Conflicts of interests: bias and withdrawal

While acting as reviewers or referees, external experts as well as members of the Research Council or another evaluation body of the SNSF may encounter potential conflicts of interests. Such a conflict exists in situations where someone involved in the evaluation procedure has an interest in the outcome of a decision, in particular where the approval or rejection of an application may result in an advantage or disadvantage for the reviewer or the referee. Reviewers and referees must refuse a reviewing request or the assignment of an application and recuse themselves (withdraw) if they:

  • are applicants for the project being proposed or are referred to as a partner in a cooperation project
  • currently work or will work in future in the same institute as the applicant (or in the same or a closely associated organisational unit or in the same institution)
  • have a close family or personal relationship with the applicant (relatives, marriage, partnership, close friendship)
  • professionally depend on or compete with the applicant, or have done so until recently or will do so in the foreseeable future;
  • have published jointly with the person concerned during the past five years, with such publication being an expression of close cooperation
  • fulfil other criteria that put their impartiality in doubt.

When selecting experts for external reviews, the SNSF checks whether the reviewers have any potential conflicts of interests.

Members of the Research Council as applicants

As members of the Research Council at the SNSF are themselves researchers, they are not barred from submitting an application during their term of office. However, to avoid favouritism, the total amount of grants to incumbent Research Councillors may not exceed 5% of the research funding budget per year.

If an application from a member of the Research Council is to be evaluated, he/she shall be denied access to the evaluation documents and shall be obliged to withdraw from any discussions or decision-making concerning his/her application. In addition, a member of the Research Council must withdraw if he/she has a potential conflict of interests (see above) with respect to an application under evaluation by the relevant evaluation body. Members of the Research Council must declare any reasons for withdrawal without being prompted.

Guidelines on the handling of conflicts of interests during the application process (PDF, 570 KB)


Communication division