Foreign affairs

Switzerland must remain part of European science

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Petition is directed to
D. Burkhalter, S. Sommaruga, J. Schneider-Ammann (Members of the Swiss Federal Council), J. M. Barroso (President of the European Commission), M. Schulz (President of the European Parliament), H. Van Rompuy (President of the European Council)
9,539 supporters

The petition is accepted.

9,539 supporters

The petition is accepted.

  1. Launched 2014
  2. Collection finished
  3. Submitted
  4. Dialogue
  5. Success

The petition was successful!

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The signatories of this petition urge Swiss and EU officials to overcome any obstacles that exist for the association of Switzerland to the EU Framework Programme HORIZON 2020. We request that the pending Association Agreement be approved within the next months in order to avoid further damage to the European Research Area and to allow scientists in Switzerland to fully participate in HORIZON 2020.


Science is an endeavour that transcends national boundaries. As such, the free movement of persons is a prerequisite for realising the circulation of knowledge and fostering excellent science, as envisaged for the European Research Area. We strongly believe that failure to approve the Association Agreement of Switzerland to HORIZON 2020* would cause a disastrous setback to the common ideal of scientific exchange of ideas, knowledge, and resources. Moreover, this would punish EU scientists working in Switzerland, who were not eligible to vote in the recent referendum!

Through EU Framework Programme 7 (FP7), in which scientists in Switzerland were able to fully participate, unique scientific collaborations and a vibrant exchange of ideas and expertise have been established. This Europe-wide science environment is now threatened. The full participation of Switzerland’s science community in HORIZON 2020 is crucial to avoid the loss of knowledge and expertise in the European Research Area, expertise that will provide important input to reaching the scientific goals laid out in HORIZON 2020 and the Europe 2020 targets.

Switzerland is and always has been an integral part of the European Science community and provides excellent working conditions for thousands of European scientists. A 2012 survey [1, 2] showed that of the scientists working in Switzerland in the fields of biology, chemistry, and material, earth and environmental sciences 57% come from abroad (of which 37% alone come from Germany). Of the professors responsible for university education in these areas, 52% come from outside Switzerland, and in the case of postdoctoral scientists, this figure reaches 74%. Vice versa, 33% of Swiss scientists in these fields work outside of Switzerland.

With an average success rate of 23% in European Research Council (ERC) grant applications, scientists at Swiss host institutions were the most successful ERC applicants in FP7. Of these scientists, the vast majority (nearly 75%) are foreign nationals. In addition, researchers based in Swiss home institutions are well respected and sought-after partners in European collaborative projects, participating in close to 2200 FP7 projects and coordinating more than 600 [3]. In summary, Switzerland must remain part of European science and continue to provide knowledge and working opportunities to the European science community.

*in response to the recent direct referendum, in which Swiss registered voters decided with a very small majority (50.3%) to restrict immigration of citizens from the EU and other countries, and the subsequent decision of the Swiss Federal Council not to sign the extension on the Free Movement Agreement to include Croatia.

Authors of the petition:

Hubertus Fischer, Professor for Experimental Climate Physics, University of Bern Recipient of the EU Descartes Prize for Transnational Collaborative Research 2007 for the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica (EPICA) European Research Council Advanced Grant holder

Christian Körner, Professor of Botany, University of Basel Honorary member of the American Ecological Society European Research Council Advanced Grant holder

Uwe-Jens Wiese, Professor for Theoretical Physics, Albert Einstein Center for Fundamental Physics, University of Bern, European Research Council Advanced Grant Holder

References 1. Franzoni, C., G. Scellato, and P. Stephan, Foreign-born scientists: mobility patterns for 16 countries. Nature Biotechnology, 2012. 30(12): p. 1250-1253. 2. van Noorden, R., Science on the move. Nature, 2012. 490: p. 326-329. 3. Swiss Confederation State Secretariat for Education and Research, Swiss participation in the EU’s Seventh Research Framework Programme, Interim Report, 2007-2012, Facts and Figures, 2012.

Deutsche Zusammenfassung:

An: Didier Burkhalter, Simonetta Sommaruga, Johann Schneider-Ammann, Mitglieder des Schweizerischen Bundesrates José Manuel Barroso, Präsident der Europäischen Kommission Martin Schulz, Präsident des Europäischen Parlamentes Herman Van Rompuy, Präsident des Europäischen Rates

Zusammenfassung: Die Unterzeichner dieser Petition bitten Schweizer und Europäische Spitzenvertreter dringend, mögliche Hindernisse für die Assoziierung der Schweiz zum EU Rahmenprogramm HORIZON 2020 aus dem Weg zu räumen. Wir fordern die Repräsentanten auf, das schwebende Assoziierungsabkommen in den nächsten Monaten zu unterzeichnen, um weiteren Schaden von der Europäischen Forschungslandschaft abzuwenden und Wissenschaftlern in der Schweiz zu ermöglichen, vollumfänglich an HORIZON 2020 teilzunehmen.

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  • Dear supporters of the online petition "Switzerland must remain part of European Science"

    As mentioned before, our petition has no legal implications, however, is meant as a strong voice of scientists to all involved Swiss and EU officials to refrain from making European science a pawn in the political negotiations.

    The voice of this and other similar petitions has been heard. The good news is that as of 15 September 2014 Switzerland has partially regained its status as Associated Country in HORIZON2020.

    This partial association allows researchers in Switzerland to fully participate in all calls under the first pillar of Horizon 2020 "Excellent Science" (including ERC grants, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, Future and Emerging Technologies... further

  • Dear supporters of "Switzerland must remain part of European science"

    Receipt of our online petition has now been confirmed by the Swiss Bundeskanzlei, Bundesrat Schneider-Ammann, the European Commission, the European Council as well as the Presidency of the European Parliament.

    This will likely be the last email on our petition, but I keep my fingers crossed that your support will help to find a constructive solution to our request as soon as possible.

    Regards H. Fischer

  • The receipt of the petition and of the list of signatures has now been confirmed by the office of the President of the European Commission, Mr. Barroso.

Austausch von Wissen, Begegnung von Personen, Förderung von Projekten, ermöglichen breit gefächerte Innovation in allen Bereichen. Mit der EU, und nicht gegen die EU, hat die Schweiz, die schliesslich mitten in Europa liegt, alle Möglichkeiten offen auch in Zukunft ein freies und nicht ein einengendes Land zu bleiben. Horizon2020 und Erasmus+ sind dazu zwei wichtige Elemente, die nicht leichtfertig wegen eines knappen Zufallsmehr 50.3% aufs Spiel gesetzt werden dürfen.

It has a whiff of phoniness. The petition does not even mention the Erasmus program, which has been suspended as well. This suggests the petition is about researchers fearing to loose their job and not about worries concerning knowledge exchange. Suspending the Erasmus programme is by far the greater collateral damage in terms of European Integration. And after all, why should the EU fund research in which some of her members (Croatia) would not be allowed to participate?

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