In an effort to improve the evaluation of CVs, the SNSF will run a pilot programme to test a new, standardised CV format called SciCV. The pilot concerns all applicants for project funding in biology and medicine in this year’s first call for proposals (submission deadline 01 April 2020). All applicants participating in this call, are required to submit their CV in the new format as part of their application.

At present, the formats of CVs submitted by applicants are heterogeneous and not always in line with international best practice. The aim of SciCV is to remedy this situation by allowing researchers to compile their CV in a structured way and to present their most important contributions to science in brief narratives, rather than only as lists of publications. This approach will help make other academic outputs, beyond publications, visible and valued and promote equal opportunities. SciCV will also introduce a uniform way of calculating the academic age of applicants, which indicates how long they have been active researchers as opposed to their biological age. The new format will no longer include any journal-based metrics, such as Journal Impact Factors, as a surrogate measure of the quality of individual research articles. Rather, the actual content of articles and their citation impact will be considered. 

To simplify the completion of CVs, the SNSF has created this interactive online toolkit (www.scicv.ch), which will be available to all applicants in biology and medicine as of 1 March 2020 through to 1 April 2020. Applicants will require an ORCID account to log in and to access the relevant data entry fields. Creating the SciCV online is a straightforward task, but can be time-consuming. Therefore, it is best to start early. 

  • Academic Age

    In SciCV academic age is defined as the full-time equivalent (FTE) number of years, which the applicant has worked in academia since their first academic publication. The calculation considers the first publication as the start of an academic career.

    An FTE of 1.0 is equivalent to a year spent working in academia full time. This may include research and scholarly work, teaching and academic service activities. Time spent on clinical training or clinical work without doing research does not count as academic work. For example, if during one year someone worked 40% in academia, spent 30% of their time in clinical training, worked 20% as a baker and was not employed during the remaining 10% of that year, then that year would simply count as 0.4 FTE years of work in academia. If the academic age ends up being lower than 1 year in total, then it is rounded up to 1 year.

    Mothers can subtract 1.5 FTE years of academic work from their academic age for each child they received. Already included in this compensation are any parental leave and/or reduction of academic work load they may have received. If they need to subtract more than 1.5 FTE years of academic work due to having a child, they may do so but in that case, they have to provide a brief explanation. Fathers and other legal guardians of minors may only subtract the actual time they took off from academic work for parental duties, including parental leave, even if this sums up to less than 1.5 FTE years.


    The citation of the applicant’s first peer reviewed publication (or equivalent) and their entry in the field “Activities and context beyond academia” will be used for a rough feasibility check of their academic age by the administrative offices of the SNSF only. Only the value entered in the academic age field will be forwarded to the evaluation panel and external referees.

    The academic age should be taken into consideration when comparing different SciCVs. For instance, a researcher with a high academic age will have had more time to accumulate research outputs while a researcher with a lower academic age, for whatever reasons, may accordingly have fewer academic outputs in total even though both may have been comparably productive.

  • H-index

    The h-index is defined as the maximum value of h such that a researcher has published h papers that have each been cited at least h times. For example, an h-index of 20 means that they have authored 20 publications, which have each been cited at least 20 times. The index works properly only for comparing scientists of similar age who work in the same academic field as citation conventions differ among different fields and are correlated to an author’s age.

    The h-index can provide different values depending on the sources used in its calculation. For consistency, in SciCV applicants must use Scopus only to calculate their personal h-index (website Scopus).

    It is possible that not all of an author’s publications are matched correctly in Scopus. Applicants are therefore advised to check and amend their Scopus author profile before copying the h-index into SciCV.


    The h-index offers a focused snapshot of one aspect of an individual research’s performance and can be used to compare academics of a similar age and from the same field of study. It is known, however, to correlate non-linearly with age and must therefore be used with caution.

  • Narratives

    A SciCV contains two types of narratives: a specific project-related narrative and more general contributions to science. Instead of providing exhaustive lists of outputs, in the narratives applicants can describe in their own words what aspects of their career and work they consider most important. Narratives can help ensure that different career paths are given equal opportunity and that other outputs of research (within and beyond science) are better acknowledged.

    Project related narrative

    In the project-related narrative, applicants are asked to describe in their own words, why they are the right person to execute the research outlined in the research plan of their grant application.

    The project-related narrative can include but is not limited to (nor does it require): the applicant’s previous scientific work on the topic or a related topic; their technical or methodological expertise; relevant aspects of their training; their previous academic or public outreach activities on the topic or related to the topic; other skills and competencies, which the applicant deems relevant to the proposed project; their personal argumentation for the relevance of some of these aspects to the project.

    Contributions to science

    In  contributions to science, applicants are asked to briefly describe, in their own words, up to four of their most significant contributions to science so far. The contributions to science do not necessarily need to be related or of direct relevance to the research outlined in the applicant’s current funding application, instead they should serve as general description of their most important work so far.

    Contributions to science can include but are not limited to (nor do they require): the historical context, which framed the scientific problem; the actual problem itself; the applicant’s work or finding(s) and their influence on science or society; the applicant’s specific role or contribution to this work.

  • Works

    To corroborate the key arguments of their narratives, applicants can cite previous work. In total, applicants can cite up to 21 works (five in the project-related narrative and four times four in the contributions to science). A work does not have to be a publication, it can also be any other type of research output, such as preprints; patents, software etc. (see examples of the types of work, which can be added to SciCV here).

    For each work the applicant has to provide the type of the cited work, its citation, a link where it can be accessed and, if available, the relative citation ratio of the work (see below).

  • Relative Citation Ratio (RCR) 

    The RCR is a field-normalised citation-based metric of the scientific influence of a publication. “It is calculated by dividing the number of citations a paper received by the average number of citations an article usually receives in that field. That number is then benchmarked against the median RCR for all NIH-funded papers. This allows articles to be assessed on the basis of their relevance in their own field, and highly influential articles will be recognized even if they are published in an obscure journal.” (doi:10.1038/nature.2015.18734). Applicants must use Dimensions (website Dimensions) to retrieve the RCR of their works. Dimensions is a comprehensive database, providing linked scholarly information.


    The RCR is only available for PubMed listed publications, which are at least two years old. Whether a work has an RCR or not is therefore no indicator of the work’s quality. Like other metrics, the RCR is not perfect and should therefore only supplement but never replace expert judgement.