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Swiss National Science Foundation publishes 2003 Annual Report: Ever more scientists applying to the Swiss National Science Foundation

In 2003 the Swiss National Science Foundation received a record number of applications for funding scientific projects. Although this is testimony to the dynamism of Switzerland as a centre of scientific activity, the situation is nonetheless worrying given the increasing rigour that has to be applied to the project selection process.

Last year the SNSF awarded research subsidies totalling CHF 420 million. 21% of these subsidies were awarded to the humanities and social sciences, 39% to mathematics, natural and engineering sciences, and 40% to biology and medicine. 4,500 researchers took part in basic research projects, 1,000 others received individual grants, 400 participated in National Research Programmes (NRPs) and 2,600 were involved in the National Centres of Competence in Research, which are part-funded by the SNSF. In free research (which accounts for 78% of the grants awarded by the SNSF), 74% of funding recipients were under the age of 35 and 37% were women. The SNSF is thus playing a key role in fostering young scientific talent and women in research., ,Rigorous project selection ,2,122 free research projects were submitted in 2003 - an all-time record and a 20.5% increase compared with 2002 (1,762 projects). This massive growth is reflected in the amounts requested by scientists, which grew by 14% compared with 2002. In 2003, the amount of funding requested by researchers increased to CHF 592.9 million, a peak never before achieved in the SNSFs history. However, the subsidies awarded totalled CHF 254.1 million, or barely 43% of the total applied for. With such a rigorous project selection procedure coupled with virtually systematic cuts in the budgets requested by researchers, the SNSF is no longer able to adequately support even the best and most promising projects. Despite the planned increase in the SNSFs resources - 10% annually up to 2007 - there is little chance of the pressure subsiding. Indeed it is likely to grow, not least because the budget limitations being imposed on the universities, Federal Institutes of Technology and other research institutions are only compounding the pressure on the SNSF. In addition to statistical information, the SNSFs 2003 Annual Report, which has just been published, records the key activities in a year which saw the call for the second series of National Centres of Competence in Research, which will only consider proposals from the humanities and social sciences. Two Expert Commissions (DOREs) were set up to deal with patient-oriented clinical research and to promote research in specific fields at the Universities of Applied Science. It was also decided to set up three new NRPs. Following the adoption of new statutes, the SNSF also initiated a number of organizational reforms and espoused closer European and international collaboration in the promotion of basic research. The SNSF is the key public institution financing scientific research in Switzerland. It provides funding for the best projects submitted by researchers. The SNSF guarantees the quality of the projects it supports with federal subsidies by a competitive process of national and international peer review.The 2003 Annual Report can be obtained free of charge in French or German from the Swiss National Science Foundation, PRI, Wildhainweg 20, P.O. Box, CH-3001 Berne, E-mal: or by calling +41 (0)31 308 22 22


Annual Report