339 outstanding projects approved

Neurodermatitis, catalysis and the aftereffects of COVID: the SNSF has awarded a second round of research grants this year in project funding, its biggest research-promotion scheme

Severe itching and scaly skin are the main symptoms of the chronic, inflammatory skin condition neurodermatitis. Some 30% of children and 10 to 15% of adults affected also have a food allergy. The project led by Marie-Charlotte Brüggen of University Hospital Zurich will be investigating the reciprocal relationship between the two conditions. The aim is to gain fresh insights that will lead to better treatment.

Innovative research with state-of-the-art methods

The SNSF is contributing funding of 470,000 francs to the project, a collaboration between Marie-Charlotte Brüggen and six research partners. The money will be used to pay team members’ salaries and cover other research costs. “Our project funding scheme enables hundreds of researchers to use state-of-the-art methods to transform innovative ideas into reality,” says Executive Management member Thomas Werder Schläpfer. The SNSF has selected 339 out of a total of 998 applications for funding and is investing 232 million francs in them. “While this amount is higher than in recent calls for proposals in project funding, the success rate is still around one third owing to the increased number of applications,” explains Thomas Werder Schläpfer.

Higher success rate for women

This time round, women recorded a slightly higher success rate than men (35.1% versus 33.5%); this figure is substantially higher than in spring 2021. Women researchers are leading 101 – or around 30% – of the 339 selected projects. In STEM subjects, their share has risen to 20%. “I’m delighted to see the success rate of women going up, as well as their higher participation in the STEM subjects,” says Simona Isler, the SNSF’s Gender Equality Representative. “In absolute terms, however, there are still too few of them participating in calls and more effort is definitely needed to increase the number of proposals submitted by women”.

The approved projects are spread roughly evenly between scientific disciplines: 35% involve mathematics, natural and engineering sciences, 34% biology and medicine and 32% the humanities and social sciences. 13% of project leaders are under 40 years old, 50% under 50.

Around 65% of the money is going to researchers at universities. Scientists in the ETH Domain will receive 27%, while universities of applied sciences and universities of teacher training account for 6%. Researchers at other institutions will receive 1%.

For experienced researchers

The SNSF awards project funding grants twice a year. The funding scheme accounts for around half of its budget. Experienced researchers working at universities or other scientific institutions in Switzerland can apply.

Other examples of funded projects

Biology and medicine: Vascular plants such as wheat, potatoes, rice, maize and manioc form symbiotic relationships with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Using laboratory and field experiments, Ian Sanders (University of Lausanne) is researching the role of genetic and epigenetic diversity in these fungi and how it contributes to plant growth.

Mathematics, natural and engineering sciences: Clémence Corminboeuf (EPF Lausanne) is investigating ways of enriching the computational toolbox for homogeneous catalysis. How could we use satellite images to improve our assessment of snow-melt dynamics and integrate the results into operational models? This is the question being investigated by Mathias Bavay (WSL).

Humanities and social sciences: The COVID-19 pandemic is a threat to public health. Markus Freitag (University of Bern) is investigating the emotional impact of this threat and the resulting political attitudes. The victims of Nazi despotism included Swiss citizens. How did Swiss authorities behave towards them between 1933 and 1965? Christina Späti (University of Fribourg) is investigating this issue.