Doc.CH: Doctoral students to benefit from more appealing support

The Doc.CH funding scheme of the SNSF supports doctoral students in the humanities and social sciences. As of 2021, funding conditions will be even more flexible.

Launched in 2013, Doc.CH grants are targeted at talented researchers. They allow them to write a doctoral thesis in Switzerland on a self-chosen topic in the humanities and social sciences. The SNSF this year awarded 45 grants lasting two to four years. The grants are worth 225,000 francs on average.

In 2019, an external study confirmed Doc.CH was achieving the goals set for the scheme. "The evaluation report showed that Doc.CH had a positive effect on doctoral theses and research careers. The report also made some useful suggestions for the future," says Gabriele Rippl, president of the Specialised Committee Careers. Based on the report, the committee was able to perform a more in-depth analysis of the funding scheme. This resulted in a number of changes to the Doc.CH Regulations.

More flexibility

As of 2021, the eligibility window will be 3 years after the master's degree instead of 2. In justified cases, the time window may be further extended on request. Also starting next year, researchers who are not Swiss nationals and have a foreign master's degree will be able to submit a Doc.CH application, provided they are already matriculated at the envisaged higher education institution in Switzerland by the submission deadline.

Other adjustments: changing the higher education institution between bachelor and registration for a PhD is no longer a formal requirement. In future, both past and prospective mobility will be taken into account for the evaluation. If applicants have not changed their higher education institution, they will need to explain how the necessary mobility could be achieved during the Doc.CH grant funding period.

Finally, in justified cases a work-time percentage below 100% will be permissible, but it must not fall below 80%, or only for short periods. Care duties or activities aimed at achieving higher qualifications with a view to a scientific career are acceptable reasons, for example teaching or taking a course. Gabriele Rippl thinks "the improvements make the scheme more flexible and more appealing to young researchers."

Overall achievements count

In addition, the SNSF has amended the Doc.CH Regulations to take better account of the recommendations set out in the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA). This lends more weight to the overall achievements of researchers whose applications are under evaluation.

New call in December

The first call for this new version of Doc.CH will open on 15 December 2020. Two submission deadlines per year are planned (15 March and 15 September). As of next year, the pre-selection of applications will no longer be conducted locally by the Research Commissions of the higher education institutions, instead the Research Council of the SNSF will be responsible for pre-selection at national level. As until now, the applicants shortlisted in the pre-selection phase will be invited to present their project and career plans at a personal interview in Bern.