Published: 18.12.12
ETH in-house

Demand for internal funding is increasing

The number of researchers at ETH Zurich is growing. The ETH Zurich Research Commission is also feeling the effects. More grant applications are being submitted. There is likely to be a particular shortage of funding for junior researchers.

Katrin la Roi/Florian Meyer
The number of requests is reaching a record high, says Nicholas Spencer, President of the ETH Zurich Research Commission. (Image: Florian Meyer/ETH Zurich)
The number of requests is reaching a record high, says Nicholas Spencer, President of the ETH Zurich Research Commission. (Image: Florian Meyer/ETH Zurich) (large view)

The Research Commission has never received so many grant applications from researchers: the number of requests is reaching a record high, says Nicholas Spencer, President of the Commission. One reason for this is growth: more Chairs will also mean more applications. The total number of funded research projects is not, however, increasing at the same rate. “For years we have continuously had around 250 active grants”, says Sonja Negovetic, Secretary of the Research Commission from the Scientific Coordination Staff Unit.

The “ETH Grants”, together with the “ETH Fellowship” and “Pioneer Fellowship” funding scholarships, play an important role in the internal funding of research at ETH Zurich, since they also support projects which have little chance of success with the federal and EU funding bodies: “This principally applies to research which is very exciting for a field, but which the National Science Foundation will probably reject as too ‘risky’”, explains the materials scientist Nicholas Spencer.

Three additional members

It is not only the number of requests that is increasing, but also the wealth of research topics, which the 25 Commission members evaluate professionally and with the help of an average of three international expert opinions per application. In October 2012, the Executive Board approved the addition of three new members to the Commission. ETH Zurich had already discussed and simplified its internal funding instruments in principle in 2011

In addition to requests for internal ETH Zurich funding, the ETH Research Commission is responsible for evaluating and awarding SNSF fellowships for junior researchers. The competition for mobility grants is also increasing. If ETH Zurich doctoral and postdoctoral students apply to do some research at a foreign university, around 60 per cent of grant applications are successful. In the past this figure was higher, in the future it could be lower.

Regulation for study abroad retained

With effect from 1 January 2013, a new regulation regarding the separation of funding opportunities for doctoral and postdoctoral students will apply to the SNSF fellowships. According to the SNSF regulations, the mobility grants last 18 months, or 12 months if the host university contributes to the funding. ETH Zurich prefers to award grants for 12 months to keep the number of recipients as high as possible. In this case, ETH Zurich expects the host university to cover the costs for a further twelve months.

Spencer is convinced: “This requires a binding commitment from both sides and promotes integration. The mobility grants are extremely important for supporting junior researchers and we want to give as many of our graduates as possible the opportunity to make use of them under favourable circumstances.”

 
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