Page 1

SNSF INFO w w w. s n s f . c h

EDIToRIAL sixty years of investment in research and young researchers The SNSf has been funding scientific research for 60 years and, in doing so, has distinguished Alain Berset itself as a dynamic federal Councillor Head of the organisation with great federal Department powers of innovation. of Home Affairs fDHA Examples of this are the reform programme SNSf futuro, which enables the SNSf to evaluate project proposals even more efficiently, and the strategically sound multi-year plans. Another aspect is the continual calibration of its funding schemes. This has been instrumental in transforming the National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCRs) from an original idea into a success story. The NCCRs have produced excellent results in terms of both science and structures and inspired Swiss higher education institutions to define their research priorities more precisely. Thanks in no small measure to the SNSf's far-sighted approach, Swiss research ranks among the best in the world today. Together with finland, Switzerland has the highest number of published scientific articles per inhabitant in the world. This distinction is also an indicator of the good career prospects of the young researchers produced by Switzerland with the support of the SNSf. Thank you very much for your past, present and future contributions to Swiss research and joyeux anniversaire!


N° 16 > JUnE 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

Project funding: success rate is stable at around 40% Last year, the SNSf was able to invest CHf 713 million in basic research. As mentioned in the Annual Report 2011, this represents a reduction of 2% in comparison to 2010, which was a record year. In addition to key figures, the Report also highlights the efforts of the SNSf to provide services of the highest quality. Daniel Höchli, Director of the Administrative offices of the SNSf

In 2011, the SNSF approved more than 3400 research proposals to the amount of CHF 713 million. The budget was distributed as follows: 26% Humanities and Social Sciences; 35% Mathematics, Natural and Engineering Sciences; 39% Biology and Medicine. In total, the SNSF supported over 8400 researchers, 4400 of whom were doctoral students.

Intense competition The SNSF awarded about half of its research funds in its most important funding scheme, project funding, where the number of submitted applications rose by 6% in 2011. By allocating CHF 359 million, the SNSF was able to stabilise the success rate in project funding, although at the comparatively low level of 41% (54% in 2008). As in previous years, the SNSF had to reject many good research projects due to financial constraints. The competition to obtain research funding is as intense as ever. The growing number of applications forces the SNSF to work even more efficiently. To keep up with its own high expectations, the SNSF initiated a series of quality control measures last year: an international group of experts will evaluate the assessment process of the SNSF in 2012.

One of the many research projects supported by the snsf in 2011: dyed water on the Plaine Morte glacier – an unusual spectacle.

This will be followed by an evaluation of the project funding scheme in 2013. The SNSF also started using a software which simplifies the detection and investigation of suspected acts of plagiarism in proposals. In addition, the SNSF expanded and optimised its project database. The new database P3 (projects, persons, publications) now also includes information on the output of SNSF-funded projects. SNSF Annual Report 2011: > About us > Publications

Page 2 > New: mobility grants in SNSf projects • Page 2 > In focus: why a SNSf mission statement? Page 5 > New NRPs on soil and nutrition • Page 5 > Lead agency procedure proves popular


New: mobility grants for doctoral students in SNSF projects In a measure aimed at increasing the appeal of a scientific career, the SNSF is funding stays abroad at an early career stage: doctoral students will be able to apply for “mobility grants in projects” as of June 2012 if they are employed in an SNSF project, or for the redesigned mobility fellowships “Doc.Mobility” as of 2013. In career funding, stays abroad by doctoral students will be funded via the new mobility fellowships “Doc.Mobility“ as of 2013 (as one of the schemes replacing the SNSF fellowships for prospective researchers). Until now, there has been no similar offer within the scope of project funding for doctoral students employed in SNSF research projects. This has changed with the introduction of “mobility grants in projects“ as of 1 June.

Up to CHF 20,000 per application

Research stays abroad: the SNSF now also awards mobility grants in project funding.

A mobility grant is awarded for six to twelve months. Applications must be submitted no later than three months before the start of the stay abroad. Mobility grants for doctoral students who are employed in an SNSF project and aim to complete their doctorate as part of the project can be applied for at any time via mySNF as a supplementa-

ry grant for ongoing projects. A limited budget is available each year and is distributed on a first come first serve basis. The maximum grant per application is CHF 20,000. No geographical restrictions have been set for the stays abroad (except for international co-operation programmes). The corresponding Regulations and the “Guidelines for requesting a mobility grant“ are published on the SNSF website under “Projects“ and “Careers“ respectively as well as in mySNF under “Supplementary grants“ for the ongoing project. The eligibility criteria and submission procedure for the mobility fellowships “Doc.Mobility“, to be introduced in 2013, will be announced separately in June 2012. PJU > Funding > Careers > Mobility grants in projects

in focus

Ambitions and values: why does the SNSF need a mission statement?

Daniel Höchli Director of the Administrative Offices of the SNSF

“Our ambition: We invest in researchers and their ideas. We promote and disseminate research, creating knowledge that is valuable to society, the economy and politics.“

sion statement? Are 60 years not enough to develop an identity from within and make it visible towards the outside? Is it purely a PR exercise?

in the coming years. The overriding goal is to ensure research funding of high quality while improving internal processes and structures at the same time.

To mark its 60th anniversary, the SNSF published a mission statement setting out the ambitions and values that guide its actions. The values of the SNSF reflect its commitment to quality, independence, responsibility and fairness. In the mission statement, the SNSF affirms its intention to act in the best interests of researchers, the political authorities, the public and its own employees.

The mission statement aims much higher than that. One of the key tasks of the SNSF is to evaluate researchers and their ideas. By issuing a mission statement, the SNSF defines standards against which its own work can be evaluated: it wants to be an excellent funding body in addition to funding excellent research.

The SNSF is interested in receiving feedback on whether its services are in harmony with the mission statement (contact: In addition, it has commissioned external evaluations to assess whether its goals are being reached. An assessment of the quality and transparency of the evaluation procedure at the SNSF is already underway.

Why does an established organisation like the SNSF need a mis-

2 > snsfinfo PRINT June 2012

The mission statement is therefore only the beginning. It will serve as a basis for developing strategic objectives and specific measures

Mission statement of the SNSF: > About us > Funding policy Current issues SNSFinfo Applications & evaluation Funding policy International/Swisscore National Research Programmes National Centres of Competence in Research Communication & transfer

Project funding: steep increase in requested funding

Marie Heim-Vögtlin: 32 grants awarded in 2011

In spring 2012, the SNSF received a similar number of funding applications as in the previous year: by 1 April, researchers had submitted 1142 applications requesting a total amount of CHF 448 million. While the numbers remained stable, the requested funds increased by no less than 13%. The Humanities and Social Sciences division as well as the Mathematics, Natural and Engineering Sciences division registered a particularly large year-on-year increase in requested funding of 18% and 17% respectively. However, the biggest increases occurred in interdisciplinary research, where the requested funding rose by 31% and the number of submitted applications by 22%. The SNSF will evaluate the submitted applications in the coming months and make the corresponding funding decisions by September 2012. (30.05.2012)

In 2011, the SNSF awarded 32 Marie Heim-Vögtlin (MHV) grants to women researchers who had to interrupt or reduce their scientific activities due to family commitments. A total amount of 5.5 million Swiss francs was allocated. The 32 new recipients will begin or continue their research activities in 11 Swiss institutions of higher education. Postdoctoral researchers received 75% of the grants and doctoral students 25%. By financing a research project for up to two years, the MHV scheme facilitates the integration of women researchers in the academic environment and makes it possible for more women to have a family and pursue a scientific career at the same time. (04.04.2012)

SNSF publishes lifetime management guidelines The SNSF has published on its website guidelines for the lifetime management of research projects funded by the SNSF. The guidelines enable grantees to efficiently manage their projects from beginning to end. Here you will find detailed information on points such as the start of funding, reporting, extensions, follow-ups and supplementary grants. (22.05.2012)

Current issues SNSFinfo Applications & evaluation Funding policy International/Swisscore National Research Programmes National Centres of Competence in Research Communication & transfer

3 > snsfinfo PRINT June 2012

Innovations in 2013: mobility fellowships and grants for doctoral students in the humanities and social sciences As of next year, the SNSF will be offering a new funding scheme aimed at doctoral students in the humanities and social sciences: Doc.CH (HSS). In addition, the fellowships for research stays abroad will be offered in a new guise: Doc.Mobility and Early Postdoc.Mobility will replace the fellowships for prospective researchers, and Advanced Postdoc.Mobility will take the place of fellowships for advanced researchers. All these instruments will become effective on 1 January 2013, in accordance with the regulations recently approved by the National Research Council of the SNSF. The calls for proposals will be launched as of November 2012. (12.06.2012)

AcademiaNet brings excellent women researchers to the fore AcademiaNet is an Internet portal containing the profiles of outstanding women researchers in German-speaking countries. Created by the Robert Bosch Foundation and the science magazine “Spektrum der Wissenschaft” in 2010, the database makes it easier to find qualified female scientists to fill management positions and serve as members of scientific bodies. The SNSF joined AcademiaNet as a partner organisation in 2011 and will propose women scientists for inclusion in the database for the first time this year. The nominees must give their consent to the registration. Nominations will be based on formal criteria and the procedure will be repeated annually as of 2013. Current issues SNSFinfo Applications & evaluation Funding policy International/Swisscore National Research Programmes National Centres of Competence in Research Communication & transfer

Approval of 34 innovation projects of the current NCCRs

Approval of 27 projects for NRP 67 “End of Life”

Alongside measures to counteract the strength of the Swiss franc, the Swiss parliament earmarked CHF 10 million for innovation projects in the current National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCRs) in autumn 2011. The SNSF has now approved 34 projects out of 52 submitted proposals. The selected innovation projects cover a broad range of topics from superconducting materials and medical technology to research on emotions. The projects got underway on 1 June 2012 and will run for two years. (15.05.2012)

The SNSF approved 27 projects for the National Research Programme “End of Life” (NRP 67). The overall budget of these projects is eight million Swiss francs. The funding decisions were based on the recommendations of the Steering Committee. Supported by experts from abroad, the Committee assessed the 123 submitted pre-proposals. Thirty-five project leaders were then invited to submit a full proposal. After a second assessment process, 27 projects were approved. (03.04.2012)

Using wood more intelligently: research gets underway in NRP 66 In Switzerland, wood is primarily used as a building material and as fuel. Lately, it has attracted growing attention as a renewable resource that also stores the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) and has the potential to replace oil as fuel and basic chemical substance. Against this backdrop, the 28 projects of the National Research Programme “Resource Wood” (NRP 66) are setting out to show how wood could be used more intelligently in the future. Research is divided into three areas: One area focuses on the potential uses of wood in construction. The aim is to improve the material properties of wood. In the second area, researchers are exploring various approaches to using waste wood as fuel or as a raw material for chemical substances. In the third area, researchers will develop technologies to create new materials on the basis of wood. (31.05.2012)

Current issues SNSFinfo Applications & evaluation Funding policy International/Swisscore National Research Programmes National Centres of Competence in Research Communication & transfer

4 > snsfinfo PRINT June 2012

Horizonte June 2012: Homo scientificus helveticus

Neurobiologist Claire Jacob receives the Marie Heim-Vögtlin Prize 2012

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 “research in Switzerland”. Other articles include: Giving milk can be painful to cows – Irrational peer review – The SNSF: 60 years of experience in research funding. Horizonte is published four times a year in a German and a French version and is available free of charge. (04.06.2012)

The neurobiologist Claire Jacob has received the Marie Heim-Vögtlin (MHV) Prize 2012 for her research into the regeneration of the peripheral nervous system after an injury. The Prize ceremony held by the SNSF took place on 18 June 2012 at the University of Fribourg. The SNSF awards the Prize to female researchers funded by an MHV grant in recognition of the high quality of their work and their career development. (30.05.2012)


The SNSF launches new research programmes on soil and nutrition The SNSF has launched the National Research Programmes “Sustainable Use of Soil as a Resource” (NRP 68) and “Healthy Nutrition and Sustainable Food Production” (NRP 69) in January and April 2012 respectively. Both programmes study topics of high national and international importance. A total budget of CHF 13 million is available for each NRP for a duration of five years. Additionally, a maximum of CHF 4 million, to be shared between NRP 68 and NRP 69, will be available for projects participating in the European Joint Programming Initiatives (JPIs). Both NRPs will support interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research, which have the potential to contribute to the solution of urgent problems at national as well as international level.

Soil as an ecosystem

Sustainable strategies for using soil and producing food: the two new NRPs should help to solve problems connected to the steady growth of Switzerland’s population.

The NRP “Sustainable Use of Soil as a Resource“ aims to analyse the current condition of the soil more comprehensively and determine the key functions of soil as an ecosystem. Switzerland needs an integrated, sustainable and efficient system for the management of soil and land as a resource. In pursuit

of these objectives, NRP 68 will improve our knowledge about soil systems. It will develop tools for appraising soil as a resource and develop concepts and strategies for a sustainable use of soil.

Healthy eating habits The focus of the NRP “Healthy Nutrition and Sustainable Food Production“ is to help promote healthy eating habits while minimising the negative impact on the environment and using natural resources as efficiently as possible. This is to be achieved by developing specific strategies, tools, methods, processes and products. The findings of NRP 69 should, on the one hand, help to effectively counteract diet-related diseases such as diabetes and coronary heart disease. On the other hand, they are expected to contribute to current and future reform processes in the Swiss agricultural and food sectors. HUM/PWA

Lead agency procedure is popular with Swiss researchers The SNSF is pleased with the development of the lead agency procedure, which was introduced in 2008. Every semester, around 50 applications involving Swiss researchers were submitted to either the SNSF or one of its three partner organisations abroad. The numbers show that the procedure has firmly stablished itself. In recent years, the SNSF has signed lead agency agreements with partner organisations in Germany, Austria and Luxembourg. These agreements complement European funding schemes and simplify cross-border co-operations between researchers from the signatory countries. Transnational applications are evaluated by only one funding body, the lead agency, which is always located in the country requesting the highest share of the budget. The partner organisations respect the funding decision of the lead agency and finance the part of the project that takes place in their country.

5 > snsfinfo PRINT June 2012

No additional budget The lead agency procedure has been used frequently by Swiss scientists: between 2008 and 2011, 233 proposals were submitted by research groups with Swiss participation, of which 64 were funded. The SNSF contributed a total of CHF 17.4 million to these projects. After rising steadily in the first few years, the number of applications involving Swiss researchers is now stable at about 50 proposals per semester submitted to either the SNSF or a partner organisation. Around two thirds of the applications were submitted together with

partners from Germany and a further quarter with partners from Germany and Austria. Applicants most frequently came from the ETH Zurich, the EPF Lausanne or the universities of Zurich, Berne and Basel. Lead agency applications are funded through the SNSF's regular project funding or via National Research Programmes (NRPs). They have to compete against purely Swiss applications because there is no separate budget. EMI


Swift settlement of Switzerland after the last ice age At the height of the last ice age about 19,000 to 25,000 years ago, almost the whole of Switzerland was covered by massive glaciers that were up to 2000 meters thick. Not before the ice had melted did life return to the area. Up until now the question of when people resettled on the Swiss plateau was a matter of dispute. By re-dating animal bones, archaeozoologists Werner Müller and Denise Leesch of the University of Neuchâtel have now been able to show that settlements at the lake of Neuchâtel and in north-western Switzerland are between 500 and 1000 years older than previously assumed. Bones found in caves of the Basel Jura, which was never covered by ice, are between 22,000 and 24,000 years old. This shows that people continued to live in central Europe during the ice age and swiftly settled on the Swiss plateau once the glaciers withdrew. Life during the Palaeolithic: after deglaciation, pioneer plants were the first to return to the Swiss plateau – as can be observed on the edge of the Tsanfleuron glacier. > Media > Press releases

snsf internal New deputy for NRC president The Presiding Board of the National Research Council (NRC) has elected Walter Leimgruber, president of the Humanities and Social Sciences division, as deputy to the NRC president till 31 March 2013. He succeeds Ulrike Landfester, whose term of office expired on 31 March 2012. Walter Leimgruber is a full professor and head of the Institute of Cultural Studies and European Anthropology at the University of Basel. In March 2005, he became a member of the National Research Council and was elected to the Presiding Board in April 2010. He is well acquainted with the tasks and processes of the SNSF.

Specialised Committee Interdisciplinary Research: new president elected The Executive Committee of the Foundation Council of the SNSF has elected Marianne Schmid Mast as president of the Specialised Committee Interdisciplinary Research as of 1 October 2012. Since 2006, she has been a full professor at the Institute of Work and Organizational Psychology at the University of Neuchâtel and a research councillor of the Humanities and Social Sciences division since October 2011. The Specialised Committee Interdisciplinary Research evaluates proposals designated as interdisciplinary by the researchers. It includes at least eight members of the National Research Council representing all divisions.

SNSFinfo print is published three times a year. • Edition: 14,000 (9,100 German, 3,900 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 • website Produced by Communication division of the SNSF / head of division: Philippe Trinchan

6 > snsfinfo PRINT June 2012

The Swiss research magazine in German and French Get a free subscription at

Editorial Board Alan Knaus (chief editor) Corinne Ammann, Marjory Hunt (HUM), Patricia Jungo (PJU), Elisabeth Mitter (EMI), Omar Solanki, Pascal Walther (PWA) Design Agence Symbol, Granges-Paccot (FR) Printing Imprimerie Saint-Paul, Fribourg

SNSFinfo print, june 2012  
SNSFinfo print, june 2012  

Information for researchers from the Swiss National Science Foundation.