Example SOC proposal for MSCA IF: Using Tables

In all my MSCA-IF proposals, my National Contact Point (NCP) advised me to present in charts to break things up visually and make it easier for reviewers to comprehend crucial messages.

Members of one of the Facebook groups to which I belong (Marie Curie Individual Fellowship 2020) raised questions about the Tables I’ve presented from the 2015 example proposal. The discussion we’ve had might be of use to others beyond this group, so I’m sharing it below:

MC: Thank you for your apportation, it is very usefull, but I have a question: you use very much charts, it is a way to use more space with a smaller letter, but I think that in the last MC calls, the use of charts to incluide relevant information about the project that is not included in the rest of the proposal is not allowed, isn’t it?

Me: I am not sure what the current rules are for this program, you’ll need to confirm that using the guidelines. I know they changed the rules for some MSCA calls to clarify that you cannot put huge blocks of narrative text in just to fit more using the smaller font.

Applicants had been pushing the limits too far.

CB: The guidelines say that “Tables are only for illustrating the core text of the proposal. As such, they cannot be used to contain the core text itself.” Is this new from this year? I know that in past editions you could use tables for training activities/ communication activities etc. and I was doing the same this year. I am introducing the table in the core text but putting details in the table. Am I doing wrong?

OH: The Net4mobility+ 2020 guidelines document states precisely which sections should (or recommended to) appear as tables. I’m just following those instructions. In sections 1.2.2.; 2.2.1; 2.3 I’m using tables with almost no text outside the table. I hope that’s a good choice 🤷‍♂️

SB: Well the last year evaulator’s guide explicitly says that if they see such a thing they have to report it and the comitee will ask the applicant to copy it to the main text with the proper font size. Then everything over 10 pages will get lost. And the guide also says that we should not do it. So it is risky to use only tables for core text. Of course it depends on the evaulators.

For clarity’s sake, I’m noting that all tables in this 2015 example proposal were at the same size and style font as the entire rest of the document: Times New Roman 11 point. Because I also evaluate proposals for the EC, I know from experience that it’s really difficult and stressful to read tables that use tiny font–some applicants (have the nerve to) use 8pt Arial Narrow and think evaluators will be able to see it. It’s not a good idea.

I have, myself, advocated for stricter regulations regarding font size and style. My advice to applicants is to keep everything very easy on the eye. Try to keep evaluators from getting tired and frustrated due to your formatting. Use small graphics where possible to help snag their memory when discussing your proposal during the review week (so much to keep in one’s mind during that time).

I managed to place small graphics into the header and footer of my (successful) 2016 proposal as well as on the cover page, which I had not done in prior proposals. I’ve included that cover page below.

I also embedded small thumbnail graphics in two of the tables to project a sense of the outreach activities proposed and the supervision team.

I discovered this was possible by evaluating MSCA COFUND proposals; I highly recommend serving as an expert evaluator to gain wide perspective on possibilities. I learned more about what to do and what not to do in seeking funding. Anyone can register as an expert on the Participant Portal.

The full suite of posts on this topic includes:
Abstract and Eval
• Excellence Section 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4
Notes on using tables
• Impact Section 2.1, 2.2
Implementation Section 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4
Ethics Section
Final Report from 2016 submission

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