Simplified rules for employing project staff

More flexible rules make it easier for research institutions and project leaders to employ personnel in SNSF-funded projects. The rules take effect in October 2019.

​The SNSF no longer places any requirements on institutions with regard to the work-time percentage of doctoral students. The rule of 60% "protected time" has been abolished. However, the SNSF expects that doctoral students devote 80-100% of a full-time equivalent position to their doctorate and complete their dissertation rapidly. The maximum funding duration of four years remains unchanged. Doctoral students can now apply for career grants such as the Gender Equality Grant or grants towards childcare costs regardless of the number of hours they work per week.

Apart from their work for the research project, postdocs were so far barred from spending more than 20% of their time working for the institution. This upper limit has been removed. Of course, postdocs must spend most of their time pursuing their academic qualification targets. The postdoctoral position allows them to fast-track their careers and become independent at an early stage. The SNSF continues to finance postdocs for a maximum of five years.

More flexible rules have also been introduced with regard to positions for other employees. They include researchers who do not intend to do a doctorate and technicians. The SNSF no longer prescribes a maximum funding duration or a maximum salary. It may, however, lower disproportionately high salaries.

"By making our rules more flexible, we are responding to feedback from the institutions and project leaders," says SNSF Director Angelika Kalt. "The new guidelines simplify the employment of staff in SNSF-funded projects."

Obligations made clear

Other changes in the Implementation Regulations concern the obligations of institutions towards their employees. These obligations are now explicitly stated by the SNSF. This helps to ensure that the employees' personal integrity is protected and that they do not fall victim to sexual harassment and bullying, for example. In addition, the institutions must take effective measures to prevent or penalise any breaches of research integrity. "Naturally, these obligations were already in force and are enshrined in the HR provisions of all institutions," says Angelika Kalt. "But including them in our Regulations makes them more visible."

The obligations of project leaders - the recipients of the SNSF grants - are also set out in greater detail. They include actively supporting the scientific careers of employees.

Also applicable to ongoing projects

The changes to the Implementation Regulations entered into force on 2 October 2019. They also apply to ongoing projects. This has no effect on the endorsed budgets, however. If project leaders increase the work-time percentage or salaries of their employees, they will have to do so without exceeding the approved overall budget.