PRIMA and Eccellenza become SNSF Professorial Fellowships

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Gender equality measure now directly integrated: The two schemes at the highest level of SNSF career funding are to be merged. The existing PRIMA budget will continue to be reserved for women.

In recent years, the SNSF has continuously developed its career funding schemes. As a result, PRIMA and SNSF Eccellenza Professorial Fellowships have become ever more closely aligned. Both schemes are aimed at outstanding researchers who are on their way to becoming professors. The benefits PRIMA offered its exclusively female grantees, such as more flexible mobility criteria, were introduced in all schemes in 2020 when the SNSF implemented the DORA recommendations (San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment). On the other hand, some of Eccellenza's advantages have not yet been integrated into PRIMA. For example, PRIMA researchers can apply for a maximum of 750,000 Swiss francs in project funding, while Eccellenza's ceiling is one million. To eliminate disparities, the SNSF will merge the two schemes to create a new scheme called SNSF Professorial Fellowships.

Fixed budget share for women

As before for Eccellenza, the just over 30 researchers with the highest-scoring applications will be funded, regardless of gender. Moreover, up to 14 projects by women will receive additional funding via the PRIMA budget. Around 45 SNSF Professorial Fellowship holders will thus be able to conduct their own research project with their own team at assistant professor level for five years.

Integrated equality measure

"This means that we are now integrating the gender equality measure directly into the scheme at the highest level of career funding - a logical continuation of our efforts to achieve greater gender equality," says Matthias Egger, President of the National Research Council. Women are still strongly underrepresented in Swiss research. They account for 23% of professors. Changing this and increasing the share of women in key research positions is a strategic goal of the SNSF. "Gender balance guarantees a high-calibre research scene that benefits society as a whole," says Matthias Egger.

"The PRIMA scheme marks a milestone on the road to greater gender equality at Swiss universities," says Nicky Le Feuvre, who is closely monitoring the merger as a member of the SNSF's Gender Equality Commission. "It has played a leading role in the promotion of women’s academic careers. The fact that PRIMA has now become redundant is a sign of its own success."

The SNSF's stringent excellence criteria will continue to apply. "With the merger of two highly competitive schemes, competition remains at least as challenging as before," says Gabriele Rippl, President of the Specialised Committee Careers. "Women no longer have to choose between two schemes. This increases the share of applications by women compared to Eccellenza."

Information about the first call of the SNSF Professorial Fellowships scheme will follow in due course.

Changes at a glance

The merger of the PRIMA and Eccellenza schemes will enable the following modifications:

  • Name: SNSF Professorial Fellowships (previously: PRIMA and SNSF Eccellenza Professorial Fellowships)
  • Project funds: maximum of CHF 1 million (PRIMA budget until now: CHF 750,000) plus grantee's salary
  • Status: assistant professor (status until now in PRIMA: at least group leader, or assistant professor depending on the higher education institution)
  • Call: 1 November – 1 February (for PRIMA until now: 1 August- 1 November)
  • Time window for submitting an application: up to 10 years after defending the doctoral thesis (for Eccellenza until now: 8 years); for researchers doing clinical work: 14 years after the medical degree (for Eccellenza until now: 12 years)
  • For the first call, the eligibility window will be extended by three months
  • Minimum requirement: 3 years of research work after defending the doctoral thesis (PRIMA until now: 2 years) and connection with Switzerland (like Eccellenza)
  • The PRIMA Leadership Programme is open to all female grantees of the SNSF Professorial Fellowships