SNSF Annual Report 2010
In 2010, researchers submitted substantially more projects to the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) than in previous years. A steep increase of 17% compared to 2009 means that competition for research funding has become very intense. With overall funding of 726 million Swiss francs, the SNSF supported more projects than ever before (+2.7 % compared to the previous year).
For several years now, the SNSF has been confronted with increasing demand for research funding. Since 2007, the number of submitted applications in project funding, the SNSF’s main funding scheme, has risen by an average of 10%. The figures published in last year’s Annual Report show that the growth curve is indeed becoming steeper, with a dramatic increase recorded in 2010: the number of submitted applications rose by 17% to 2,784 applications, in which an overall amount of 1.1 billion Swiss francs was requested. A rise in the number of applications has also been noted in the area of career funding.
Research at full tilt
In 2010, the SNSF distributed more research funds than ever before on a budget of 726 million Swiss francs (+2.7% increase compared to the previous year). These funds were allocated to around 3,100 projects. The total funding amount was distributed as follows: 24% Humanities and Social Sciences; 34% Mathematics, Natural and Engineering Sciences; 42% Biology and Medicine.
Positive reviews are no guarantee
The growth in available funds cannot keep up with the rising demand. The SNSF is increasingly forced to reject projects of good quality or cut back on the requested funding. Having dropped already in the previous year, the success rate in project funding again fell substantially, this time by 5% to 56%. Only 42% of the requested funds could be approved (45% in the previous year) although on average researchers did not request more money per project.
In career funding, the important schemes SNSF Professorships and Ambizione registered a success rate of merely 22% and 28% respectively.
Reasons why demand is rising
The SNSF believes that the volume of submitted applications is increasing because of the growing number of scientific personnel at Swiss universities, the high work rate of researchers in Switzerland and continuing pressure to secure competitive third-party funding. The overhead contributions introduced in 2009, which allow for the reimbursement of indirect research costs, may constitute a further incentive.
Key areas 2012-2016: supporting junior researchers and use-inspired basic research
In 2010, the SNSF presented its strategic aims for 2012-2016 to the federal authorities. The targets include making Switzerland more attractive to junior researchers and bolstering the international competitiveness of Swiss researchers. Furthermore, the SNSF wishes to increase its support in the areas of use-inspired basic research as well as knowledge and technology transfer.
The SNSF has already initiated measures from the multi-year programme that allow for implementation without additional funds. For all other measures, in particular for the promotion of junior researchers, the SNSF will need additional funds. Without a substantial growth in federal contributions, it is unlikely that the SNSF will succeed in implementing the necessary measures while keeping success rates stable for applicants.