Updated on: 2020-05-20
|Q1A. What arrangements, if any, do you have in place to ensure scientific advice informs national policy and decision making in relation to Covid-19?||Policymaking requires a broad range of knowledge. To acquire and develop this knowledge, the federal administration carries out or commissions research activities. In view of the diversity of problems, the responsibility of research in government lies with the various specialized offices. In addition, these offices have their own specific networks and commissions to advise them.
In general, the government works closely with research. In the current crisis, the federal government wants to make even greater use of the potential of the Swiss scientific community. A scientific advisory group will answer ad hoc questions to the federal government, if necessary involving other researchers; see Swiss National COVID-19 Science Task Force (https://ncs-tf.ch/en/).
The Swiss National COVID-19 Science Task Force is:
- providing the Federal Council Coronavirus Crisis Unit KSBC, the Federal Department of Home Affairs FDHA (Federal Office of Public Health FOPH) and the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research EAER (State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI) with its scientific knowledge to assist the political authorities decision–makers in reaching decisions;
- acting as an advisory body to the cantonal authorities on scientific matters;
- identifying fields and opportunities for research where the Swiss scientific community can make an important contribution to understanding and combating COVID-19;
- identifying opportunities for innovation where Swiss scientific know-how can contribute to COVID-19 related products or services.
Ten expert groups (as of Mai 11th 2020) are focusing on the most urgent and time critical issues. Further expert groups may be set up according to emerging needs and in close cooperation and consultation with the commissioning bodies (Mandate, Topics & Expert groups, Policy Briefs, Situation report etc. see https://ncs-tf.ch/en/).
On March 20th 2020, the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences issued medical-ethical guidelines for triage in intensive care units. They apply when an emergency occurs with a large number of seriously ill patients and rationing decisions will be necessary (https://www.samw.ch/en/Ethics/Topics-A-t...). News (interim report on patient triage, guidelines, recommendations etc. see https://www.samw.ch/en/News/News.html).
|Q1B. In what ways, if any, are you coordinating on Covid-19 STI responses at international level?||The Swiss STI system is already strongly based on cooperation between the various players and is internationally well interconnected.
Swiss delegates in the Horizon 2020 Program Committees (Health, Innovative Medicine Initiative and Research Infrastructures) are involved in the development of the calls for proposal with specific focus on SARS-CoV-2. Swiss research institutions are contributing to six of the seventeen project funded by Horizon 2020 through the ad-hoc call. Currently researchers are preparing proposals for the ad-hoc call of IMI.
Switzerland is involved in the European Open Science Cloud, which supports the set-up of a European COVID-19 Data platform based on the EMBL_EIB initiative. Switzerland contributes to this platform.
The member states of the European Union (EU) and associated countries coordinate their research and innovation cooperation in the fight against the corona virus (see https://ec.europa.eu/info/files/first-er...). Switzerland supports the measures in the “ERAvs-Corona Action plan” as part of its participation in the European Research Area.
Several Swiss hospitals are participating in the WHO multinational SOLIDARITY trial (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases...).
|Q2.Do you have dedicated arrangements in place for communicating science advice and for refuting misleading information to the public on Covid-19?||Two times a week, the government provides information at the highest level (Federal Council) at press conferences. This is supplemented by information from experts.
The Swiss National COVID-19 Science Task Force was set up to act as a scientific advisory body to the political authorities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Task Force is publishing Policy Briefs that focus on a wide range of the most pressing scientific issues to better understanding and managing the pandemic (see https://ncs-tf.ch/en/policy-briefs). The Task Force is currently preparing lay summaries of the published Policy briefs, to ensure that the information reaches a broader audience.
The dialogue between science and society is one of the main tasks of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences. Recently, they released a COVID19 related video entitled “What Swiss Scientists want Young People to know” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmACHtK0...).
|Q3. What new STI policy measures, if any, is your country taking to respond specifically to the Covid-19 crisis?||The Federal Council has set up a Swiss National COVID-19 Science Task Force, which provided science advice to the governmental and cantonal actors in charge of the crisis management. The Science Task Force consists of a group of around 70 high profile scientists working on ten topics. Based on the available scientific evidence, the Task Force provides recommendations in Policy Briefs, which are publicly available at www.ncsf-tf.ch.
On February 27th 2020, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) launched a “Special call for research into coronaviruses” (call ended on March, 25th). For further details see: www.snf.ch/en/funding/programmes/coronav.... This is the first time that the SNSF is launching a call for proposals in response to current events.
On April 16th 2020, the Federal Council launched the National Research Programme (NRP 78 ) on the subject of coronavirus pandemic, and tasked the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) with implementing it (submission deadline May 25th). For further details see www.snf.ch/en/researchinFocus/newsroom/P... www.snf.ch/en/funding/programmes/nrp78-c....
Coronavirus: SNSF update” www.snf.ch/en/funding/directaccess/coron....
|Q4A. At national level, what mechanisms are you developing or relying upon to bring together different STI actors (researchers, industry, government, health sector, foundations, etc.) to effectively collaborate on responses to Covid-19?||The Swiss STI system is already strongly based on cooperation between the various players and is internationally well interconnected.
Swiss National Super Computing Center (CSCS): provision of computing infrastructure.
Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (SIB): SIB resources supporting SARS-CoV-2 research (www.sib.swiss/about-sib/news/10660-sib-r...).
|Q4B. At international level, what mechanisms are you developing or relying upon to bring together different STI actors (researchers, industry, government, health sector, foundations, etc.) to effectively collaborate on responses to Covid-19?||Switzerland contributes to Horizon 2020. Swiss researchers actively participate in the calls for proposals on COVID-19. So far 6 of the 17 Horizon 2020 projects have a Swiss institution involve.
Switzerland is part of the European Open Science Cloud, which set up a European COVID-19 Data platform based on the EMBL-EIB initiative. Switzerland contributes this platform.https://www.europeandataportal.eu/en/highlights/covid-19.
Switzerland hosts, finances or participates in several research infrastructures which are delivering auxiliary services and important contributions in the fight against the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). The international research infrastructures and organisations (e.g. Swiss Light Source, SwissFeEL at Paul Scherre Institute, Source Européenne de Rayonnment Synchotron, l’Institut Laue-Langevin, EMBL and ELIXIR) have responded to the crisis not only by locking down most of their infrastructure to protect the staff but also by adopting strategies and offering new services in order to contribute to the ongoing research efforts to resolve the crisis.
|Q5. What novel approaches, if any, is your country using to address the coronavirus crisis (e.g. use of machine learning, open science initiatives boosting access and sharing of data and research results, development and use of prediction models, etc.)?||The Federal Council has set up a Swiss National COVID-19 Science Task Force, which provided science advice to the governmental and cantonal actors in charge of the crisis management. The Science Task Force consists of a group of around 70 high profile scientists working on ten topics. Based on the available scientific evidence, the Task Force provides recommendations in Policy Briefs, which are publicly available at www.ncsf-tf.ch. Mathematical Modelling is one of the Expert Groups providing actively advice to the Federal Government. Prediction models to describe the epidemic are publicly available on the Task Force website. They are regularly updated. Furthermore, the Digital Epidemiology Expert Group substantially contributes to shaping the testing-tracing-isolating-quarantining strategy. Experts from the EPFL participating in this group developed a proximity app, which should support digital tracing and keep the number of new cases low.
Research data under the SNSF Special Call and the NRP 78 "Covid-19" must be made available for researchers and authorities worldwide and without delay at the latest at the end of the project.
The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) has set up special registry for Covid-19 research including projects of the SNSF, Innosuisse and EU-projects with Swiss participation (http://www.snf.ch/de/fokusForschung/news...).
On March 24th 2020, Swiss Universities, the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Consortium of Swiss Academic Libraries appealed to all publishing houses to remove paywalls on scientific publications supporting by this way the appeal of the International Coalition of Library Consortia (ICOLC). In the current exceptional circumstances, scientific results need to be shared immediately and transparently to bolster the fight against the new virus.
|Q6A. What impact on the STI system do you anticipate in the short-, medium- and long-term, and what measures are you implementing to address those?||On 16 March, the Federal Council classified the situation in Switzerland as an "extraordinary situation" and introduced various restrictive measures that also affect the functioning of the STI system. The institutions concerned are reacting pragmatically to the problems arising in the short term (e.g. extension of submission deadlines).
The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) provides flexible solutions for researchers: extension of mobility fellowships, extending projects, evaluation of career funding schemes etc. (see Coronavirus: SNF update; http://www.snf.ch/en/funding/directacces...).
Researchers involved in Horizon 2020 Projects or preparing for upcoming calls have difficulties fulfilling their research activities on time. Switzerland is involved in the discussions with the European Commission, Member States and Associated Countries on how to support ongoing and future research activities accordingly.
|Q6B. Is support of the STI system part of planned stimulus packages aimed at supporting the economy?||The Federal Council is currently doing everything to coordinate the various activities and players in the health, research and innovation sector as well as to support the economy to help overcome the corona crisis.
Support to the economy. On 13 and 20 March 2020, the Federal Council approved a comprehensive package of measures totaling over CHF 40 billion to cushion the economic consequences of the spread of the coronavirus. The measures include, among others:
- Liquidity support for companies
- Extension and simplification of the instrument of short-time work compensation
- Compensation for loss of earnings for self-employed persons.
Latest information can be found here:
State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO: www.seco.admin.ch/seco/de/home/Arbeit/ne...
Federal Office of Public Health FOPH: www.bag.admin.ch/bag/en/home/krankheiten...
State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI: www.sbfi.admin.ch/sbfi/en/home.html
|Q7. Is there anything else regarding the STI policy response to Covid-19 in your country you would like to mention?||No|