The SNSF optimises the NCCR selection process

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A comprehensive analysis of the last selection round for National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCRs) showed potential for improvement. The SNSF is now adapting and optimising the selection process.

An external evaluation has judged the quality of the last NCCR selection to be good, but at the same time recommended further improving some aspects of the process. The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) intends to rapidly implement these recommendations. It specifically aims to identify potential conflicts of interest even more comprehensively, optimise the recruitment of suitable international experts and further increase transparency in the NCCR selection process.

Selection procedures for NCCRs are particularly demanding, especially when it comes to dealing with potential conflicts of interest affecting experts appointed by the SNSF. When researchers from Swiss universities prepare an application for a National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR), this consortium brings together most of the experts available in Switzerland in this subject area. For this reason, the SNSF has always recruited only international experts to review the NCCR applications and pays careful attention to their impartiality. In in-depth analyses, the SNSF has examined the above-mentioned potential for improvement and is planning the following initial steps to optimise the process:

  • The SNSF is expanding the self-declaration requirements for international experts in order to identify potential conflicts of interest as early as possible in the two evaluation stages (pre-proposal and proposal). Furthermore, the SNSF will make more precise rules regarding impartiality in the NCCR selection process and publish them in a forthcoming call for proposals. Special impartiality rules also apply to all members of the National Research Council involved in the selection process.
  • In the recruitment of international experts, the role of the applicants is being optimised. They will be given the opportunity to describe in detail the expertise required for the review of their NCCR application. In addition, the SNSF will have the NCCR applications assessed by even more experts in order to ensure a broader professional evaluation.
  • Transparency will be improved, among other things, by the SNSF informing the participating universities and applicants about pre-proposals and proposals admitted to the NCCR selection process.

The timing of the next NCCR call is still open. The SNSF will inform researchers as well as the Swiss higher education institutions in good time when a call is scheduled.