Protecting researchers with new opportunities from Scholars at Risk


Institutional Communication Service

15 January 2021

The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) has launched a new funding programme in 2020 that provides support of up to 110,000 CHF for the Scholars at Risk (SAR) Network activities in Switzerland. Under the motto "Free to think", SAR's mission is to promote and ensure the principles and values of academic freedom worldwide and protect scholars facing threats and prevent attacks on the scientific community. USI has been a member of the Scholars at Risk network since 2016.

According to USI Rector, Prof. Boas Erez, "The financial support from the Swiss National Science Foundation is a significant step forward for this project, which brings together a vast international network of universities for a just cause: to assist intellectuals fleeing persecution and violence. Thanks to this funding, Swiss universities have additional means to support academic freedom around the world, a founding value of every university."

Academic freedom and institutional autonomy are considered fundamental rights for higher education institutions to fulfil their mission. They are the pillars for quality education and core elements for conducting scientific research of international relevance, thus contributing to society's development by enabling the transfer of knowledge, innovation, entrepreneurship, and cultural and scientific debate through researchers and scholars.

Scholars need to be free to follow their ideas and opinions, contribute to open discussions, and choose, according to higher institutions' values, what to feature in their teaching, research, or publication. However, Academic freedom cannot be taken for granted: in many countries, what scholars do, say or think can put them and their loved ones at risk, both in terms of freedom and well-being.

Founded in 1999 and based in New York City, the Scholars at Risk Network is dedicated to ensuring academic freedom and promoting its principles and values to protect scholars and the scientific community from the threats and attacks they may face. SAR organises temporary secure research and teaching positions in its global network of more than 500 higher education institutions in 40 countries. To date, more than 1,400 scholars have found refuge, nine in Switzerland since 2008.

Since 2016, USI has been a member of the Scholars at Risk Network and an active member of the SAR Swiss Section, whose purpose is to promote the values, mission, and activities of Scholars at Risk by hosting scholars, sharing information on best practice, and initiating joint activities.

Starting October 2020, the Swiss National Science Foundation will fund SAR's activities in Switzerland under its Scientific Exchange funding scheme by making available a grant of up to CHF 110,000. Headquarters in New York City evaluates applications submitted by scholars and seeks a suitable placement at one affiliated research institution. Suppose a Swiss institution is deemed a suitable host and agrees to provide a safe haven for a researcher. In that case, the new collaboration will allow the network to apply for financial support from the SNSF.

Academics interested in hosting a SAR candidate or learning more about USI's SAR membership may contact the International Relations and Study Abroad service at [email protected] or [email protected].