Study confirms: Doc.CH has a positive effect on doctoral theses and careers

The Doc.CH funding scheme of the SNSF bolsters the success of doctoral students in the humanities and social sciences.

In 2018, after eleven calls between March 2013 and March 2018, the SNSF decided to do a survey among Doc.CH grantees. It was keen to learn more about the impact of the funding scheme. Other areas of interest were the design, evaluation procedure and appeal of the scheme.

Main objectives are met

The study conclusions are highly satisfactory for the SNSF: Doc.CH is an efficient scheme that responds to a real demand. Fritz Schlunegger, president of the Specialised Committee Careers of the National Research Council says: "The numbers show that on average Doc.CH grantees who completed their doctorate had managed to do so faster than doctoral students receiving other funding."

Another asset of the scheme is that it is seen as a sign of excellence. It favours the acquisition of competences and responsibilities that are considered beneficial for the future careers of grantees.

The study also shows clearly that Doc.CH fills an important gap in the funding options for doctoral students in the humanities and social sciences. "Doc.CH nicely complements existing funding sources, for instance the SNSF’s project funding," adds Fritz Schlunegger.

Options for improving the scheme

Doc.CH allows grantees to spend more time on their research than other doctoral students, which has a welcome impact on the time it takes to complete theses. At the same time, this might have a detrimental effect on other activities that are also important for a career in science, such as teaching.

The survey participants also criticised that Doc.CH does not cover the time and the financial outlays for developing the project and writing the grant application. This can leave applicants, many of whom don't obtain a grant, in risky and precarious situations.

"The study," says Fritz Schlunegger, "with all its observations and suggestions, has been very useful for us. It has deepened our understanding and is a good foundation for modifying the scheme in view of the next funding period, starting in 2021."

Study of the University of Bern

The study was carried out by the Interdisciplinary Centre for Gender Studies of the University of Bern. The group mandated by the SNSF conducted an online survey among Doc.CH grantees and interviewed doctoral students, supervisors and experts. In addition, data provided by the Federal Statistical Office was used to form a control group of university graduates. It allowed the researchers to examine how successful Doc.CH grantees are, and to establish to what extent their success is attributable to the Doc.CH scheme.