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Swiss research funding agency calls for higher government investment in research

The Swiss funding agency for the support of scientific research (SNF) has published its action plan for 2004 to 2007 in which it proposes a range of new instruments and reforms and calls upon the government and the parliament to invest more in research. The action plan was dr...

The Swiss funding agency for the support of scientific research (SNF) has published its action plan for 2004 to 2007 in which it proposes a range of new instruments and reforms and calls upon the government and the parliament to invest more in research. The action plan was drawn up following advice from an international group of experts. Although Swiss basic research is among the best in the world, there are signs that it is losing its leading position, claims a statement by the SNF. The organisation believes that one reason for this is the lack of resources. Public funding has declined over the past 10 years and the same period has seen massive investment by Switzerland's competitors, believes the SNF. The organisation is therefore calling for an 80 per cent increase in funding by 2007. Particularly hard hit has been independent basic research, carried out outside of research programmes. Whereas requests for funding have risen by 42 per cent over the past 10 years, awards have only increased by 17 per cent. In addition to increased support for independent basic research and development, the SNF is proposing more support for high risk research, moves to make scientific careers more attractive, including higher salaries for researchers and higher research grants. The SNF recently circulated a questionnaire on the organisation to Swiss researchers. Although the majority claimed to be satisfied with the organisation, proposals for change were also recorded. Some asked for a more open attitude towards unconventional and interdisciplinary research projects, whilst others wanted to see further efforts to improve the relationship between science and society. Switzerland has been associated to EU research activities since June 2002. The agreement relating to the Fifth Framework programme bilateral agreement is expected to be renegotiated to allow full participation by Switzerland in the Sixth Framework programme.