Regulations: What's new
What changes can you expect in SNSF research funding? This regularly updated page gives you the latest information about new requirements and opportunities.
The Funding Regulations and the Implementation Regulations of the SNSF can be found here:
Changes to the Postdoc.Mobility Regulations
The SNSF has amended the Postdoc.Mobility regulations in two points. With immediate effect, a career plan is no longer required for proposals. In addition, it is no longer mandatory for the residence or permanent residence permit for foreign applicants to be valid at the submission deadline. The details are specified in the Guidelines. These state that the resident or permanent residence permit must either be valid at the submission deadline or must not have expired more than six months before the deadline.
Agora: promoting equality and working with communication specialists
Two important changes have been made to the Regulations for the Agora programme:
- Diversity and equal opportunities: the contribution to promoting diversity and equal opportunities is now an evaluation criterion.
- Collaboration between researchers and communication specialists: Agora projects must now be submitted jointly by a researcher and a communication specialist. These specialists will be assessed in a similar way to researchers, on the basis of a narrative CV.
Adaptation of the SPIRIT regulations
Changes in the PRIMA and Eccellenza Regulations also affect the SPIRIT Regulations: researchers who have already received funding under the PRIMA and Eccellenza schemes can now submit applications in SPIRIT, Project Funding and Programmes as well.
PRIMA and Eccellenza Regulations amended
PRIMA and Eccellenza grantees can submit grant applications in the funding schemes 'project funding', SPIRIT and Programmes. The research projects must address clearly different topics and grantees must be in a position to make a substantial contribution to each of the research projects.
Changes in Art. 10 Eccellenza Regulations and Art. 13 PRIMA Regulations. Links follow:
Spark: Transitional provisions and adjustment of blocking period
Article 9 paragraph 2 of the Spark Regulations defines a blocking period for applicants whose proposal was scientifically evaluated in a former call. These applicants may not submit a proposal in any of the four subsequent calls. Following queries about this rule, the SNSF has added transitional provisions to the Regulations clarifying that Article 9 paragraph 2 does not apply to proposals submitted during the pilot phase in 2019 and 2020. Moreover, the SNSF has limited the blocking period to applicants whose proposal was approved or was among to the weakest third of the proposals of the respective call.
SNSF adapts its Spark regulations
Based on the results of the external evaluation of the pilot phase, the SNSF has made minor changes in the Spark regulations. Thus, it has combined the two criteria "originality, novelty of the idea" and "unconventionality of the proposed research project" into one criterion. In the future, the SNSF will classify proposals into funding priorities primarily based on the evaluation of this new criterion. In addition, applicants must now explain how a planned research project is not a continuation of existing research. Furthermore, persons employed on SNSF projects may, under certain conditions, carry out a Spark project without having to stop their work for the other project.
The SNSF has also adapted and clarified various other points. Please read the regulations carefully in advance to be able to enter your proposal correctly. The new Spark call will open on 3 April 2023, the submission deadline is on 2 May 2023 at 17:00 Swiss local time.
Liability insurance for clinical trials now chargeable
As of 1 July 2022, the SNSF is amending the General implementation regulations for the Funding Regulations: for clinical trials, liability insurance premiums in connection with research on humans for centres outside Switzerland will qualify as eligible costs (Clauses 2.14 and 12.2), provided the insurance is essential for the research project. Insurance costs for the Swiss centres will continue to be borne by the sponsors of the clinical trials.
BRIDGE: Proof of Concept Regulations adapted
The BRIDGE Steering Committee has revised its Regulations for the Proof of Concept funding opportunity: now the requirements for applicants can be restricted in certain calls for proposals. This enables, for example, a special call for applications from Bachelor’s and Master’s graduates. In addition, the Proof of Concept evaluation panel will expressly evaluate the applicant’s motivation to develop the research results in collaboration with an implementation partner or by following an entrepreneurial path. Finally, BRIDGE will offer all approved Proof of Concept projects a limited period of coaching.
If you encounter difficulties in carrying out your SNSF Grant due to the Covid-19 pandemic, please contact the SNSF at the e-mail address of your support instrument.
Open Research Data - amendment of the Implementation Regulations
Research data should be freely accessible to everyone – scientists as well as the general public. The SNSF has supported this principle for years. Now, it has also set out its Open Research Data policy in the Implementation Regulations and has amended Clause 11.8.
- Grantees must make available all data generated and collected during their research on which a publication is based. Exceptions can be made for legal, ethical or copyright reasons, or for other valid reasons.
- In special cases, the SNSF may ask grantees to make available all data that is relevant to further research, regardless of any scientific publication.
- In addition, researchers must submit a data management plan.
Standardised evaluation procedure
The SNSF has updated and standardised its evaluation procedures. This important step will help to ensure that evaluations at the SNSF are conducted to consistently high quality standards, making them even fairer as well as more transparent and efficient. Thanks to its modular form, the evaluation procedure – with few exceptions – applies to all funding schemes and evaluation panels at the SNSF. Article 23 of the Organisational Regulations of the National Research Council was adapted to provide a legal basis for the main adjustments to the evaluation procedure: the preselection process, individual voting by panel members, and the use of statistical methods to generate a final ranking. Article 23 also draws a distinction between scientific evaluation and the separate task of making the final funding decisions.
Changes to the Implementation Regulations
The SNSF is amending various provisions in the General implementation regulations for the Funding Regulations, effective date 1 July 2022. The provisions apply to all funding schemes. This will, among other things, create more flexibility for researchers. In the transition period until 1 July 2022, we will accept budgets according to both the old and new regulations. The changes:
- The salaries of the project partners' employees can now also be charged to the grant. As with grantees’ employees, a 'request of employment' message needs to be submitted. Services provided by project partners and mandated third parties (subcontracting) must generally not exceed 20 per cent of the grant. (Clause 2.10)
- For travel, conferences and workshops, grantees can claim travel and care costs for accompanying children. (Clause 2.9, 2.17)
- The maximum chargeable costs for material of enduring value and equipment are now set at 100,000 francs. Co-funding by the institution is not required. (Clause 2.8)
- The SNSF is discontinuing the two additional programmes “Protected research time for clinicians” and “Grants for exemption from teaching duties” as of 2025. Both offers involve structural problems in clinical research and in humanities and social sciences teaching, which the SNSF is unable to solve in the long term. To allow time for the institutions affected to make the appropriate arrangements, both programmes will run until the end of 2024. (Clause 2.20, 2.23)
Sinergia: more precise evaluation criteria
The SNSF has revised the Regulations on Sinergia grants in order to clarify the objectives of the funding scheme. As a result, it has adapted the wording of the two evaluation criteria relating to collaborative and potentially groundbreaking research.
Both the evaluation forms for evaluators and referees and the guidelines for applicants have been adapted accordingly.
- Regulations on Sinergia grants (PDF)
- Guidelines for the research plan
- List of questions for the assessment of Sinergia applications (PDF)
Scientific Exchanges revise budget calculation
The SNSF has revised the Scientific Exchanges regulations to streamline the budget calculation across the various formats, i.e. physical, online and hybrid events. As of now, the maximum amount that can be requested is based on the length of the planned event: a one-day event can be supported with up to 5000 Swiss francs, and events that span five days up to the maximum grant sum of 25,000 Swiss francs.
This streamlining of the budget calculation allows for greater coherence as well as flexibility: the funding scheme no longer defines a maximum number of invitees that can be supported based on the duration of the event, and events are not required to take place on subsequent days.
Mobility fellowships: no more collective accident insurance as of 1 January 2022
All recipients of an SNSF mobility fellowship are covered by collective accident insurance. Based on a circular issued by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority FINMA, this provision cannot be continued beyond 31 December 2021. In future, SNSF fellowship holders will be responsible for their own accident insurance. They may be able to obtain cover through their compulsory health insurance, through an accident insurance provided by the host institute abroad or through an individual insurance policy.
Scientific Exchanges: support of online and hybrid events
The Scientific Exchanges funding scheme has been supporting research visits and scientific events since 2017. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been difficult, even impossible, for researchers to travel safely and engage with peers in person. And looking beyond the pandemic, researchers have also raised concerns regarding the sustainability of frequent international events because of the resulting carbon footprint.
For this reason, the SNSF now also supports events that are conducted online either fully or partially. The costs for equipment, venues and infrastructure are covered by the SNSF. Services provided by externals and remuneration for assistance during the event are also fundable.
Practice-to-Science - rules adapted
The SNSF has adapted some rules in the regulations and guidelines of the Practice-to-Science scheme:
- The work-time percentage is now clearly indicated, also as a full-time equivalent (FTE).
- Grants are no longer awarded as a flat-rate sum; the amount now needs to be justified in the budget.
- Applicants who already have a professorial position must not have been in the job for more than 24 months at the time of submission.
- In addition to their CV, candidates need to submit a document detailing their practical experience, how long each job lasted and what added-value they bring to the project.
Harmonised rules for specialised committees
The National Research Council of the SNSF is composed of four divisions and three cross-divisional specialised committees. The three specialised committees Careers (FA CAR), International Cooperation (FA IZ) and Interdisciplinary Research (FA ID) were set up in 2008 with largely similar organisational structures. So far, however, only Research Council members have been eligible to sit on the specialised committee Interdisciplinary Research. The Presiding Board has now harmonised the composition of the four specialised committees, allowing external members to be elected to all specialised committees.
Research Council: amendments to the Implementation Regulations
The implementation regulations for the organisational regulations of the Research Council stipulate responsibilities and define the implementation of provisions in detail. Three new rules, adopted by the Presiding Board of the Research Council, came into force on 1 March 2021:
- Grant applications for research semesters by former members of the Research Council will now be dealt with by the Administrative Offices (no longer by the Presiding Board).
- In December 2020, the Presiding Board of the Research Council approved a quota system for evaluation bodies of the Research Council. These new rules have been integrated into the implementation regulations for the organisational regulations of the Research Council.
- To avoid conflicts of interest, a precise definition of incompatibilities for members of the Research Council's bodies has been adopted. If there is a close relationship between two persons, they cannot both be members or candidates for election to such bodies. Close relationships include spouses, partners or close relatives.
BRIDGE: New regulations for Proof of Concept and Discovery in 2021
As of 2021, the conditions for participating in the Proof of Concept scheme and the Discovery scheme of the BRIDGE programme are set out in regulations (previously the call documents applied). In this context, changes have been introduced by the SNSF and Innosuisse, who are jointly responsible for the programme. They include, with immediate effect, the opening of both funding schemes to all disciplines and types of innovations. In addition, a commitment to sustainable development is now one of the evaluation criteria. In Proof of Concept, questions regarding the intellectual property of research results must be clearly defined. Furthermore, BRIDGE now covers the costs of gender equality measures and awards Flexibility Grants to parents with care duties. And lastly: rejected projects can be resubmitted only once.
SNSF Care: coverage of care costs
SNSF Care offers support to panel members, guests or speakers participating in SNSF events who have care responsibilities for children or other persons. The scheme provides financial contributions towards the cost of travelling, accommodation and food. In addition, the SNSF can organise care for children and other dependent persons who need to come along, or it will cover the cost of care for those staying at home. It is also possible to claim the cost of caregivers travelling with the panel member, guest or speaker.
Funding of Open Access book chapters
The SNSF covers so-called "book chapter processing charges" (BCPCs) for individual chapters even if the anthology as a whole is not freely accessible. This rule now applies until further notice, and not only as a temporary transitional provision. The SNSF is following developments in the area of BCPCs closely. Should open access anthologies become increasingly common, we might rescind this special provision in the future.
Excellence grants discontinued
In 2016, the SNSF introduced excellence grants, which are awarded in a simplified procedure to researchers whose projects are ranked in the two highest categories. However, an evaluation of this mechanism has now revealed unwanted side-effects, besides the desired simplification for applicants. With the extension of the maximum duration of project funding grants to 4 years, substantial funding was awarded without in-depth competitive evaluation over a period of up to 8 years. In addition, excellence grants must be thematically linked to the ongoing research project and generally they require the same constellation of the research team; this severely restricts the flexibility necessary for basic research. Researchers are also denied important input on their research projects if there is no external review. Based on this analysis, the SNSF has discontinued excellence grants as of 1 January 2021.
SNSF introduces new evaluation provisions
The SNSF is continually fine-tuning its evaluation procedures. For this reason it has added news provisions to the Implementation Regulations. They allow for various options that can be applied in individual schemes or programmes. One new rule stipulates that funding decisions are based primarily on the assessment of external experts. In addition, the SNSF can select projects by drawing lots in the case of applications of equal quality that cannot be further differentiated by the evaluation body. The Presiding Board has been given the competencies to introduce further rules, adapted to the purpose of a given scheme or programme.
Simplified selection process for SPIRIT
Until now, the SPIRIT selection process consisted of two stages: after an evaluation round for pre-proposals, researchers were invited to submit a full proposal. The SNSF has now eliminated the pre-proposal stage, allowing applicants to submit their proposals directly. This simplifies the process and saves time. There will be an annual submission deadline on 2 November and the submitted proposals will be evaluated by the end of May the following year. The SNSF launches the first call based on the new model in August 2021.
Updates to Flexibility Grants and mobility grants for doctoral students
As of 1 January 2021, the SNSF will no longer apply the "first come, first served" principle to applications for Flexibility Grants and mobility grants. To improve its support for young researchers, it has lifted its budget restrictions. Flexibility Grants are now awarded for up to 24 months. With a simple follow-up application, researchers can extend their grant till the end of their project. Applications that are submitted late in the year will no longer be rejected due to a lack of funds. Recipients of a mobility grant can now apply for a supplementary grant if their situation has changed since submitting the application or if unexpected costs have been incurred.
Discontinuation of local SNSF Research Commissions
As of 2021, the evaluation of applications for mobility fellowships as well as Doc.CH grants will be carried out centrally by the SNSF. The evaluation tasks hitherto performed by the local SNSF Research Commissions are therefore no longer required. For this reason, the Commissions at ten cantonal universities and the two ETHs have been disbanded with effect from 1 January 2021. They acted as a link between the SNSF and the higher education institutions. This role will not disappear, however, rather it will be continued through various forms of cooperation, particularly regular meetings and information exchanges between the SNSF and the local vice rectors for research and grant offices.