With the launch of the program, Switzerland has been provided with a new practice-oriented funding program for global research cooperation. The SOR4D succeeds the R4D program as a joint funding instrument of the SDC and the SNSF. The SOR4D program includes 19 million Swiss francs for the period 2022-2026. The first call attracted 75 proposals for interdisciplinary and practice-oriented research collaborations, of which seven are funded. Of the 98 proposals submitted in the second call, eight projects are expected to be selected. Thus, with a recognition rate of less than 10%, the SOR4D program is by far the most competitive funding instrument of the SNSF. The few other instruments for the promotion of Switzerland's global research collaboration are also considered to be highly competitive. The great number of applications shows the strong commitment and a diverse thematic Swiss research landscape for practice-oriented global sustainability research partnerships. However, Switzerland, unlike many other countries and the EU, lacks a clear vision and strategic direction for promoting global research collaboration. Such a vision and better coordination between funding instruments would help increase the impact of Swiss research and its contribution to sustainable development.
- A study by Alexandra Hofmänner shows where Swiss funding instruments for North-South research need to be improved and better coordinated. Findings from this study will be published in a scientific paper in 2023.
- The KFPE proposed changes for Switzerland's International Cooperation Strategy 2025-2028. The extent to which these proposals will be taken up will be seen when the strategy is published as part of the public consultation process in 2023.
- At an event for the associated members of the KFPE in November 2022, we exchanged views with representatives of Swiss funding organizations, the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation, as well as the SDC and the Swiss Parliament on possible strategies for the future promotion of North-South research.
Further Activities of KFPE in 2022
The KFPE-SUDAC annual conference 2022 was chaired by SUDAC and focused on "Swiss North-South collaboration in research and education: A sustainable model for the future".
New in this year was an online workshop series in the weeks before and after the conference. The call for workshops was answered by 12 teams from Switzerland and the Global South with a variety of topics such as "Decolonising South-North research collaborations" or "Doing research in conflict and authoritarian settings". The online format allowed for a broad participation, including researchers from the Global South.
The conference attracted less participants than in previous years, with about 30 participants on site and 20 participants in the live stream. The 12 online workshops had a total of 246 participations (many participants attended more than one workshop).
The current discourse on decolonization in international cooperation, research and teaching also engages the KFPE. In cooperation with Ravaka Andriamihaja, from the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) of the University of Bern, the KFPE explored current debates. As part of the online workshop series of the KFPE annual conference, a workshop with 42 participants focused on the topic. This was followed by Ravaka Andriamihaja conducting further workshops and expert interviews with researchers from the global North and South. At the Swiss Researching Africa Days at the end of October 2022, KFPE also chaired a well-attended panel on "Decolonising Research Collaborations". In addition, articles by Ravaka Andriamihaja appeared in the MMS Bulletin on "Qu'est-ce que la coopération internationale fait de la santé? ", in AllianceSud's global magazine on "When research takes on colonial features", and in the CDE Spotlight "Diversity is key to decolonizing research".
This engagement with decolonization in research revealed that many research partnerships continue to be affected by strong power imbalances.
- A major cause of these power imbalances is the unequal distribution of research funding, which remains heavily North-dominated. Co-management of funds by Southern and Northern partners would create more equality.
- Additional challenges are the lack of knowledge and familiarity with the institutional structures and competencies of partners. Concrete activities to get to know each other, also on the institutional level, should be promoted.
- In addition, a first analysis of the 11 principles and 7 questions showed that an update from a decolonizing perspective would be desirable.
Due to the actuality and relevance of the topic, the engagement with the topic of decolonization of research cooperation will be continued in 2023, including researchers from the Global South in the project management and implementation. Furthermore, the decolonization of Swiss research cooperation was the topic of the very well attended annual conference 2023.
In a three-year KFPE project, Jasmina Saric from SwissTPH has been studying interlinks between North-South research and development practice. In an initial study, Jasmina Saric highlighted advantages of hybrid careers in linking these two fields. In a further study, she discussed the role of hybrid careers at African research institutes. In total, 38 research institutes in Africa and Switzerland were surveyed through semi-structured interviews and questionnaires. Findings from these study were published in an academic paper and a policy brief in 2021.
In 2022, Jasmina Saric analyzed how not only individuals can better connect research and practice through hybrid careers, but also hybrid organizations (so-called Research and Implementation Organizations RIO). Linking research and practice through individuals and organizations strengthens both areas, academic research and sustainable development interventions. Moreover, it allows individuals and organizations to apply for funding in both fields.
We discussed these and other findings at the 2022 Science Summit at the United Nations General Assembly and published a scientific publication and a policy brief, summarizing our findings.
Research-Earth is a digital globe on which all Swiss research partnerships with countries of the Global South can be displayed. This globe serves researchers
to coordinate their research work
to network with new research partners.
KFPE has developed this digital globe in collaboration with the program R4D and SOR4D programs of the SNSF and OVA partners.
Bringing together the various data on research partnerships is challenging, causing the underlying database not yet to function as desired.
In 2022, solutions were sought to improve the database. Finally, a new database had to be created to display all research partnerships between Switzerland and LMICs. Currently, the import of data from various sources is being worked out. A complete functionality of the database and the globe is awaited for the year 2023.
Wikipedia is one of the most visited websites in Switzerland, which many people use to get information on scientific topics. In 2021, KFPE wrote a Wikipedia article on North-South research cooperation together with Matthias Amman from Science et Cité. The article in German was accessed 176 times in 2022. The article in English 837 times.
In order to publish more articles on North-South research on Wikipedia, KFPE offered an online course in collaboration with Flurin Beuggert and Diego Hättenschwiler from Science et Cité to support young researchers to write their own Wikipedia articles and thereby contribute to the expansion of the knowledge base on Wikipedia. Unfortunately, the course met with limited interest.
The Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences are examining the role of science for the transformation towards a sustainable development. The Science and Policy (SAP) platform of the Swiss Academy of Sciences (SCNAT) has worked out the basics of what is understood by such a transformation and how science can contribute to it. KFPE is a member of the project committee and actively supported the project. Findings from the project are presented on the SCNAT website.
Mega infrastructure projects (MIP) have a major impact on the lives of affected people. A KFPE factsheet synthesizes findings on MIPs from various Swiss researchers. While on the one hand this factsheet helps to show the long-term impacts of MIPs, on the other hand the example of the implementation of the West-Ast highway in Biel stimulates a discussion about alternative approaches. Furthermore, the factsheet explores the question whether and how participatory methods can contribute to socially and ecologically sustainable implementation of MIPs in different contexts.
For the preparation of the factsheet, a stakeholder workshop with Swiss researchers took place. The factsheet was written in collaboration with Tobias Haller from the Institute of Social Anthropology at the University of Bern and was published in early 2023.