Understanding diseases, testing medicines, and producing vaccines—studies on animals are still an indispensable part of medical research. High legal and ethical standards apply in Austria. For instance, animal testing may not be conducted if other validated alternative methods are available. However, the number of these alternatives is limited; therefore, intensive research into alternative methods is required. To speed up the establishment of such alternative methods, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) is awarding “Alternative Methods to Animal Testing” research grants. Proposals can be submitted to the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).
For several months, Austrian funding organisations, including the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), have been calling attention to the negative consequences resulting from a loss of the National Foundation funding. Despite a parliamentary petition and negotiations on continued funding by the Austrian federal government, the FWF has been forced to take the first appropriate steps. Three funding programmes—the Young Independent Researcher Groups, doc.funds, and #ConnectingMinds—must be suspended to the detriment of outstanding researchers. Two additional programmes— the Special Research Programmes and the Research Groups—must be reduced.
Good research is based on critical examination and systematic exploration. The greater the transparency and reproducibility, the greater the trust in research. Integrity and ethics are essential parts of the research process and characteristic features of excellent research in accordance with the highest international standards.
Cutting-edge research always involves a risk, but if it succeeds, there is a good chance of making an innovation leap. Through the 1,000 Ideas programme, the FWF wishes to further enhance Austria’s innovative power by once again supporting high-risk research. Interest in the programme continues to be high during the second call, with 270 researchers submitting proposals. The new projects will be able to commence in summer.
The FWF Supervisory Board has appointed particle physicist Christof Gattringer of the University of Graz until 2024
On 21 January, seven applicants presented themselves for the position of FWF President at a virtual hearing before the FWF Assembly of Delegates. The delegates then held a secret ballot to decide on a shortlist of three candidates. On 10 February, the Supervisory Board of the FWF will elect the next president from the trio of Christof Gattringer (University of Graz), Sabine Schindler (University of Innsbruck), and Miranda Schreurs (Technical University of Munich).
The RTI Strategy 2030 recently adopted by the Council of Ministers paves the way for more investment in research and innovation. Through this strategy, the Austrian federal government aims to bring Austria closer to Europe’s innovation leaders. The excellence initiative contained within the strategy provides leading-edge researchers in Austria with extra momentum.
They are among Austria’s most highly endowed research awards, and their funding has been provided once again in 2021 by charitable foundations: researchers can now submit project proposals from the fields of cell research, anaesthesia, and the further development of the Internet as part of the new calls of the Herzfelder Foundation, the Weiss Award, and netidee SCIENCE. A total of €1.6 billion is thus available to cutting-edge basic research.
The Austrian Science Fund FWF has formed together with European research funding organisations a network called Weave to harmonise programmes for international cooperation and to create extensive opportunities for collaboration on basic research.
As of 1 January 2021, the limit on equipment acquisition costs, particularly for low-value assets predominantly financed by the FWF, will increase.
The first international FWF corona urgent funding project offers a safe and affordable alternative to current means of virus decontamination. The research focuses on the reuse of highly effective face masks and the decontamination of other sensitive objects.
The alpha+ Foundation was created as a non-profit federal foundation by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) in November of 2019 with the aim of providing additional support to researchers through private funding. One year later, seven researchers from the Erwin Schrödinger Fellowships Programme have received a “Rückenwind funding bonus” of the alpha+ Foundation for the first time. The goal of this funding initiative is to promote international knowledge transfer.
Research in a more open, transparent, and collective manner—the Austrian Science Fund FWF has revised its open access guidelines to be aligned with the principles of the international Plan S initiative starting in 2021. Research results will in future be openly available to everyone free of charge.
The FWF is inviting tenders for a concept study showing options for an open source online tool that can be used to analyze which new fields of basic research are emerging in FWF-funded projects, in Austria, and worldwide.
The FWF has supported Austrian COVID-19 basic research to the tune of €6 million so far. The urgent fast-track procedure initiated by the FWF still runs until the end of March 2021.