Download the Science Plan (PDF): Polar Science in Switzerland – Proposed priorities for the Swiss Polar Institute SPI up to 2025 and beyond.


The SPI science plan identifies strengths within the Swiss Polar research landscape, outlines a way forward to grow them, and proposes the development of new activities for the near future up to 2025 and beyond. It is a crucial element of SPI’s future strategy. The Science Plan has been prepared by the SPI Science and Technology Advisory Board together with the Swiss Polar science community on the basis of inputs from the discussions at the Swiss Polar Day 2018 and a preparatory community consultation (Call for Ideas).

Furthermore, a draft version of the Science Plan was issued for consultation on February 2019. More than 150 comments were submitted to the Secretariat. These comments were analysed and to a large extent
incorporated into the document by the authors.

For more information on the reactions of the authors of the science plan to the inputs submitted in the context of the consultation of February 2019, we invite you to have a look at the following table (xslx):  Science Plan consultation – comments and responses. It provides an  anonymised overview of all the submitted comments, outlines why certain propositions have been rejected and lists inputs that have been incorporated in the revised document.

Call for Ideas 2017-2018

SPI organised a Call for Ideas ahead of the drafting of the Science Plan in order to gather suggestions and ideas to be considered in this strategic document. In response to the Call for Ideas 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 (three 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.

The majority of the submitters are PhD holders (26), while 18 Professors have submitted their ideas. One student also participated in 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 many as 11 different institutions have participated in 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.

Table presenting the number of submitted ideas per Swiss institution for the Call for Ideas 2017-2018