Mandated by the Federal Government, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) supports basic science in all academic disciplines, from history to medicine and the engineering sciences. The improvement of career perspectives for young researchers is a key objective for the SNSF. Over 20 percent of the funds are invested in career funding instruments targeted directly at young researchers. The SNSF has initiated the Career Tracker Cohorts Study (CTC) in order to better understand the impacts of these funding instruments on the career paths of young researchers. The SNSF has entrusted a project team from the University of Bern (Interfaculty Centre for Educational Research and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Gender Studies) to carry out the study..


The main goal of the CTC is to gain a better understanding of the career paths of applicants to postdoctoral SNSF career funding schemes and to shed light on the medium and long-term impacts of the career funding schemes of the SNSF. The results will serve as a basis for the future development of career funding policies and instruments. At the same time, the study will provide valuable data for research on the conditions, motives and career perspectives of researchers.

Some key questions of the project are:

  • How high is the retention rate in academic science and how does the rate depend on personal characteristics (e.g., gender, age, family status), discipline, type of grant, etc.?
  • What are the reasons for leaving academic science?
  • In what ways do the career paths of grantees and non-grantees differ?
  • What is the impact of SNSF career funding on careers both inside and outside academia?
  • How large is the gender gap in research careers and how does it change over time?
  • What are gender-specific challenges regarding the career development of young researchers?

Study Design

The CTC is designed as a longitudinal panel study with yearly cohorts. The target group are all applicants to career funding schemes at the postdoctoral level, irrespective of funding decision (n = 4053). The funding schemes of the SNSF considered include Early Postdoc.Mobility, Postdoc.Mobility, Ambizione, PRIMA, and Eccellenza. From 2018 until 2021, a new cohort was launched every year. Every new cohort starts with a base survey, which inquires about applicants’ current and previous (academic) employment situations, their doctorate, their career prospects and aspirations, as well as their family and personal life situations. Subsequently, the survey participants receive a monitoring survey every year. The monitoring surveys follow up on the participants’ careers and life circumstances. Up to 2021, special modules complement the panel data gathered in the base and monitoring surveys.

More information on the CTC study can be found in the different documentations.