Agora - where research meets the public
The Agora scheme aims to foster dialogue between scientists and society.
The Agora scheme aims to foster dialogue between scientists and society. It encourages researchers to communicate their current research to an audience of lay people. Agora projects have to initiate a direct dialogue between researchers and the public in which they interact and listen to each other.
Projects with a budget of up to CHF 200,000 (Agora projects) need to be submitted by the Agora submission deadline at 17:00 CET, set annually. Funding decisions are communicated in Spring the following year.
Projects with a budget of up to CHF 50,000 (Agora rolling call projects) can be submitted all year round. Funding decisions will be communicated within four months.
With the exception of the deadline, length of the project plan and the budget, all information regarding submissions applies to both Agora projects and Agora rolling call projects.
The applications are evaluated in a competitive procedure by an international commission composed of scientists and experts in science communication.
The Agora regulations are the legal framework of Agora applications and grants. They describe under what conditions an Agora grant may be awarded.
These regulations are based on the Funding Regulations and the General implementation regulations for the Funding Regulations of the SNSF.
Overview of participation requirements
Submitted projects must have a duration of up to three years and a budget of between CHF 5,000 and CHF 200,000.
Agora projects must now be submitted jointly by a researcher and a communications expert. These experts will be assessed in a similar way to researchers, on the basis of a narrative CV which can also be generated on the SNSF Portal.
- Reserearchers: Reserearchers based in Switzerland may submit applications for Agora projects irrespective of their career stage and their experience in science communication. Agora applicants must be employed at an eligible institution with a work-time percentage of no less than 20% during their project. They cannot apply for their own salaries.
- Communication experts: People working on projects as communication specialists can lead or co-lead a project. Their own salary on the project may be financed, with the exception of people employed at Swiss higher education institutions.
All applicants must make a significant contribution to the project and assume personal responsibility.
In line with the principles of the DORA declaration, Agora projects are considered scientific output; the SNSF will therefore take them into account when evaluating the scientific track record.
The topic communicated by the Agora project must be clearly linked to research recently conducted by the applicant(s).
The communicated topic must be of interest to the target audience and the underlying research must have been peer-reviewed. This implies that the research has been published in at least one peer-reviewed journal and/or has received competitive funding as approved by the SNSF or another funding institution in Switzerland or abroad.
The applicant or applicants can choose to work with other people who have the expertise required to carry out the project successfully. The role of project partner is available to persons who make a contribution to the project without bearing individual responsibility. Non-academics can also collaborate on the project, e.g. if they know the target audience, are communication experts or have artistic qualifications. Sub-projects that cannot be run by the applicants or by project partners can be sub-contracted as an external mandate.
Sub-projects that cannot be run by the applicants or by project partners can be sub-contracted as an external mandate.
It is highly recommended that applicants work with the communication service of the host institution. In this sense, a contact with the communication officer of the institute is required prior to the release of the fund (art. 10.3). A list of all communication services of higher education institutions in Switzerland is available on the website of SUPRIO (Swiss Universities Communications Officers Conference).
Other stakeholders in the area of science communication may also be able to offer assistance, e.g. the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences and their competence centre for dialogue "Science et Cité".
Target audience(s) and means of communication
Agora projects always address an audience that is non-specialised in the communicated topic. This includes adults, adolescents, schools or people generally distant from cultural centres. Agora projects can also address smaller target audiences who play a pivotal role in society such as politicians, social workers or teachers.
Applicants can freely choose the means of communication. But the chosen means must encourage a dialogue between researchers and target audience.
Target audiences and means of communication need to be clearly specified in the project plan.
The following types of projects are excluded:
- Communication with other researchers.
- Communication linked to academic teaching, technology transfer.
- Projects whose primary goals are to promote the profile or reputation of an institution (e.g. marketing initiative).
- Projects whose primary goals are to generate public acceptability for a scientific achievement or technology.
- Research into science communication (such projects are financed under the research funding schemes of the SNSF)
- Projects linked exclusively to National Research Programmes (NRPs) or National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCRs) as these programmes have a science communication budget of their own.
Costs for the development and realisation of the project are assumed by the SNSF (salaries, fees, materials, production costs, project management etc.) as well as advertising and distribution costs in Switzerland and abroad. The applicant's salary is not included in the budget. Material and service costs exceeding CHF 20,000 must be accompanied by competing offers from more than one supplier/service provider.
Impact and Outreach
Agora projects are communication projects. Therefore, we highly recommend to include from the start aspects like the project impact, evaluation plan, as well as the communication and outreach strategy.
Preparation and submission of proposals (mySNF, project plan)
Proposals have to be submitted using the mySNF platform:
It is advisable to start entering the application data on mySNF as soon as a call is launched (beginning of June). New user accounts must be requested at least five working days before the submission deadline.
You will find detailed instructions on how to prepare and write an application on mySNF.
The project plan must be uploaded as a PDF file. It will be sent to international experts. For this reason, it has to be written in English. Exceptions may be granted for German, French and Italian in justifiable cases if a corresponding request is made prior to the submission of the application.
Closely follow the instructions provided in mySNF or in the following document:
Guidelines for CV and major achievements
The SNSF has signed the “San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA)”, which recommends funders to be explicit about the criteria used in evaluating the scientific productivity of applicants. The scientific quality, value and impact of the entire research output is taken into consideration (including datasets, software, prototypes) in addition to research publications. In this context, the scientific content of a paper is much more important than publication metrics or the name of the journal in which it was published.
In order to comply with the DORA principles, the SNSF defined a new structure for the CV and requests a standardised set of information from all applicants.
Specifically, applicants will have to compile their CV according to the template on the SNSF-Portal and subsequently upload a PDF in the data container “CV and major achievements”. You find more information on the CV website and on the SNSF-Portal.
This information, which must be provided for each applicant and written in the language of the research plan, is sent out for peer-reviewing.
Selection procedure and funding decision
The evaluation of the proposals is based on the Agora Regulations (Article 9):
- Expertise of the project team (applicant(s), project partner(s) and collaborators).
- Quality of the content to be communicated
- Suitability of the methods or of the communication design in view of the defined target group
- Feasibility of the project
- Expected impact in terms of quality and quantity
The evaluation consists of three stages:
1) Formal verification: the Administrative Offices of the SNSF verify whether the submitted application meets the personal and formal requirements. They may also check if the application meets the rules of scientific integrity:
2) International peer-review process: each application is evaluated by at least two international experts using a list of questions based on the evaluation criteria of Agora. At the end of the evaluation process, applicants have access to the anonymised external reviews on mySNF.
3) Assessment by the Agora evaluation commission: each application is examined by two members of the evaluation commission; they assess the external reviews and classify each application according to the evaluation criteria defined for Agora. In a plenary session, the members of the commission then discuss and compare all the applications and make a provisional funding decision on each application. Subsequently, the Presiding Board of the Research Council examines whether the procedures have been correctly applied and the budget and other conditions complied with. If this is the case, it endorses the decisions of the evaluation commission.
Communication of the funding decision
Final decisions are generally taken five-and-a-half to six months after the submission date. The Administrative Offices of the SNSF forward the final decisions to the applicants as soon as possible in the form of a ruling (in accordance with the Federal Act on Administrative Procedure).
Agora Evaluation Panel
The list contains the names of the members of the evaluation body Agora Evaluation Commission. For the SNSF, interaction between applicants and members of evaluation bodies over applications is not compatible with academic best practices.
Optimus Agora Prize
The SNSF has joined forces with swissnex San Francisco to offer a scientific communication traineeship to winners of the Optimus Agora Prize. Chosen from the submitted proposals, the prize acknowledges the communication potential of the winning project.
Only projects with a budget of more than CHF 50,000 and a duration of over a year are considered for the Optimus Agora Prize.
Winners since 2018
Year Winner Area of research 2023 Timothy Eglinton and Sonia Seneviratne Climate science 2022 Wendy Queen and Mirko Bischofberger Chemistry 2021 Christophe Dessimoz, Marie-Claude Blatter and Monique Zahn Genetics 2020 Dominique de Quervain and Carmen Sandi Neurosciences 2019 Antonio Rodriguez Literature 2018 Luca Maria Gambardella Informatics
Further links for thoughts
- Science Communication Toolbox (VA, Public & Science)
- Evaluation : Practical guidelines (UK Research and Innovation)
- The Communicator’s Guide to Research, Analysis, and Evaluation (Institute for Public Relations)
- La moulinette : tool for public outreach projects (Science et Cité, in French or German)
- Information et Inspiration - Impact Unit (Wissenschaft im Dialog, in German)
- AgoraForum2021 (Workshop’s material, Diapositives)
- AgoraForum2021 (Workshop’s material,Videos)
- Research Impact Toolkit (UCD Dublin)
- Agora Map