Scholars at Risk landed at USI

Servizio relazioni internazionali e mobilità

16 Dicembre 2020

Academic freedom and institutional autonomy are considered essential rights for higher education institutions to fulfill their mission. They are the pillars of quality education, and fundamental attributes for conducting internationally relevant scientific research, thus contributing to the development of the society by enabling the transfer of knowledge, innovation, entrepreneurship and cultural and scientific debate through researchers and scholars.

It is crucial for the latter to be free to follow their ideas and opinions, to contribute to open discussions, and choose, according to the higher institutions values, what to put forward in their teaching, research or publications.

Nevertheless, academic freedom is not a granted right: in many countries, what scholars do, say or think may put them and their loved ones at serious risk, be it in terms of their liberty or well-being.

The mission of the Scholars at Risk (SAR) Network is to promote and guarantee the principles of academic freedom and its related values around the world, to protect scholars facing threats, and to prevent attacks to the scientific community.

Established in 1999 and based in New York City, SAR arranges safe temporary research and teaching positions in its global network of over 500 higher education institutions in 40 countries. To date, more than 1’400 scholars have found refuge this way, nine in Switzerland since 2008

Since 2016, USI is member of the Scholars at Risk network and an active member of the SAR Swiss Section (SAR Switzerland), whose purpose is to promote the values, mission and activities of Scholars at Risk by hosting scholars, sharing information on good practice and by initiating joint activities.

As of October 2020, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) finances SAR’s activities in Switzerland within the scope of its Scientific Exchanges funding scheme. The SAR headquarter in New York City assesses the applications submitted by scholars and seeks a suitable placement at one of the affiliated research institutions in over 40 countries. If a Swiss institution is deemed a suitable host and agrees to provide a safe haven to a researcher, the new collaboration will enable the network to apply for financial support from the SNSF.

This is a very important step forward for Swiss institutions willing to host a scholar and in particular for young and lively universities such as USI.

According to Prof. Benedetto Lepori, USI delegate of the rector for research analysis “it is a duty of academics at USI to take care of their colleagues who are at risk and cannot perform their research freely. The generous support of the SNSF should encourage all us to engage in this important endeavor.”

Academics interested in welcoming a SAR candidate or in learning more about USI’s SAR-membership may contact the International Relations and Study Abroad service at relint@usi.ch or maurizia.ruinelli@usi.ch.

Useful links to learn more:

Scholars at risk (SAR) Network

Scholars at Risk application

Research and Transfer Service (SRIT)

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Accademia di architettura, Facoltà di comunicazione, cultura e società, Facoltà di scienze biomediche, Facoltà di scienze economiche, Facoltà di scienze informatiche