Conflicts of interests: bias and recusal

While acting as reviewers or referees, external experts as well as members of the Research Council or another evaluation body of the SNSF may encounter potential conflicts of interests. Such a conflict exists in situations where someone involved in the evaluation procedure has an interest in the outcome of a decision, in particular where the approval or rejection of an application may result in an advantage or disadvantage for the reviewer or the referee. Reviewers and referees must refuse a reviewing request or the assignment of an application and recuse themselves (withdraw) if they:

  • are applicants for the project being proposed or are referred to as a partner in a cooperation project
  • currently work or will work in future in the same institute as the applicant (or in the same or a closely associated organisational unit or in the same institution)
  • have a close family or personal relationship with the applicant (relatives, marriage, partnership, close friendship)
  • professionally depend on or compete with the applicant, or have done so until recently or will do so in the foreseeable future;
  • have published jointly with the person concerned during the past five years, with such publication being an expression of close cooperation
  • fulfil other criteria that put their impartiality in doubt.

When selecting experts for external reviews, the SNSF checks whether the reviewers have any potential conflicts of interests.

Members of the Research Council as applicants

The members of the Research Council are themselves accredited and currently active researchers. According to the Statutes of the SNSF, they are allowed to submit applications to the SNSF to a limited extent during their term of office. Their grants may not exceed five per cent of the SNSF funding budget for a calendar year. All in all, the approximately 600 members of evaluation bodies may not be awarded more than 15% of the research funding awarded in a calendar year.

Members of the Research Council and all other persons involved in the evaluation must recuse themselves (withdraw) if they have a potential conflict of interests (see above) with respect to an application under evaluation by the relevant evaluation body. Such persons are required to declare their reasons for recusal without being prompted. When an application by a member of the Research Council is evaluated, the relevant member must recuse himself/herself from the entire evaluation process for all applications of that call.