Inclusion of the scientific community

Independent scientific expertise can make an important contribution to crisis management. In a crisis, the Federal Chancellery coordinates the involvement of scientific experts to advise the national government. It supports the exchange between the federal government and the scientific community even before a crisis occurs to ensure the best possible cooperation in the event of a crisis.

Signing of the cooperation agreement between the Confederation and the scientific community by the presidents of swissuniversities, the ETH Board, SNSF, A+, the Swiss Science Council and Innosuisse, and by the SERI State Secretary and the former Federal Chancellor on 8 December 2023.

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the importance of consulting scientific experts early on in crisis management. In the wake of the pandemic and as part of its response to Postulates 20.3280 Michel and 20.3542 De Quattro, the Federal Council decided on 23 November 2022 to activate scientific expertise during crises through the creation of ad-hoc advisory groups and to define corresponding processes (Link). On 8 December 2023, the Federal Council adopted a corresponding implementation proposal.

An ad-hoc scientific advisory body makes it possible to respond to the requirements of the crisis with the most suitable experts. As these experts are not employed by the Federal Administration, they are not bound by instructions and are therefore more independent.

Scientific advisory body in a crisis

If the Federal Council sets up an interdepartmental crisis management task force, it will examine whether the involvement of an ad hoc scientific advisory body is appropriate. If so, the Federal Council will decide on its appointment. The experts who sit on this committee are proposed jointly by Switzerland's six major scientific institutions:

ETH Board
Swiss National Science Foundation
Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences
Swiss Science Council

The proposed experts are confirmed by the Federal Administration prior to their participation in the Scientific Advisory Board.

swissuniversities acts as the single point of contact for the Confederation. For its part, the Federal Chancellery serves as the point of contact for the scientific community. Together with the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) and the department in charge of the crisis, the Federal Chancellery also coordinates the process of setting up an advisory body.

The Federal Chancellery, SERI and the participating scientific institutions signed a cooperation agreement for this purpose on 8 December 2023.

The establishment of a scientific advisory body is based on Article 57 of the Government and Administration Organisation Act (GAOA, SR 172.010). Article 57 GAOA stipulates that the Federal Council and the departments may consult organisations and persons which are not part of the Federal Administration. The consultation requires justification and must be limited in time. The involvement of organisations and persons from outside the Federal Administration is particularly necessary and justified when specialist areas are involved in which the required expertise is not available within the Federal Administration or the necessary personnel resources are lacking.

Code of practice

The above-mentioned scientific institutions and the Confederation have drawn up a code of practice defining the tasks and responsibilities of scientific experts. The code of practice states that experts are to advise policymakers about the current state of certainty and uncertainty in their area of expertise, develop realistic scenarios, and outline different policy options, explaining their respective risks and benefits. The code also states that scientific evidence alone is never sufficient for decision-making, as other aspects must be taken into account, in particular societal values and interests. At the same time, the code stipulates that the independence of scientific advice must be guaranteed at all times.

Clusters to prepare and build trust

In the run-up to a crisis, scientific organisations form clusters for certain crisis-relevant topics so that experts can be recruited more quickly. These theme-based clusters also offer the opportunity to facilitate exchange among the Federal Council, the Federal Administration and, if necessary, Parliament and the cantons on specific subject areas during normal times. The Federal Council has proposed the following topics for 2024:

• Public health
• Cybersecurity
• International challenges

The topics for 2025 will be determined in the current year.

Further information



Swiss Federal Chancellery Strategic Management Support Section
‘Science-based’ crisis management

Federal Palace West Wing
3003 Bern


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