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New SPIRIT projects: Exploring brain diseases and debunking equality myths

The SNSF’s SPIRIT programme strengthens scientific collaborations between Switzerland and researchers in countries receiving development aid. 17 new initiatives will receive a total of 8 million Swiss francs.

Image: Westend61 / Javier Pardina

Neurodegenerative diseases are on the rise across the globe, which means that they impact individuals and communities across various linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Researchers from Switzerland, Peru and Argentina are collaborating to investigate the linguistic markers that can help diagnose disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, particularly in bilingual patients. This is one of the 17 projects supported by the SNSF’s SPIRIT programme, which was launched specifically to promote international research collaborations. In SPIRIT projects, Swiss researchers are working with partners from a wide range of countries, from Columbia and Mexico to Gabon and Thailand.

The 17 projects will each receive up to 500,000 Swiss francs and be carried out by teams of two to four researchers. 53% of the funded projects are in life sciences, 24% in STEM subjects and 23% in social sciences and humanities. 70% of the Swiss project teams are based at cantonal universities, 18% are at Federal Institutes of Technology and 12% are at other institutions. Among the funded applicants, 52% are female and 48% are male.

Equality myths, pathogenic tree fungi and rheumatic heart disease

One project examines the myth of equality in terms of the influence of gender on scientific practices and the experiences of female and male scientists in Central Asia. Another investigates the threat that invasive pests introduced accidentally through global trade pose to forest ecosystems. In a third example, researchers from Nepal, Zambia and Ethiopia work together with their Swiss colleagues to improve the prevention of rheumatic heart disease, a condition that affects women more commonly than men.

Other SPIRIT projects will be launched in the coming months in molecular biology, material sciences, agricultural sciences, information technology, social geography, philosophy, biochemistry, and ecology, to name just a few. The SNSF has allotted a total budget of 8 million Swiss francs for the new projects.

Excellent gender awareness

As in previous years, SPIRIT puts a special focus on gender awareness – in research content as well as in team composition and development. The applicants of the funded projects have demonstrated a good understanding of the roles sex and gender may play in their research topics, and they have undertaken considerable efforts to develop and foster their teams in gender-balanced and gender-sensitive ways.

The new SPIRIT call will open on 1 August 2024.