Maja Schlüter
Maja Schlüter

“I strongly believe that you have to pursue your own ideas. That’s really the way to get motivated and win research funding. It works better for me than an overly refined strategy”, says Maja Schlüter from the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC). She has already received an ERC Starting Grant and in January she got an ERC Consolidator Grant of 18 M SEK from the European Research Council (ERC).

Maja Schlüter studies the interdependence between people and the environment; how man influences the changing ecosystem and how these changes affect human actions.  She builds on existing knowledge and data from both the social and the natural sciences to develop simulations that examine the dynamics of these systems, which is why she sought out the interdisciplinary environment of SRC.

“I collaborate with experts from various natural and social science fields and actively work to synthesise knowledge across disciplinary boundaries to gain a new understanding of the man-environment system”, she says.

Emphasize the core issue in the proposal

Already as a doctoral student in Germany, Maja Schlüter began applying for funds for travel and field studies and for her own salary. That’s how she developed her ‘own’ approach to writing proposals and was able to move on to bigger and bigger grants and larger and more ambitious projects.

“Make sure that the text is well structured to make it easy to understand and follow the arguments. It has to be easy to see the core issue in the proposal.  That’s why I sometimes emphasize a point graphically, for example with a box.”

And she talks a lot about her ideas and what she wants to do. By involving others she gets the feedback she needs.

“At SRC our research is based on collaboration. This makes it possible to bring together different forms of expertise and it helps me hone my proposal”, says Maja Schlüter.

Help of an external consultant

She has also received assistance from the Research Support Office with the administrative aspects of the ERC proposals and was shown successful proposals. Through the Research Support Office, she also got help from an external consultant to give her proposal a better structure.

“These ERC grants are a bit different from many other EU grants. The only criterion is ‘excellence’; there are no underlying quotas or political considerations. The research must also be innovative and daring, but you have to show that you are capable of realising your ideas. It’s a balancing act.”

Maja Schlüter does not deny that the ERC proposal is a lot of work, but points out that it’s an extraordinary chance to create your very own project without being bound to the usual research politics. “You don’t have to compromise,” she says. "The proposal itself forces you to develop and formulate your research ideas, which you may have worked on over several years through discussions with other researchers. You can always reuse it if you are not successful the first time around."

“Go for it!”

Text: Karin Tjulin