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Marcel Benoist Prize Top Swiss science prize gets boost

Climate researcher Thomas Stocker will be awarded the Marcel Benoist Prize 2017

(Keystone)

The Marcel Benoist Prize – the “Swiss Nobel Prize” for science – is to get a new look ahead of its centenary. The aim is to draw more attention to Swiss scientific achievement.

The prizeexternal link has been awarded since 1920 for excellence in research. The changes will be made to the Marcel Benoist Foundation to better equip it for the future, according to a government statement on Tuesdayexternal link.

“Our country relies on top performance in research and innovation. With the Marcel Benoist Swiss Science Prize we want to draw attention to excellence and highlight its importance for our society and our economy,” said Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann, whose department is in charge of education and research.

The selection procedure is now in the hands of the Swiss National Science Foundationexternal link (SNSF) to ensure “a broad-based selection procedure according to excellence criteria, and take into account the various scientific disciplines on a rotating basis”. There will be an open nomination procedure in which the research community in Switzerland can make proposals.

Bern will be fixed as the location for the prize-giving ceremony, rather than, as previously, the recipient’s work location. This should continue to raise the profile of the ceremony, the statement continued.

Thomas Stocker

This year sees both locations coincide as the prize goes to environmental researcher Thomas Stocker for his ground-breaking work on establishing the consequences of climate change. The University of Bern professor will receive his award on Wednesday.

The government will still contribute financially to the prize via an existing agreement with the SNSF. In addition, the prize money has been raised to CHF250,000 ($250,000) – up from CHF50,000. This is thanks to the foundation having raised more than CHF10 million privately, with fundraising efforts continuing.

Also planned by 2020 is a Swiss Science Day, the statement said.

Excellence

The Marcel Benoist Swiss Science Prize is awarded to scientists based in Switzerland whose work has had a beneficial impact on society. Ten prize winners have subsequently been awarded the Nobel Prize. 

Switzerland itself is renowned for its science and innovation prowessexternal link, and the international nature of its research institutions. Earlier this month the renowned journal Nature ran a spotlight featureexternal link calling the country “something of a United Nations of science” which was “never far from the top of international league tables of academic publications per researcher, research impact, innovation of patents per capita”.

“The country’s science is a foundation of the economy – making its growth and protection a major priority for policymakers,” it concluded.

swissinfo.ch/ilj

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