Political sciences: submission of proposals in an official Swiss language still possible in justified cases upon request


As of October 2015, project proposals in political sciences will have to be submitted in English. But exceptions are permissible in justified cases.

​As previously announced, the Presiding Board of the Research Council re-discussed the introduction of English as the compulsory language for proposals in the political sciences. In their decision-making, the members of the board took into account of the arguments of researchers who disagree with the change.

New rules allow for exceptions in justified cases

The deliberations of the SNSF ended in a compromise: as previously decided, English will be the mandatory application language, but exceptions will be permissible under certain circumstances. Researchers will therefore still be able to submit proposals in an official Swiss language should this be justified for scientific reasons, particularly if working in a specific language is appropriate to the nature of the research topic. The new rules will take effect immediately and apply to the next deadline for the submission of project funding proposals on 1 October 2015.

SNSF suspends decision after criticism

In December 2014, the SNSF had announced the introduction of English as the compulsory language for proposals in the political sciences. This move was criticised in some parts of the research community. One of the main objections was that certain scientific concepts could no longer be presented with the necessary precision if the use of English became generalised and compulsory. On account of the criticism and following a misunderstanding with regard to consultation with the Swiss Political Science Association (SVPW), the SNSF suspended its decision till it had the results of an SVPW survey among its members and could analyse the arguments put forward against the change.

Weighing the arguments for and against the decision

According to the new decision by the SNSF, English is introduced as the compulsory language for proposals in the political sciences, but exceptions will be permitted. On the one hand, this takes account of the argument mentioned above. Consequently, research plans - the only document affected by the introduction of compulsory English - can still be submitted in an official Swiss language in justified cases. On the other hand, the decision respects the reasons which, according to the SNSF, necessitate the introduction of English as the main language for project proposals. The two key reasons are:

  • Finding experts who are able to review very specialised proposals is becoming increasingly difficult in today's highly competitive research scene. A research proposal submitted in English can potentially be reviewed by a higher number of peers. This helps the SNSF to achieve one of its priority targets, namely guaranteeing high-quality evaluation processes.
  • The decision mirrors the increasing internationalisation of the research community and aims to strengthen the cross-border competitiveness of researchers in Switzerland.

 Further information




Humanities and Social Sciences division
E-Mail div1@snf.ch