At the beginning of 2016, the SNSF commissioned the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU) to evaluate the selection process for National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCRs). In addition, a sounding board composed of research funding experts was formed and asked to give their opinion of the evaluation results to the Research Council.
All in all, the NIFU evaluators and the sounding board have rated the NCCR selection process positively. Nevertheless, they see room for improvement in three areas: extension of reviewer expertise, transparency vis-à-vis applicants, and efficiency of the selection process, in particular its duration.
The evaluation focused on four areas:
- Appeal and reach of NCCR calls
- Organisation of reviewing and competence of reviewers
- Independence, transparency and confidence in the selection process
- Impact and efficiency of selection
Long-term research funding scheme
The National Centres of Competence in Research are the SNSF's key funding scheme for promoting long-term collaborative research at the highest level. The NCCRs are expected to have a sustainable structural impact on the funded research area, both at the universities involved and throughout the Swiss research scene. They are selected in a two-stage process during which pre-proposals (first phase) and full proposals (second phase) are evaluated according to a wide range of criteria.
Based on the results of the NIFU evaluation, the SNSF is aiming to improve the selection process for the planned fifth NCCR call. The Programmes division, which is responsible for the process, has appointed a working group to prepare the call for a fifth series of NCCRs. The working group will integrate the recommendations made in the evaluation report into the call. NIFU's final report on the NCCR selection process and the comments of the sounding board are published the SNSF's website: