In view of the high-level meetings between the SNSF, the universities and the ETHs planned for autumn 2014, the SNSF last summer commissioned a survey of the SNSF professorships scheme. The commissioned firm, Interface Politikstudien Forschung Beratung, conducted a survey among all researchers awarded an SNSF professorship, the host institutions of current SNSF professors and the rectors and presidents of the higher education institutions. The aim was to examine the funding scheme's positioning and find out whether it is achieving its goals. The grantees responding to the survey felt the SNSF professorship had a significant positive impact on their career. It must be noted however that no rejected applicants were surveyed and their career progress was not analysed.
Very good prospects on the academic job market
The survey results, which are now available in the form of a report (in English), are highly satisfactory. According to the grantees and their superiors at the host institutions, the SNSF professorships are an effective funding scheme that allows researchers to expand their scientific profile, increases their competence in their research field and enhances their scientific competitiveness. 94% of the respondents who have already completed their SNSF professorship are now (assistant) professors and have thus at least been able to stay at the same academic level. 88% of individuals made the jump to a permanent position. The scheme can thus be said to achieve its primary goals and even to exceed the expectations placed in it.
Minor adjustments requested
On a more critical note, grantees mention a lack of career prospects for SNSF professors (no tenure track). However, the available figures on the number of appointed professors show that there is cause for optimism with regard to obtaining a permanent professorship. Integration at the host institution is another topic addressed by the respondents. Grantees would hope to see greater commitment from the host institutions. The grantees and their superiors at the host institutes propose introducing a mentoring programme, whereas the rectors are in favour of career tracking by the host institutions. In addition, the rectors would like to see the SNSF professorships linked more closely with the strategic orientation of the higher education institutions.
The surveyed grantees do not see any urgent need to amend the basic parameters of the scheme. Today - 14 years after their launch - the SNSF professorships are a well-established funding scheme. The SNSF will examine the suggestions made in the report and develop possible improvements to the scheme in view of the multi-year programme 2017-2020.
SNSF professorships target young researchers who intend to pursue an academic career and wish to establish their own team to realise a research project. The funding scheme was launched in 1999 and evaluated for the first time in 2007.