Megan Warrender, Assistant Editor of Open Access Government, investigates how the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) is shaping research in Switzerland
The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) funds excellent research at universities – from physics to medicine to sociology. Thousands of teams from all academic disciplines generate knowledge through over 6,000 projects for a better future for all, and together with higher education institutions and its partners, the SNSF plays a key role in shaping Swiss research and innovation.
The SNSF also now has a seat on the Governing Board of Science Europe, enabling the sharing of their expertise at the highest level. Regarding this recent announcement, SNSF Director Angelika Kalt stated that “in Switzerland and at the SNSF, we are used to bringing together different cultures and finding constructive solutions that work for all. This is something we can share with Science Europe. At the same time, we now have the opportunity to play an even more active role in shaping international research.”
Spotlighting young researchers
The SNSF strives to create optimal conditions for the development and international integration of Swiss research, paying particular attention to the promotion of young researchers. One example of schemes put into place for young researchers is the Ambizione funding scheme. The Ambizione grants are aimed at young researchers who wish to conduct, manage and lead an independent project at a Swiss higher education institution. Supporting young researchers both from Switzerland and abroad, the grants cover the grantee’s salary and the funds needed to carry out the project.
One of the projects supported by this scheme recently conducted a ground-breaking study researching how society stigmatises same-gender couples, and how individuals who internalise this stigma are more critical of their partners when under stress. The initial insights provide a better understanding of the causes and consequences of internalised heterosexism in same- gender couples. “Although society is more open to people who do not fit the norm, such as LGBTQ+ individuals and ethnic minorities, psychologists and society should be more aware of the effects of stigmatisation,” says Nathalie Meuwly, a psychologist at the University of Fribourg who conducted this study.
An open science system
Providing simple access to past research projects is vital to the SNSF mission and its dedication to open access. 2022 begins with the SNSF implementing their new extensive database containing information on around 80,000 projects funded by the SNSF since 1975. “The new Grant Search database increases transparency and provides easy access to our data,” states Anne Jorstad, SNSF Data Scientist. “Anyone who’s interested can gain a deeper insight into our funding activities and the Swiss research landscape.”
National Research Programmes
The National Research Programmes (NRPs) generate scientific knowledge aimed at solving Switzerland’s most pressing challenges. They last between six and seven years and have a budget of CHF 10-20 million.
One current SNSF funded and coordinated NRP “78” or “COVID-19,” is a funding project pursuing a highly promising approach in the drive to develop new vaccines. The Programme itself aims to advance our understanding of COVID-19 and the ongoing development of the pandemic, to develop recommendations for clinical management and public health response, and to support the development of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. As of December 2021, three research groups within the programme adopted innovative and interesting approaches to the highly topical issue of vaccines.
This is just one example of how SNSF funded research is making a difference in real-time to the most current and pressing challenges. Research, as well as its context and funding, are constantly evolving. The SNSF aims to anticipate and help shape these changes.