Project funding

The SNSF's main funding scheme is project funding. A total of approximately 2,500 applications are received each year on two submission dates, 1 April and 1 October. The National Research Council of the SNSF assesses the applications as part of an established evaluation procedure and makes funding decisions, taking into account the external reviews.

The following description of the evaluation procedure for applications is based on the Regulations on project funding, the Funding Regulations, the General implementation regulations for the Funding Regulations and the Organisational regulations of the National Research Council. Its sole purpose is explanatory and they do not in any circumstances substitute the mentioned regulations.

On the project funding page, you will find a full overview of application requirements, the preparation and submission of applications, as well as a summary of the evaluation process and the lifetime management of project funding grants, along with references to the specific regulatory principles.

Project funding

Detailed guidelines on how to submit a project proposal can be found in the "How to" section under "Project funding".

How to: Project funding - submitting an application

  • Evaluation procedure: the main stages at a glance

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    ​The evaluation procedure for research projects is based on the principle of competition and generally lasts for six months; it consists of three successive stages:

    1. Submission of applications and administrative measures

    The Administrative Offices of the SNSF receive applications from researchers by the submission deadline via the mySNF platform. They then check whether the requirements for submitting an application are met and inform the applicants accordingly.

    2. Evaluation

    Evaluation consists of two steps. In an initial step, the applications are assessed by external reviewers according to SNSF standards. In a second step, they are assessed by the responsible referees of the Research Council on the basis of the external reviews and rated in comparison to the other applications for which the referees are responsible. The referees then issue a recommendation to the relevant evaluation body to adopt the assessment/rating.

    3. Decision

    the relevant evaluation body of the Research Council discusses the applications and takes a provisional decision on each application with regard to its overall ranking and approval/rejection (if applicable, they also make a funding proposal). Subsequently, the Presiding Board of the Research Council examines whether the procedures have been correctly applied and the budget and other conditions complied with. If this is the case, it endorses the provisional decision.

    The SNSF informs applicants of the final decision by means of a ruling approx. six months after the relevant submission deadline, giving reasons in the case of rejections.

  • Evaluation criteria and principles

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    ​Applications are evaluated in line with the criteria relevant to the scheme and - if not set out in specific regulations - in line with the internationally recognised criteria set out in the general Funding Regulations (Article 24).

    Assessment criteria with regard to the applicants

    • scientific track record and expertise in view of the proposed project
    • depending on the career funding scheme: Education, previous scientific achievements and competence for the proposed project, if applicable teaching activities, career plan.

    Assessment criteria with regard to the proposed project

    • scientific relevance, originality and topicality; additionally, broader impact for use-inspired projects
    • suitability of methods and feasibility

    The DMP is not included in the scientific evaluation process and is not shared with external reviewers.

    The rules and practices of evaluation and decision-making are based on the following principles:

    • Excellence through competition: Approved applications are of high quality and certify that the project will bring added value for a scientific or academic career. Such candidates make a better impression than their direct rivals.
    • Fairness and equal opportunities: the defined criteria are attainable and applicants receive equal treatment from the SNSF regardless of any personal features.
    • Transparency: decisions are based on clearly defined procedures and rules. Researchers receive clear and useful information concerning the evaluation of their applications and the respective decisions of the SNSF.
    • Integrity: the SNSF respects national and international ethical standards in its decision-making and expects applicants to do the same.
    • Confidentiality: all data, information and documents transferred by applicants to the SNSF are treated as confidential.
  • Submission: verification by the Administrative Offices

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    For all submitted applications, the Administrative Offices check whether

    • the formal requirements are met
    • the personal requirements are fulfilled
    • the application contravenes the rules of scientific integrity

    If all the requirements pursuant to the Funding Regulations are met, the SNSF decides to consider the relevant application and forwards it to the Research Council for evaluation. If the requirements are not met, the application is not considered.

    Should there be any indications of scientific misconduct, all processing of the application is suspended till such time as the application is cleared of suspicion through an investigation. If the suspicion is confirmed, the SNSF may impose sanctions ( > Regulations of the National Research Council on the treatment of scientific misconduct).

    Applications are assigned to a specific SNSF evaluation body based on the discipline or subdiscipline selected by the applicants.

    In addition, an application may be declared "use-inspired" if the following points apply: a need for research is given from the point of view of practice; the research results can be transferred to the practical realm in due course, though not immediately, and potentially have a broader impact. This broader impact is taken into account in the evaluation. It forms a set of criteria together with "scientific relevance", "originality" and "topicality". This aims to ensure that use-inspired applications are not at a disadvantage due to an additional criterion ( > Evaluation criteria and principles).

    Prior to and during the submission of applications, the applicants can address their queries and requests for information to the Administrative Offices of the SNSF. While the applications are being evaluated, applicants are obliged to answer the SNSF's questions with regard to the application documents and help in clarifying facts. The SNSF does not provide applicants with any information concerning their applications while the evaluation procedure is in progress and until the decision is communicated in written form.

    Contact

    Humanities and Social Sciences div1@snf.chExternal Link Icon
    Mathematics, Natural and Engineering Sciences
    div2@snf.chExternal Link Icon
    Biology and Medicine
    div3@snf.chExternal Link Icon
    Telephone (reception): +41 31 308 22 22

  • From evaluation to decision: actors and procedural steps

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    The applications are evaluated by the Research Council of the SNSF through an established procedure and according to recognised criteria (see also "Evaluation criteria and principles"). The following actors are involved in the evaluation procedure in successive steps:

    External reviewers

    In an initial phase of the evaluation procedure, the application is peer-reviewed by external reviewers according to SNSF criteria. For each application, at least two external reviews must be available before a decision can be taken (for exceptions see the Funding Regulations, Article 25). The reviewers work independently of each other and are informed that their assessments will be made available to the applicants in full on the mySNF platform; the reviewers identity remains concealed. Reviews that contain remarks of a personal or offensive nature are not considered in the evaluation procedure, nor are they kept on file by the SNSF. In some cases, peer review may be performed through the reader system or a panel (see also "Evaluation procedure: detailed description").

    Internal reviewers

    In a second step, the internal review, each application is assigned to a referee who is a member of the Research Council. The referee's initial task is to check, evaluate and complete the criteria-based assessments of the external reviewers for the applications assigned to them. Subsequently, they assess each application in relation to the other applications for which they are responsible (comparative rating on a scale from one to six) and recommend that the responsible evaluation body accept their assessment. The co-referees give their opinion of the recommendations made by the referees. A summary of the referee's reasons for giving the application a specific overall rating are forwarded to the applicants, whereby the referee’s identity remains concealed.

    Evaluation bodies (divisions/specialised committees)

    The recommendations of the referees are approved or modified by the responsible evaluation body of the Research Council. Its task is to assign all current applications for which they are responsible to a quality level, to approve or reject the application and to split the available budget across the approved applications. In this way, it reaches provisional funding decisions.

    Presiding Board of the Research Council

    The provisional decisions of the evaluation body are finally forwarded to the Presiding Board of the Research Council for approval. If the evaluation procedure and compliance with the budget are deemed to be formally in order, the Presiding Board endorses the provisional decisions, which thereby become final.

  • Evaluation: selection of reviewers

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    ​The evaluation procedure in project funding involves both internal and external reviewers, who are appointed as follows:

    Internal reviewers

    Members of the Research Council assume the role of referee or co-referee and are in charge of the internal evaluation and review of applications. The members of the Research Council are elected on the basis of their general experience and knowledge as researchers as well as their expertise in their field; they do not represent their institutions. The Administrative Offices assign individual applications to the members of the Research Council based on the discipline as well as the keywords and summary entered by the applicants. As far as possible, the Administrative Offices take account of the workloads of members of the Research Council when assigning applications. Referees may still change the assignments themselves.

    External reviewers

    The external reviewers are chosen for their expertise with regard to specific applications. As far as possible, they must be independent vis-à-vis the SNSF and the applicants and must take the internationally accepted state of the art in the relevant discipline as their frame of reference. The SNSF generally seeks to engage external reviewers based outside Switzerland. They are chosen by the referees, aided by the Administrative Offices. Applicants are entitled to submit lists with the names and addresses of persons who are not to be asked for an external review (negative lists) together with their applications. The SNSF considers such requests if they are justified in the given context.

    If an application is declared "use-inspired", the SNSF seeks to engage reviewers from the practical realm who may be organised as a panel for evaluation purposes ( > Evaluation procedure: detailed description)

    Due to the low acceptance rate of requests for review, the SNSF is obliged to contact a significantly larger number of experts than the two required for reviewing an application. External reviewers are generally not remunerated by the SNSF; exceptions can be made if the relevant reviewer has done a very large amount of review work for the SNSF.

  • Evaluation procedure: detailed description

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    ​External review (peer review)

    The Administrative Offices of the SNSF ask selected external experts to compile a review. If the response from the latter is positive, they are given access to the proposal documents via the mySNF platform. Subsequently, they transmit their reviews via the same platform within the timeframe defined by the SNSF. Reviews are made available to the referees as soon as they are received. If reviews are not received on time, it becomes necessary to approach further experts. If only one review is received or none at all, a written review is compiled by the co-referee.

    If numerous comparable applications are received within the same discipline, the SNSF may establish a reader system or appoint a panel for peer review purposes. Under the reader system, several external reviewers independently receive several applications, which they then compare and appraise; all reviewers receive the same applications. In the case of a panel, the reviewers also meet in person. In both cases, they compile a ranking of all reviewed applications based on the SNSF criteria.

    The external reviewers assess the applications on the sole basis of the criteria specified by the SNSF (see also "Evaluation criteria and principles"). Considering each set of criteria individually, they make assessments ranging from "outstanding" to "poor". Finally, the reviewers deliver an overall appraisal of the application in which they summarise the grounds for their assessment. The reviewers work independently of each other and are informed that their assessments will be made available to the applicants in full on the mySNF platform. The reviewer's identity remains concealed. Reviews that contain remarks of a personal or offensive nature are not considered in the evaluation procedure, nor are they kept on file by the SNSF.

    Resubmissions: if an applicant submits a revised version of an application that was rejected when it was initially submitted, the SNSF approaches the same external reviewers as in the first round. Due to the relatively low acceptance rate, the SNSF is often obliged to approach further reviewers.

    Internal evaluation (by referees)

    The external reviews are initially checked by the relevant referee with regard to their usefulness and weighted accordingly. The comprehensibility, clarity and concreteness of the assessment are the main criteria used to judge the usefulness of a review.

    The referees confirm, complete or comment on the assessments made in the external reviews deemed to be useful and deliver their own criteria-based judgement. In so doing, they again rate the applicants and the proposed project based on the three sets of criteria ( > Evaluation criteria and principles). In the event of a resubmission, the SNSF assesses to what extent the criticisms made regarding the preceding application have been taken into account by the applicants. Any new criticisms from external reviewers are also considered.

    In a final step, the referees rank the application in relation to other applications they are evaluating or have evaluated for the SNSF on a scale from one to six. They should mention or comment on the most important grounds for their assessment. The direct rivalry between the applications derives from the competitive principle underlying the evaluation procedure of the SNSF.

    If the application is rated highly and approval is likely, the referee will make a funding proposal. This proposal may be lower than the requested amount if the application's position in the ranking is relatively low, if a disproportionately high amount has been requested or if certain budget items are not eligible for funding.

    The referees submit the overall comparative rating of the applications and any funding proposals to the responsible evaluation body as a recommendation using the appropriate form. The co-referees give their opinion of the recommendations made by the referees. A summary of the referee's reasons for giving the application a specific overall rating are forwarded to the applicants, whereby the referee’s identity remains concealed.

  • Decision-making: detailed description

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    ​Discussions in evaluation bodies and provisional decision

    The evaluation bodies meet on four to six occasions. In the course of these evaluation meetings, the referees present the applications assigned to them, comment on the external reviews and again defend their recommendation. The co-referees also deliver their opinion. The application is then discussed by the evaluation body in relation to the other applications. Subsequently, each application is voted on separately, assigned to one of the six categories and either approved (with funding proposal) or rejected.

    In the final meeting to discuss applications received on the submission date, all evaluated applications are presented in an overview along with the relevant rating and the provisional funding amount. The available budget is then distributed across the most highly-rated applications only; budget cuts are mainly implemented for the less highly-rated approved projects. Maintaining a project’s financial feasibility is of prime importance in this context. A list of provisional approvals (including funding proposals) and rejections is compiled and approved at the meeting. This list is forwarded to the Presiding Board of the Research Council for endorsement.

    Final decision by the Presiding Board of the Research Council

    The Presiding Board endorses the provisional decisions of the divisions and specialised committees. It convenes on some ten occasions per year. All members of the Presiding Board receive a list of provisional decisions taken by the evaluation bodies before the relevant Presiding Board meeting. The Presiding Board votes on whether to endorse the provisional decisions en bloc for each division or specialised committee. Upon their endorsement, provisional decisions become final. Decisions that are not endorsed are returned to the responsible evaluation body for reassessment.

    The endorsement of decisions by the Presiding Board is a means of verifying that the evaluation procedure has been implemented correctly. Accordingly, the Presiding Board only discusses applications where procedural errors are suspected or which constitute a precedent.

  • Decision: communication to applicants

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    ​The final decisions on applications received by a specific submission deadline are generally made five-and-a-half to six months after the submission deadline. The Administrative Offices of the SNSF forward them to the applicants as soon as possible in the form of a ruling giving reason (in accordance with the Federal Act on Administrative Procedure).

    Positive rulings comprise information on:

    • the application’s relative rating
    • the approved duration of the project
    • the approved total amount of funding and its subdivision into annual instalments
    • the further procedure for the release of funds

    Rulings comprising approvals may also specify conditions with regard to the execution of the project, which must be met before any grants are released.

    Negative rulings contain information on

    • the application’s relative rating
    • the main grounds for the rejection

    The external reviews are made available to the applicants on mySNF in anonymised form.

  • Reconsideration and appeal

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    ​Applicants may appeal against decisions of the SNSF before the Swiss Federal Administrative Court. Instead of submitting a statement to the court, the SNSF may reconsider its decision and issue a new ruling.

    Requests for reconsideration submitted to the SNSF by applicants are examined by the Administrative Offices of the SNSF, provided that reasons are given. In the absence of any signs of a flawed decision, they will refuse requests to reconsider a decision. In cases where the opposite is true, the request for reconsideration is discussed by the Research Council which either rejects the request or takes a new decision.

    The SNSF advises applicants to contact the Administrative Offices of the SNSF in advance in order to obtain information about the appeal procedure. This does not affect the appeal period of 30 days.