strengths appropriately.

However, should you identify a considerable deficiency in your profile in comparison with programme specifications, we recommend that you discuss this with a scientist experienced in this area and subsequently decide whether it is worth submitting an application.

For your information we have put together some reviewers' comments from the first selection process, which refer to criticisms relevant for all disciplines.

If similar weaknesses were found in numerous applications, we have mentioned those several times so as to document their particular relevance.

We hope that this information is helpful.

With best wishes

Your PRIME team

Reviewers' comments

It is more than good to be ambitious but be careful not to expand too much the purpose of the research. It’s always better to be more modest and more focus (choose one or two aspects that are particularly interesting from your point of view and investigate them deeply).

No journal paper, too few publications, given (academic) age.

The applicant needs to try very hard to get one or two publications in really high impact journals. This will make all the difference to his future career success.

There is a whole suite of literature the candidate has ignored.

… the methodology part does not describe the workpackages in detail. This is important to assess the expenditure and its justification of this study.

The timescale for the project strikes me as unrealistic.

Candidate's previous publications not very visible.

The applicability of the methodology is likely to be very narrow. This will limit the broad impact of the project.

Clearer description and justification of the methodological procedure and research design. How does the sampling work? What may be generalized, what not?

Proposed project does not seem focused. It is also difficult to see the expected original contribution.

The researcher proposes to achieve many things in this proposal rather than concentrating in one aspect or technique … thus downgrading the qualitative outcome from the approach.

Time planning close to impossible.

Very unclear design of the experiments.

… the specific fit between the host institution and the project could have been worked out a bit more.

The research plan, in particular the experimental design, is not (yet) developed to a sufficient degree to clearly assess the likelihood of success.

The biggest weakness of the proposal is the methodology.

The applicant should try to better outline the relevance of this work, for example with respect to future work that may benefit from the proposed research.

The proposed project lacks a sufficiently clear empirical and theoretical focus.

… it would have been interesting and helpful to see the applicant’s reflection on potential obstacles which could arise with respect to the conduct of her research.

The hypotheses are too vague to be tested experimentally.

The proposed project could be strengthened if it were more decisive on its main focus.

It is unclear how the model will be linked to the data.

The research questions are very general. No convincing specific hypotheses are proposed.

Relatively little first author publications.

Project is a continuation of the PhD thesis, i.e. a broadening of the field is missing.

The project description does not mention the specific new methodical skills that the candidate will obtain …, and how these relate to the project.

Too ambitious for the time schedule proposed; some tasks should be more detailed and better organized.

The scientific description is too broad and general and new concepts are not explained in a convincing way.

The work plan in places lacks specific detail and could have benefitted from a little more clarity.

The candidate should have made an attempt to explain better how his previous experience equips him for this project …

The applicant does not make it clear how his work will differ from what is already known …

The opportunities to get complementary skills within this project and enlarge the own horizon could be stronger.

Very descriptive project that is not hypothesis driven.

… continuation of PhD work, not hypothesis driven research plan.

Insufficient proof of abilities to conduct independent research - all his work is done under the supervision of the same supervisor and the proposed project will only continue this.

The proposal is too descriptive and lacks analytical focus and a clear account of methology.

The primary and secondary outcomes of the study are not well defined and the authors do not explain how these goals are going to be met during the course of the project in terms of outcome measures.

Contingency plan. There isn’t one. What happens if things don’t go as expected?

Training opportunities. It is not explicitly stated what new knowledge and experience the candidate will obtain

There are perhaps too many research questions proposed to answer in the space of time that will be funded.

The PI will be working with his PhD advisor for part of his project. Although his advisor is a leader in the field, it is not clear why he is staying in his lab for a postdoc.

The project description lacks technical detail, probably because the candidate is very familiar with this field of study.

The question of exactly how the project will provide the candidate with new skills in addition to those gained during his PhD thesis, and complementary to them, could have been addressed more directly.

No published articles during 4 years

No significant change of research topic with Post-Doc.

The proposal contains insufficient detail about how the research will be conducted.

The publication list of the applicant is not very good.

The research focus and approach is quite narrow.

No publiation since start of PhD in 2008 is not enough.

The application proposed to rely in part on research done for the PhD thesis; this foregrounds a certain limit in the scope of the applicant's expertise.

The time schedule is over-optimistic.

Research too close to PhD proposal.

The foreign host is an alumni of the University of the applicant, so ties between the two hosts could be considered too close.

The project is basically a straightforward continuation of the PhD work.

The project presented here is in direct line of the thesis works. In other words it lacks perspective. In my opinion a first post-doc should deviate from the thesis works and allow the fresh doctor to discover new problems, and not be a simple extension of phd with the supervisor or its co-authors.

No high-quality publications.

There is no original hypothesis exposed in the project.

Lacking of a first-author paper makes it difficult to evaluate the potential of the candidate.

The project is too big.

No mention is made of alternative strategies and potential pitfalls that might be encountered and how these will be addressed to meet the projects objectives.

Several methodological aspects are not well-described, esp. possible problems which might occur.

Two very separate projects – a stronger link between Project A and B would strengthen the proposal.

Number of first-author papers (2) could be higher, especially after a PhD in a very well-established group providing all types of expertise and experimental capabilities.

The proposal is very unspecific in the formulation of the research questions. The questions are too broad and not be answered in an 18 months period.

The research training aspect remains unclear to me. From the description I have not read any specific research method knowledge only available at the foreign site which will be used in the collaboration.

Key references are missing from the literature review.

Timeline for ethics approval is not included.

Whilst both host institutions are of high international standing, their exact contribution and support to the various phases of the research plan could have been highlighted more.