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2006 Annual Report of the Swiss National Science Foundation

More research projects than ever before

In 2006 the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) invested 491 million Swiss francs in research. The number of applications beat all previous records, making it necessary for the SNSF to continue turning down even promising re-search projects. Scientific research in Switzerland is booming. According to the just-published Annual Report, the number of research projects--more than 2,000--submitted to and evaluated by the Swiss National Science Foundation in 2006 reached a new record high. However, since the SNSF had more financial resources at its disposal this year, it managed to keep the proportion of rejected applications the same as last year. The number of applications is anticipated to continue increasing. To keep scientific research moving ahead and ensure that Switzer-land remains internationally competitive, the SNSF hopes that Parliament will approve the needed financial resources for the coming years. Encouraging innovative ideas and young scientists The largest share of funds invested by SNSF in 2006 was in open-ended re-search (84%). By supporting this area, SNSF is promoting innovative ideas from research scientists as well as high quality research in new areas. The National Research Programmes (NRP) and the National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCR) accounted for 16% of the total development funds. In addi-tion, every year SNSF supports over 7,000 scientists, more than 5,000 of whom are aged 35 years or less. On behalf of the government, SNSF supports the full range of disciplines, from archaeology to medicine and nano-sciences, through to zoology. In 2006 SNSF granted research funds totaling 491 million Swiss francs. 25% of this was in the humanities and social sciences, 35% in mathematics, natural and engi-neering sciences, and 40% in biology and medicine. The costs for the evaluation of applications and for administration fell from 5.4% to 5.0% of the total budget in comparison with the previous year. Following a stringent selection process, approval was given for the first time in 2006 to fund seven programmes for doctoral-candidates (Pro*Doc). There are plans to expand this new development instrument in collaboration with the Rectors' Conference of the Swiss Universities (CRUS). SNSF also created a spe-cial committee to evaluate interdisciplinary applications. At the end of two years it will decide whether it wishes to continue this approach. SNSF preparing for the future In order to strengthen the SNSF's role in Switzerland, the Federal Parliament intends to increase the allocation of funding through a competitive awards process as part of its commitment to promoting education, research and inno-vation in 2008-2011. Other research policy challenges lie ahead: the SNSF will apply its core expertise--the independent evaluation of research projects--to outside areas where significant amounts of public money are invested in re-search. In addition, it will include overhead money for project grants to cover the indirect costs of projects. This will increase the attraction of the SNSF grants, and make it likely that the 2006 record for applications will soon be broken. How can the SNSF cope with all these new challenges at the organisational level? This question is at the heart of the SNSF futuro project. Last year SNSF searched for answers and came up with a package of reforms which will be implemented over the coming months. In this way the SNSF will be prepared when the 2008-2011 grant cycle begins. Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) The SNSF assures the public funding of scientific research in Switzerland. It supports the best research projects submitted by researchers. The application procedure is competitive and evaluation takes place through peer review proc-ess at both national and international level. This procedure enables SNSF to guarantee the quality of the projects funded by federal money.