Protection from persecution: SNSF supports Scholars at Risk

Wissenschaftler mit Mikroskop im Labor. Sein Gesich ist halb vom Mikroskop verdeckt.

In many countries researchers are under serious threat to life, liberty or well-being due to their work or views. The SNSF has agreed to finance stays at Swiss higher education institutions on behalf of the Scholars at Risk network.

Scholars at Risk (SAR) is a network of 500 universities which advocates the principles of academic freedom. The scholars can apply for temporary placements in countries where they and their families are safe. The stays will allow them to pursue their own academic work, or become involved in research at the host institution.

In the past few years, researchers from the Congo, Serbia, Syria and Turkey have been able to continue their research in Switzerland thanks to the Switzerland Section of Scholars at Risk.

Financial support

As of October 2020, the SNSF will finance SAR’s activities in Switzerland within the scope of its Scientific Exchanges funding scheme. The SAR headquarters in New York assesses the applications submitted by scholars and seeks a suitable placement at one of the affiliated research institutions in over 40 countries. If a Swiss institution is deemed to be a suitable host and agrees to provide sanctuary to a researcher, the new collaboration will enable the network to apply for financial support from the SNSF.

Three-year pilot project

"The SNSF stresses the importance of a free, diverse and internationally open science system. This is threatened whenever scholars find their own and their families' wellbeing at risk because of their peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression or association. It is for this reason that we seek to collaborate with Scholars at Risk,” says Marc Zbinden, head of the SNSF's Interdisciplinary and International Cooperation division. The new funding scheme will be launched as a pilot project by the SNSF and analysed after three years.