snsf info w w w. s n s f . c h
Editorial Full commitment My election as president of the Foundation Council of the SNSF is a challenge that I intend to tackle with all due respect and Gabriele Gendotti full commitment. I am New president of the Foundation Council convinced that educaof the SNSF tion and research are the foundation on which we can build our future in a globalised and changing world. Excellent research enables us to find solutions to urgent problems and to devise strategies for sustainable growth. The extent to which this is possible strongly depends on the available funds. One of the main tasks of the Foundation Council is therefore to foster good relations with the political realm, the federal offices and partner organisations and to convince them of the importance of research for the innovative strength of the Swiss economy. Furthermore, it must emphatically point out the risks incurred by decisions that jeopardise the positive development of research in Switzerland. Signals sent recently by the Confederation and other political bodies are indeed to be viewed with a certain amount of concern here. They suggest that the SNSF will barely be able to keep up with the steadily rising demand for research funding and that measures necessary for the promotion of young scientists may have to be put on hold. This is where action on our part is needed.
N° 15 > March 2012
I n f o r m a t i o n f o r r e s e a r c h e r s f r o m t h e S w i s s N a t i o n a l S c i e n c e Fo u n d a t i o n
Encouraging the mobility and early initiative of young researchers As of 2013, the SNSF will present its fellowships in a slightly different guise. Furthermore, it is set to introduce a new funding scheme for doctoral students in the humanities and social sciences as well as targeted measures to promote doctoral mobility in project funding. Marcel Kullin, Careers division
An external evaluation conducted in 2010 revealed that the fellowship programmes of the SNSF are achieving their main goals. Nonetheless, a moderate reorganisation was deemed to be necessary in certain areas. The existing fellowships for prospective researchers will thus be split into two schemes as of 2013: “Doc.Mobility“ at doctoral level and “Early Postdoc. Mobility“ at postdoctoral level. The fellowships for advanced researchers – now called “Advanced Postdoc.Mobility“ – will also be modified slightly and brought more closely into line with the other schemes.
Promoting original ideas A new funding scheme is also planned for doctoral students in the humanities and social sciences (Doc.CH). The scheme aims to enable motivated and talented young researchers to realise their own ideas for their theses in good time. Integration at a Swiss institution of higher education (doctoral school, PhD supervisor) is a prerequisite for this. Once the programme has been running for some time, it could be extended based on the experience gained. The new scheme will be financed through funds formerly allocated to the ProDoc programme, which is expiring. The SNSF Research Commissions will continue to play an important role when it comes to awarding fellowships.
The new funding scheme "Doc.CH" will enable doctoral students in the humanities and social sciences to realise their own ideas for projects.
The promotion of doctoral mobility is not limited to fellowships. Doctoral students working in research projects funded by the SNSF can now apply for a stay abroad, provided that they are supported by the project leader. Thus, the travel, room and board costs of stays abroad lasting between six and twelve months will be eligible for funding as early as May 2012. During the research stay, the doctoral students will remain employed via the SNSF research project. The SNSF has set aside 2.4 million Swiss francs for this measure in 2012.
Page 2 > Agora: 17 communication projects • Page 2 > In Focus: careers of young researchers Page 5 > Global research with developing countries • Page 5 > ERI Dispatch: the glass is half empty
Agora: fostering dialogue on science The SNSF is funding 17 communication projects within the scope of Agora this year. Each project sheds light on different areas of current scientific research. The aim is to promote dialogue between researchers and the public. Performances, games, Internet platforms, interactive exhibitions, debates, participative projects... a dialogue between science and society can be initiated in many different ways. Some of them can now be put into practice as part of the new Agora programme. Of the 77 applications submitted in response to the first call, the SNSF has awarded grants worth a total of 2.1 million Swiss francs to 17 projects.
High quality, but...
Agora projects aim to raise science awareness by engaging with the general public.
The international commission of experts which evaluates the projects was impressed by the quality of the applications. The researchers submitted numerous original ideas for “their“ dialogue with the public. Interactive elements were the number one criterion in the evaluation of projects. The commission of experts has set out three points which the researchers should pay more attention to in future calls: • The communication strategy should be more systematically geared to dialogue or “two-way communication“. Experiences in other countries have
shown that such communication is the most effective means of bringing science issues into the public awareness • The applicants should list the competencies and past activities of the project team in the area of communication in more detail, along with the impacts of these activities on the target public • If the project involves films or books, they must be part of a strategy that leads to “two-way communication“ with the public; otherwise they will not meet the Agora funding criteria A list of the approved projects is published on the SNSF website. Once the projects are launched, a summary of each will be made available in the SNSF's research database P3. The second call for proposals for Agora will be issued on 15 May 2012. Researchers can submit their applications until 15 August. JPO Approved Agora projects : www.snsf.ch > Funding > Science communication > Agora
Young researchers: falling between the rungs of the ladder?
Dieter Imboden President of the National Research Council of the SNSF
Research is a constant challenge, and the same is true of an academic career. The former may occasionaly lead up a blind alley – this is part of the game and can be rectified. However, when one's career takes an abrupt plunge because one has missed a rung on the ladder, this is far more serious. One rung might be an expiring postdoc position at a university, the next rung the coveted Ambizione project at the SNSF, which seems too big a step for the time being. At the invitation of the SNSF, over two-hundred young researchers discussed how such often irreversible falls can be prevented in future at an event entitled
2 > snsfinfo PRINT March 2012
“Young researchers – Is Switzer- to encourage the initiative shown land doing enough?“. The research by young researchers, e.g. with system as a whole – including pol- regard to mobility or the submisicy makers, institutions of higher sion of PhD proposals (see main education and the SNSF – must article). Unfortunately, additional measures, such be well-coordiAcademic careers as the introducnated to ensure tion of a return that research should be decided fellowship, have careers are not by a plannable to be put on hold decided by a evaluation procedure due to the bleak random gap in financial situthe ladder, but rather by a transparent and hence ation. One thing remains clear, plannable evaluation procedure. however: “planless“ falls between The SNSF thought long and hard the rungs of the ladder can only about how best to support young be avoided if the partners of the researchers when it compiled SNSF, too, organise themselves its multi-year programme 2012- appropriately. Only together can 2016. One of its central tenets is we climb to the top.
www.snsf.ch Current issues SNSFinfo Applications & evaluation Funding policy International/Swisscore National Research Programmes National Centres of Competence in Research Communication & transfer
Current issues SNSFinfo Applications & evaluation Funding policy International/Swisscore National Research Programmes National Centres of Competence in Research Communication & transfer
3 > snsfinfo PRINT March 2012
Forty-one new SNSF professorships In February, the SNSF awarded 41 SNSF professorships to excellent young researchers. They will be taking up their posts at seven Swiss universities, both federal institutes of technology and a university of applied sciences. The proportion of researchers abroad who will return to Switzerland with an SNSF professorship is particularly high this year (39%). The proportion of female scientists who received an SNSF professorship this year is 29%. In accordance with the new regulations introduced in 2009, the SNSF awarded two professorships in clinically oriented areas. The grantees will benefit from specific working conditions tailored to their needs. The SNSF has awarded a total of 485 SNSF professorships since 1999. Out of all recipients between 2000 and 2008, 72% have since gained a full professorship. (08.03.2012)
Evaluations for third parties: principles set out more precisely The SNSF provides evaluation services to third parties and conducts joint programmes together with external partners. In December 2011, the SNSF set out the principles and requirements for the assumption of such tasks more precisely. This was based on the experiences gained while carrying out mandates for the research initiatives Nano-Tera.ch and SystemsX.ch, for joint programmes conducted together with the Swiss Confederation (incl. leading house initiatives), and for ProDoc doctoral programmes. The requirements that need to be met before the SNSF can provide evaluation services to a third party now include not only scientific criteria, but also aspects of good governance. The amended principles enter into force immediately. They apply to all new mandates or partnerships and to all extensions of existing contracts. (08.02.2012)
Young researchers: is Switzerland doing enough? On 11 January 2012, the SNSF got together with 250 participants from science, higher education institutions and politics to discuss the forward-looking topic “What more can we do to support young researchers?" Different workshops were held in which young researchers were able to formulate their needs. The subsequent committed and constructive discussions with decision makers were crowned by the first appearance of federal councillor Alain Berset at a public event. The event was organised in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the SNSF. (13.01.2012)
Service level agreement 2012 between the SNSF and the federal authorities
The SNSF publishes first report on plagiarism in applications
In December 2011, the State Secretariat for Education and Research and the SNSF signed the service level agreement (SLA) for 2012. The SLA, which is effectively a continuation of the previous agreement, defines the activities of the SNSF in this year. It sets budgetary limits and describes strategic areas of work. The Federal Council also approved the permanent overhead regulations issued by the SNSF. (22.12.2011)
Between October 2010 and September 2011, the SNSF investigated ten cases of possible plagiarism in applications. Five of these were detected by experts, five others via a new software used by the SNSF. The subsequent internal investigation came to the conclusion that only two cases involved actual plagiarism. The “Plagiarism in applications” report describes the investigation procedures used by the SNSF and outlines the cases examined since the introduction of the software. (09.12.2011)
www.snsf.ch Current issues SNSFinfo Applications & evaluation Funding policy International/Swisscore National Research Programmes National Centres of Competence in Research Communication & transfer
Current issues SNSFinfo Applications & evaluation Funding policy International/Swisscore National Research Programmes
Call for proposals for the fourth series: NCCRs continue to attract great interest
NRP 66 “Resource Wood”: 28 projects approved
The SNSF received 63 pre-proposals in response to a call for proposals for the fourth series of National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCRs). This high number shows that researchers and Swiss institutions of higher education are still interested in this funding instrument. Twenty-six pre-proposals focus on mathematics, natural and engineering sciences, 23 are in the spheres of biology and medicine and 14 deal with the humanities and social sciences. Many of them adopt an interdisciplinary approach. In total, the submitted preproposals request approximately a billion Swiss francs during the first four years. However, the expected overall budget is 100 million Swiss francs. At the end of October, the SNSF will publish the results of the evaluation, which is based not only on scientific merit but also on an assessment of the planned measures to strengthen research structures. The deadline for the submission of full proposals is expected to be set for the end of February 2012. (31.01.2012)
The SNSF has approved 28 projects in the National Research Programme “Resource Wood” (NRP 66). The projects, which have an overall budget of 10.7 million Swiss francs, got underway as of January 2012. The evaluation process was particularly challenging due to the great number of high quality pre-proposals – almost 70 in all. In view of the limited budget, the Steering Committee unanimously decided to invite about half of the projects to submit a full proposal. With the selection of 28 projects, the evaluation process for NRP 66 has taken a big step forward. The process is not yet complete, however, as the projects approved so far do not adequately cover all aspects of the programme. There are gaps in module 1 “Raw wood – availability, politics and processes of provisioning”. For this reason, the National Research Council has agreed to a proposal from the Steering Committee to issue a targeted second call in January 2012. (15.12.2011)
The SNSF’s research database P3 is online The SNSF activated the research database P3 on its website (www.snsf.ch) in January. P3 replaces the existing project database and includes extended information on the content and, as a new feature, also on the output of projects funded by the SNSF. P3 is available in English, French and German and offers expanded and user-friendly search options. The research database is updated on a daily basis. As soon as the SNSF transfers a grant for an approved project, the corresponding data are published in P3. (10.01.2012)
National Centres of Competence in Research Communication & transfer
4 > snsfinfo PRINT March 2012
Horizonte March 2012: digital romances
Research Day: the SNSF visits Zurich
The latest edition of the Swiss research magazine Horizonte is out. It presents a wide selection of projects supported by the SNSF. The focal point of this edition is the “digitalisation of life”. Other articles include: Early diagnosis for premature babies – My leg has got to go! – Books: Why we need them more than ever. Horizonte is published four times per year in a German and a French version and is available free of charge. (01.03.2012)
On 13 june 2012, as part of the Research Day, the SNSF will be visiting the University of Zurich to present the SNSF’s funding schemes at information stands and lectures. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions and to participate in workshops where individual funding schemes will be discussed in more detail. Research Day is open to researchers from all Swiss universities. Attendance is free, registration is not required. (20.03.2012)
r4d.ch: global research with developing countries The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the SNSF are launching the joint “Swiss Programme for Research on Global Issues for Development” (r4d.ch). A total budget of 97.6 million Swiss francs is available for the whole duration of the programme from 2012 to 2022.
Provision systems in the health sector are among the topics to be given priority in research projects with developing countries.
Swiss researchers have a long history of collaboration with less developed countries. By striving to achieve sustainable development, the international research community can show great social and political responsibility. The SDC and the SNSF have set up the joint “Swiss Programme for Research on Global Issues for Development (r4d.ch)“ in order to promote knowledge and innovative solutions in developing countries and thereby meet global challenges. The research projects are geared to excellence, research partnerships and interdisciplinarity and divided into two modules. One module gives researchers the freedom to choose their own topic, while the other module comprises five priority topics: • Causes of and solutions to social conflicts in contexts of weak public institutions • Reducing poverty through employ-
ment as well as favourable societal and state-related framework conditions • Agricultural production systems and food security • Sustainable use and management of ecosystems • Provision systems and financing mechanisms in the public health sector The initial calls for proposals will be launched in spring 2012.
Forging new partnerships The programme r4d.ch not only supports existing research co-operations. It also aims to inspire new transnational research collaborations between researchers from Switzerland and developing countries, and to strengthen research on global problems in Switzerland as well as in developing countries. For further details, please refer to www.r4d.ch. ES
ERI Dispatch 2013-2016: the glass is half empty… According to the ERI Dispatch approved by the Federal Council in February, a total amount of 3.65 billion Swiss francs is available to the SNSF for its funding activities and overhead contributions in 2013-2016. This corresponds to an annual increase of merely 3.7% for the four-year period. If research funding is to remain “healthy“, the available funds need to develop in line with demand. The Federal Council's Dispatch on the Promotion of Education, Research and Innovation (ERI Dispatch), however, paints a rather gloomy picture in this respect: although the average annual increase in project funding (incl. Sinergia for the promotion of small research networks) at the SNSF between 2008 and 2011 corresponds to 8 percent for applications and as much as 13 percent for requested amounts, the Federal Council envisages an average increase in funds of merely 3.7% per year for the 2013-2016 period. The comparatively low growth of the next few years weighs all
5 > snsfinfo PRINT March 2012
the more heavily in view of clear signs that demand for SNSF funding will continue to grow in future.
Inevitable compromises According to the ERI Dispatch, a total of 3.65 billion Swiss francs will be made available to the SNSF for all its research funding activities between 2013 and 2016. This corresponds to approximately 900 million less than the amount requested by the SNSF in its current multi-year programme – an amount that is needed for the SNSF to be in a position to fully implement the measures set out in the programme. It is hence clear that some important
measures aimed at optimising conditions for researchers in Switzerland cannot be financed. In order to prevent the funding rate of applications from declining even further, additional funds in project funding and for Sinergia are of prime importance. As the demand for funding is expected to keep on rising strongly, the SNSF regards the funds envisaged by the Federal Council in its ERI Dispatch as insufficient for the next four years. Unless the endowment is corrected, there is a risk of the SNSF not being able to fulfil its task of competitive research funding in line with the needs of researchers. HOC
PICTURE FROM RESEARCH
Optomechanical interactions: a quantum connection between light and mechanics
The glass oscillator, which is smaller than the diameter of a hair, is connected to the supporting chip by four spokes, to ensure that the structure can vibrate for a long time like a good tuning fork.
Researchers from the EPFL in Lausanne have demonstrated a microscopic system in which light can be converted into a mechanical oscillation and back. This interaction is so strong that it becomes possible to control the motion of an oscillator at the level where quantum mechanics governs its behaviour. For the first time, the transformation between light and motion is made to occur within a time that is short enough such that the quantum properties of the original light pulse are not lost. The current results provide a powerful way to control the quantum properties of the oscillator motion, and see the peculiar predictions of quantum mechanics at play in human-made objects. www.snsf.ch > Media > Press releases
snsf internal Gabriele Gendotti takes the helm at the SNSF
Martin Vetterli is the new president of the Research Council of the SNSF
In January, the Foundation Council of the SNSF elected Gabriele Gendotti as its president for the 2012-2015 period of office. The lawyer from the canton of Ticino replaces Hans Ulrich Stöckling at the helm of the SNSF. Gabriele Gendotti has been a member of the Foundation Council since 2003 as a representative of the federal government and is thus very well-acquainted with the SNSF. As a former national councillor and longstanding minister for education, he is familiar with federal policy-making as well as education and research policy issues. From 2000-2011, Gabriele Gendotti was a member of the Swiss University Council (SUC) and the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK), whose vice president he was for eight years.
On 2 March 2012, the Executive Committee of the Foundation Council of the SNSF elected Martin Vetterli as president of the National Research Council for the 2013-2016 period of office. The engineering scientist is full professor for communication systems and dean of the School of Computer and Communication Sciences at the EPFL in Lausanne. He succeeds Dieter Imboden, who will step down from this key position at the end of 2012 after eight years in office. As a longstanding vice president of EPFL (2004-2011) and former member of the Swiss Council on Science and Technology (2000-2004), he has in-depth knowledge of Swiss policies with regard to research and higher education institutions. As founding director of the NCCR MICS he is familiar with the SNSF. He has won a number of awards for his own research in elec-
SNSFinfo print is published three times a year. • Edition: 14,200 (9,200 German, 4,000 French, 1,000 English) Published by Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) Wildhainweg 3, P.O. Box 8232, 3001 Berne Tel ++41 (0)31 308 22 22 • Fax ++41 (0)31 301 30 09 • E-mail email@example.com • website www.snsf.ch Produced by Communication division of the SNSF / Head of division: Philippe Trinchan
6 > snsfinfo PRINT March 2012
trical engineering, computer sciences and applied mathematics, including the National Latsis Prize in 1996. “Switzerland has smartly invested in the future of the country by funding high quality research through the Swiss National Science Foundation. It is an honour to lead such a prestigious and central institution, and to keep up the tradition of excellence of Swiss research,” Martin Vetterli stressed.
Editorial Board Alan Knaus (chief editor) Corinne Ammann, Célia Francillon, Daniel Höchli (HOC), Juliette Pont (JPO), Elisabeth Schenker (ES), Omar Solanki Translation Textra, Pfäffikon (SZ) • Proofreading Birgit Roth, Galgenen (SZ) Design Agence Symbol, Granges-Paccot (FR) Printing Imprimerie Saint-Paul, Fribourg