Share of Swiss humanities and social sciences in ERC grants

The logo of the ERC. © ERC

The SNSF has commissioned a report analysing the low participation and success rates of Swiss humanities and social sciences in relation to the grants of the European Research Council (ERC). The SNSF is also issuing a number of recommendations to improve the situation.

In general, Swiss researchers are well represented in the funding schemes of the European Research Council (ERC). However, an analysis of the submitted and approved applications for ERC Starting Grants and ERC Advanced Grants has shown that the number of applications for ERC Starting grants is on average lower in the humanities and social sciences than in the life sciences, physics and engineering sciences. The report, which is now available, studies the causes of this state of affairs. To this end, the authors of the report analysed the available data, interviewed experts and performed case studies on comparable countries such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Austria.

Findings and recommendations

The report clearly shows that the participation and success rates of Swiss researchers from the humanities and social sciences in relation to ERC grants are all in all lower than those of the other evaluated countries. This observation applies primarily to the Starting Grants and to women researchers. The situation of the latter, however, has improved slightly since the study was carried out, as two of the three Consolidator Grants approved in 2013 were awarded to women.

The report identifies five possible main causes for the low participation and success rates and derives five recommendations with a view to improving the situation. Some of them are addressed to the higher education institutions, others to the SNSF. The SNSF responded in December 2013 with the following measures:

  • In the decision letter, Ambizione grantees and SNSF professors are advised to seek funding also at European level.
  • In order to provide an incentive for women to participate in ERC programmes, women researchers whose applications reached the second round of the ERC evaluation procedure will be able to submit a simplified application to the Humanities and Social Sciences division of the SNSF.
  • In view of the need to meet European standards, applicants will in future be required to submit their applications to the SNSF in English.

These measures apply subject to any changes to the situation in the wake of the acceptance of the initiative against mass immigration.