SPI Science Plan and Call for Ideas

The work on the SPI science plan is making good progress. A first draft version of it will be published for consultation during the month of January 2019. The consultation will be open for one month, then an amended document will be presented during the Swiss Polar Day 2019 0n 23 April.

The SPI science plan will identify strengths within the Swiss Polar research landscape, outline a way forward to growth them, and propose the development of new activities for the years 2020-2025. It will be a crucial element of SPI’s concerted efforts in order to leverage additional financial means dedicated to Polar research and provide guidance in the context of the institute’s upcoming developments.

The Science Plan is prepared by the SPI Science and Technology Advisory Board with the Swiss Polar science community as well as the inputs from the discussions at the Swiss Polar Day 2018 and a preparatory community consultation (Call for Ideas).

Key characteristics of the submitted ideas

In response to the Call for Ideas organised by SPI in order to gather suggestions to be considered during the elaboration of the future science plan of the institute, 45 proposals have been submitted. Those ideas vary considerably in terms of covered topics, financial requirements, time frame and geographic focus.

From a disciplinary point of view, the ideas range from geoscience to life sciences and to a lesser extend also to social sciences/humanities (3 submitted ideas). Unsurprisingly, glaciology, ecology, climatology and atmospheric sciences are among the most represented fields of research. Finally, some ideas rather refer to technological aspects such as sensor systems. Interdisciplinarity, at different degrees, is a very common feature among the proposed ideas.

Almost three-quarters or 73.3% of the projects cover the Arctic, 42.2% cover the Antarctic and 35.3% have also or only another geographic focus – mainly the Third Pole.

A majority of the submitters are PhD holders (26), while 18 Professors have submitted their ideas. One student has also participated to the call. Only 14 out of the 45 participants (or less than a third) are female.

Budget-wise, the requirements differ significantly, ranging from tens of thousands (CHF 20’000.- onwards) to millions of Swiss Francs per idea (with a maximum of CHF 5 million for a single idea). More or less half of the submitted ideas have estimated costs ranging from CHF 100 000.- to CHF 1 million.

A look at the distribution of the submitted ideas (see chart below) among the different Swiss research Institutions shows that the call was not met everywhere with the same interest, even though scientists from as much as 11 different institutions have participated to the call.

Scientists from the region of Zurich for instance (UZH and ETHZ together) are strongly represented. In total, they submitted 21 ideas, which is almost half of the submissions, while most of the other research institutions are only represented by a few ideas. Four ideas are joint ventures undertaken together by two research actors.