Formal Closure of NCCR SESAM

Bern, 22.01.2009 - On 19 January, at the request of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), the Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA) decided to formally close the National Centre of Competence in Research, “Swiss Etiological Study of Adjustment and Mental Health” (NCCR SESAM) on 30 September 2009, with a one-year phase-out period. The FDHA approved a one-year phase-out period to ensure that closure of NCCR SESAM takes place in an orderly fashion. The main reason for closure was NCCR SESAM’s inability to recruit the 3,000 participants needed for the core study. During the phase-out period, research projects initiated under NCCR SESAM, but not directly dependent on the core study, may be brought to completion and their findings recorded and published.

The second series of National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCRs) was launched in 2005. It was at this time that NCCR SESAM was created at the University of Basel. NCCR SESAM's aim was to examine the complex factors that ensure healthy mental development over a person's lifespan. For this purpose, a trigenerational study was planned, involving a population of 3,000 children from the 20th pregnancy week to age 20 together with their parents and grandparents. Study participants were to be tested for psychological, social and biogenetic characteristics.

Given the small number of pregnant women who were willing to take part in the study, the core study could not be conducted as planned. The managers responsible for the core study therefore decided to discontinue corresponding research activities in the spring of 2008.

By the end of 2008, NCCR SESAM had received a total of CHF 6.3 million in SNSF grant funding. 22% of grant funding (i.e. CHF 1.39 million) was spent on the core study. The vast majority of SNSF grant funding received to date was therefore used for substudies that were independent of the core study. By the time all NCCR SESAM-related activities come to a close on 30 September 2010, around CHF 9.8 million in SNSF grant funding will have been spent over a five-year period (i.e. first four years of operation plus one-year phase-out period). This funding of the phase-out period is needed to ensure the orderly completion of ongoing substudies and PhD research projects, the recording of research findings and publication to ensure that these findings may be used for subsequent research.

A summary report describing the key scientific findings obtained from NCCR SESAM should be published in the summer of 2010. The closing financial report will be released in the spring of the same year.

In the meantime, the SNSF has set up an internal NCCR working group, which will be responsible for assessing the entire NCCR SESAM process. This working group will also draw lessons that may be applied to similar cases, particularly with regard to grant funding to be given to biomedical and interdisciplinary multi-centre and longitudinal studies. The working group's final report is expected for mid 2009.


Address for enquiries

State Secretariat for Education and Research SER
Gregor Haefliger
Head of National Research Unit
T +41 31 322 96 76
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State Secretariat for Education and Research (SER) - as of 1.1.2013 SERI