Prioritising equality and transparency in Swiss research

swiss research

Here, Open Access Government examines the priorities of the Swiss National Science Foundation’s Matthias Egger, following his re-election as President of the National Research Council

January 2021 marks the beginning of Matthias Egger’s second four-year term as President of the National Research Council of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). The National Research Council evaluates the submitted research proposals and selects the best projects for funding, and is composed of a maximum of 100 leading researchers. The 2021-2024 term of office will consist of implementing the SNSF’s multi-year programme, which features goals such as creating more diversity in research and making results even more useful to the economy, the political realm and society as a whole. Underlying all of the work of Matthias Egger in the Research Council is his focus on evaluation quality. Following his re-election, Egger stated that “we are continually improving our selection processes based on scientific knowledge. Our aim is to make them even more fair and transparent so that we can guarantee a level playing field for all researchers who apply to us for funding.”

Working towards Egger’s vision of more inclusivity, the SNSF is investing 206 million francs in 339 new projects of its project funding scheme. They received over 1000 applicants for this project funding in 2020, and out of these, 998 were forwarded for scientific evaluation to the National Research Council, who approved 339.

Prioritising equality and transparency in Swiss research

They cover the full range of research topics and generally last four years. Out of these 339 projects, only 81 are led by women, which amplifies the need for the SNSF’s pursuit for gender equality in research. However, the female-led projects achieved a success rate of 33%, almost the same as the rate of men, which was 34%.

The SPIRIT Programme

Collaboration will always remain vital to inclusivity and diversity in research. The Swiss Programme for International Research by Scientific Investigation Teams (SPIRIT) grants have facilitated collaboration with countries of the global South since 2019. Its overarching mission is to strengthen cross-border research that involves researchers in Switzerland and in partner countries in the global South. SPIRIT is focused on equal opportunities and aims to raise awareness of gender-specific questions. In the first two years, the SNSF selected 13 research projects, awarding them approximately 6 million francs in total. Researchers from Nepal, Togo and Colombia, among others, are participating in these projects. Until now, the selection process has consisted of a pre-proposal stage, which had to be approved and was followed by an invitation to submit a full proposal. From 1 February 2021, the SPIRIT programme no longer requires these pre-proposals, and researchers can submit their project proposals directly, in a much more simplified way.

The BRIDGE Programme

For the funding period 2021-24, Innosuisse and SNSF are increasing the BRIDGE budget by 50%. The BRIDGE programme (launched in 2017) supports the transition from basic research to science-based innovation. This will open up the possibility to fund even more innovative projects, and furthermore, as of 2021, the entire programme of Innosuisse and SNSF will be open to all disciplines, including the humanities and social sciences. This next call for applications is being launched in January 2021 and will be accepting research projects of the highest quality that carry excellent social or economic potential.

To meet the challenges of the future, the SNSF is planning to build its new headquarters in Bern WankdorfCity as decided in October 2020 and is expected to be completed in 2024. This new space will aim to excel in terms of flexibility and sustainability, uniting all the SNSF’s approximately 300 employees under one roof, with the goal to create neighbourhoods that combine residential, commercial, and educational uses.


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