a1. COVID-19. I hold a fellowship for a stay abroad or have applied for one, or plan to apply for one in the future. However, the location abroad lies in a region where there is a risk of infection by the coronavirus. What should I do?

(Situation on 10.03.2021; first version: 11 March 2020)

Researchers planning or conducting a stay abroad must follow the advice issued by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), as well as by the responsible authorities in the countries in question.

Fellowship holders who are already in an affected region must respect the directives issued by the local authorities. In the event that they need to return to Switzerland, they must inform the responsible cantonal authorities in Switzerland and follow their instructions, including with regard to quarantine measures.

Besides respecting the recommendations issued by the responsible authorities, the fellowship holder should monitor the situation in the areas in question and take appropriate measures should the risk level go up or their personal safety be threatened. The SNSF must be informed without delay.

Options to be weighed by researchers

We all know that conditions in Switzerland and abroad could change rapidly. Therefore, fellowship holders and candidates - whose personal situations may vary - should take into consideration the following possibilities with a view to finding a solution:

  • They can ask the SNSF to postpone the start date of the stay if this is manageable for them and does not breach any of the travel guidelines issued by the authorities in Switzerland and abroad. Furthermore, regarding the start of the grant which has to take place within 12 months after the decision letter, they can extend the deadline for another 6 months; this will give them 18 months since the project was approved to request payment of the grant and to start their project; in such a case, they have to inform the SNSF about the extension by email or at a later stage via the "Request for release of funds" form in mySNF; the message will be sufficient, they don’t need to submit an application;
  • They can find another research location, while respecting the travel guidelines issued by the authorities in Switzerland and in the country in question, and ask the SNSF to change their file accordingly (please include a letter of invitation from the new host institution in your request);
  • They may ask the SNSF for permission to remain in Switzerland for a certain period of time (for example, 2-4 months) in order to find a solution, i.e. primarily to find a host institution in Switzerland. Regarding the duration, the SNSF will take account of each individual case to ensure that researchers are able to find a solution during this exceptional period. We will also ensure that the duration in Switzerland and the stay abroad are proportionate, with in principle a maximum of 1/2 to be conducted in Switzerland. For any such period conducted in Switzerland, researchers could consider continuing their research work using teleworking technology, provided their host institution (abroad) approves. The home office (teleworking) or the stay in Switzerland’s duration must in principle not exceed half of the fellowship's duration. In the event that this ratio of 1/2 may be exceeded, please check as quickly as possible all the other options mentioned in this FAQ, in particular to what extend another place of research can be found. In any case, you must inform the SNSF in due time if the period of home office or in Switzerland is likely to exceed the ratio of 1/2. Fellowship holders who can’t start their fellowship, for example by teleworking or linking with an institute in Switzerland, should contact the SNSF to discuss their situation if they have no other source of income to cover their living costs and do not qualify for any social insurance benefits.
  • Researchers already based abroad who must interrupt their research are requested to contact the SNSF directly in order to establish to what extent a) a temporary suspension of their fellowship or b) teleworking (given the approval of the host institution) might be an option for them, or c) an extension is necessary (see below).

Extension of mobility fellowships

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many researchers have needed to interrupt their work or are faced with unexpected obstacles. The SNSF expects that projects are organised or adapted to ensure completion by the date that was originally set. As a special measure and this for the fellowships ending until 31 July 2021, fellowship holders can request a prolongation of up to two months if necessary. They can apply for this extension on mySNF as a supplementary grant with the reference "COVID-19". The grant should be requested via mySNF using the form "supplementary grant". It needs to be submitted two to four months before the end of the project. Regarding the fellowships ending after 31 July 2021, it will no longer be possible to apply for a supplementary grant "COVID-19".

For holders of a Postdoc.Mobility return grant, duly engaged in Switzerland, the general provisions of the SNSF apply. These holders have to refer to the FAQ valid for the other SNSF funding schemes.

Scientific reports

Fellowship holder can extend the deadline for scientific reports for up to two months. All they need to do is send a message to fellowships@snf.ch. Any changes to the research plan that are a result of the exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic should be mentioned in the scientific report.

Any questions? Problems?

In case of questions or problems, fellowship holders and candidates can contact fellowships@snf.ch.