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The basis of smell in digital social interaction: Exploring the effect of odor on virtual embodiment

Call 2018
Digital Studies
Affective sciences

An important aspect of digitalization is that we spend more and more time in online social interactions without physically being present, i.e. in a quasi-disembodied state. In addition, we typically do not get any information about the bodily signals of the persons we are interacting with. Both aspects are important, as increasing evidence show that a) perceiving one’s own body is highly relevant for various emotional and cognitive processes (embodied cognition) and that b) perceiving (and simulating) other person’s body is crucial for social cognition. While there are some rather isolated attempts to bring in the body back into virtual interactions by the means of introducing avatars into virtual space (virtual embodiment), these simulations of the body typically include only very limited sensorimotor cues, while other crucial bodily cues are neglected.

The current project aims to investigate the influence of body-related odors (or the lack of it) on virtual embodiment and virtual interactions. Despite the fact that olfactory cues shape our daily social interactions to a large extent (e.g. Ferdenzi et al., 2016), they have been generally neglected both in embodiment research as well as in applied virtual reality techniques (e.g., Porcherot et al., 2018). One reason for that might be the technical difficulties in producing, preserving and reliably delivering odors. With the seed project, we aim to combine our knowledge from embodiment and virtual reality research (Laboratory of Cognitive Neuropsychology with focus Body, Self and Plasticity) and olfaction and virtual reality research (Ischer et al., 2014, Swiss Center for Affective Sciences -CISA-, University of Geneva) to address the question on how body-related positive (e.g., cosmetic related) and negative odors (e.g., synthetic sweat) influence embodiment, embodied cognition and sensorimotor sharing. Within this one year we aim to start and strengthen our collaboration by jointly supervise master students and develop and conduct first explorative behavioural experiments using multisensory stimulation paradigms (e.g. Lenggenhager et al. 2007, Macauda et al. 2015) in a laboratory setting. Furthermore, in order to both gather data in a more real-life setting as well as transfer knowledge to a wider population we aim to organize a joint workshop in the framework an exhibition on olfaction (FNS AGORA funding granted to S. Delplanque) in the “Musée de la main” (Lausanne, UNIL-CHUV). For the latter we will collaborate with the interdisciplinary art and research group BeAnotherLab (https://beanotherlab.org/), who uses virtual embodiment of real stories to promote mutual understanding between different social groups. For obtaining the odors we will benefit from the already existing collaboration between the CISA and the perfume and fragrance company Firmenich, S.A (more information).

We believe that this interdisciplinary collaboration will be of great importance both for fundamental research as well as for applied sciences in the domain of virtual reality applications and digital interactions.

References:

Ferdenzi, C., Delplanque, S., Atanassova, R., & Sander, D. (2016). Androstadienone’s influence on the perception of facial and vocal attractiveness is not sex specific. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 66, 166-175.

Ischer, M., Baron, N., Mermoud, C., Cayeux, I., Porcherot, C., Sander, D., & Delplanque, S. (2014). How incorporation of scents could enhance immersive virtual experiences. Frontiers in psychology, 5, 736.

Lenggenhager B, Tadi T, Metzinger M, Blanke O (2007). Video ergo sum. Manipulating bodily self‐consciousness. Science, 317:1096‐9.

Macauda G, Bertolini G, Palla A, Straumann D, Brugger P, Lenggenhager B (2015). Binding body and self in visuo-vestibular conflicts. European Journal of Neuroscience, 41(6):810-7.

Porcherot, C., Delplanque, S., Gaudreau, N., Ischer, M., De Marles, A., & Cayeux, I. (2018). Immersive Techniques and Virtual Reality. In Methods in Consumer Research, Volume 2 (pp. 69-83).

projects
Participants
Sylvain Delplanque
Adjoint Scientifique
University of Geneva - CISA
Bigna Lenggenhager
Head
University of Zurich - Department of Psychology Cognitive Neuropsychology

A head start for the preterm born children in Switzerland: A Geneva-Zurich joint research consortium

Call 2018
Medicine
Health

Early life events such as low birth weight affect 14 million newborns every year worldwide and premature birth occurs in 400'000 newborns per year in Europe alone. In Switzerland, about 800 infants are born preterm each year. Low birth weight and preterm birth both affect early brain development significantly and lead to reduced skill formation and impairment of socio-cognitive development, with a clear impact on economic and academic success and quality of life of these individuals. Hence, the focus of research lies in prevention of injury to the developing brain and its consequences. Indeed, neuroprotection for preterm infants has become one of the most important aspects of care provided to preterm infants. Such neuroprotection includes molecular strategies and/or care interventions to prevent brain injury and to support normal development of the immature brain. Between 2005 and 2012 such a neuroprotective multicenter RCT has taken place initiated in Zurich in collaboration with Geneva (“Does erythropoietin improve outcome in preterm infants” (NCT00413946), PI Prof. HU Bucher, CO-PI P Hüppi). This initial collaborative project has lead to two main publications in the prestigious journal of JAMA, one lead by the Geneva investigators [1] and one lead by the Zurich investigators [2]. Additionally, quantitative MR results were published lead by the Zurich investigators [3]. Building on the established collaboration we are now assessing the long-term effects on early erythropoietin on higher-order cognitive functions at 8 to 11 year of age as a follow-up project (EpoKids (SNF 320030_169733 PI C Hagmann [4]). Both sites are further investigating other neuroprotective interventions, for example creative music therapy [5], erythropoetin for the repair of injury [6] and the brain effects of music exposure [7] and nutrition [8, 9] on brain development. The proposed project will investigate how the brain networks grow depending on the administered neuroprotection. More specifically, MR brain connectomics analysis will be performed and the connectomes will be mapped between the treatment groups. In order to do so, a digital platform will be build up to share MR analysis software and data between the two institutions. Protecting the preterm brain remains a major challenge of pediatrics, and teaming up the efforts of both institutions with their experts in the field will provide advancement of science and clinical care in both institutions as well as training opportunities for students of both institutions.

References :

Leuchter, R.H., et al., Association between early administration of high-dose erythropoietin in preterm infants and brain MRI abnormality at term-equivalent age. JAMA, 2014. 312(8): p. 817-24.

Natalucci, G., et al., Effect of Early Prophylactic High-Dose Recombinant Human Erythropoietin in Very Preterm Infants on Neurodevelopmental Outcome at 2 Years: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA, 2016. 315(19): p. 2079-85.

O'Gorman, R.L., et al., Tract-based spatial statistics to assess the neuroprotective effect of early erythropoietin on white matter development in preterm infants. Brain, 2015. 138(Pt 2): p. 388-97.

Wehrle, F.M., et al., Long-term neuroprotective effect of erythropoietin on executive functions in very preterm children (EpoKids): protocol of a prospective follow-up study. BMJ Open, 2018. 8(4): p. e022157.

Haslbeck, F.B., et al., Creative music therapy to promote brain structure, function, and neurobehavioral outcomes in preterm infants: a randomized controlled pilot trial protocol. Pilot Feasibility Stud, 2017. 3: p. 36.

Ruegger, C.M., et al., Randomized controlled trials in very preterm infants: does inclusion in the study result in any long-term benefit? Neonatology, 2014. 106(2): p. 114-9.

Lordier, L., et al., Music processing in preterm and full-term newborns: A psychophysiological interaction (PPI) approach in neonatal fMRI. Neuroimage, 2018.

Beauport, L., et al., Impact of Early Nutritional Intake on Preterm Brain: A Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study. J Pediatr, 2017. 181: p. 29-36 e1.

Schneider, J., et al., Nutrient Intake in the First Two Weeks of Life and Brain Growth in Preterm Neonates. Pediatrics, 2018.

projects
Participants
PD Dr. med. Cornelia Hagmann
Consultant in Neonatology
University of Zurich
Prof. Dr. med. Petra Hüppi
Professeur ordinaire
University of Geneva - Pédiatrie, Gynécologie et Obstétrique

Bridging Personality and Cognition: Conceptual and Methodological Challenges in the Age of Digital Transformation

Call 2018
Digital Studies
Psychology
Affective Sciences

Personality and cognition are core domains of individual functioning in humans. Personality refers to individual differences in a range of different styles of thinking, feeling, and behaving that are important in interactions among individuals, social and physical environments. Cognition refers to mental abilities that are needed to meet the challenges of job and family demands, of education and social expectations, and to manage the demands of daily life. Both domains are related to important life outcomes. For example, personality predicts health, substance use/abuse, and mortality (e.g., Mroczek & Spiro, 2007). Similarly, cognition is related to declines in activities of daily living, Alzheimer’s disease, and also to mortality (e.g., Aichele, Rabbitt, & Ghisletta, 2015). Moreover, research showed that both domains develop and demonstrate plasticity across the entire lifespan (Allemand, Aschwanden, Martin, & Grünenfelder, 2017; Hofer & Alwin, 2008; Mella, Fagot, Lecerf, & de Ribaupierre, 2015). Despite their importance for various life outcomes and development, surprisingly few studies have examined the associations between personality and cognition (Briley & Tucker-Drob, 2017), and most of the existing studies found rather weak links between personality and cognition (e.g., Aschwanden, Kliegel, & Allemand, 2018). The existing work on personality and cognition is subject to several challenges that need to be addressed to bridge the two domains. Among these are differences in research traditions utilizing different conceptualizations (typical behaviors vs. maximal performance), measurement strategies (self-reports vs. cognitive tests), and analytical procedures. Digitization and digitalization are two extremely precious means to fill the gaps between personality and cognition research. First, there is promising capacity to ameliorate the assessment of both domains due to digitization (i.e., transferring knowledge from written sources, such as from self-reports, to digital means, like portable electronic devices through ambulatory assessment). The digitization creates new opportunities for the assessment and study of personality and cognition in daily life. The advent of new technologies (e.g., mobile technology, wearable sensors) calls for the development and evaluation of a new generation of innovative conceptual frameworks and new research paradigms. Second, the digitalization of personality and cognition digitized information has the potential to significantly advance and bridge research in these fields. Digitalization will link digitized assessments of both domains and co-analyze them to understand the co-dependencies between the individual processes involved in both domains. With this proposal, we would like to apply for joint seed funding to develop and establish a collaborative research direction to bridge two domains of individual functioning in the digital era. The digital issues (i.e., digitization and digitalization) are a great opportunity to investigate our research subjects in an ecologically valid manner, to obtain advanced results, and to enrich our teaching. Specifically, the goals are (a) to teach and co-teach classes/seminaries that include aspects about personality and cognition, digitization, and digitalization, (b) to collaborate on joint analyses of existing data sets, and (c) to prepare a joint proposal to apply for third-party funding to investigate the digitization and digitalization of cognition and personality in depth. Three workshops are planned to reach the goals of the project (see project timeline).

projects
Participants
Prof. Dr. Mathias Allemand
University of Zurich
Prof. Dr. Paolo Ghisletta
University of Geneve
Dr. Damaris Aschwanden
University of Zurich
Dr. Thierry Lecerf
University of Geneva

Common neural codes for the recognition of faces and voices

Call 2018
Neuroscience

Recent research on the neurocognitive dynamics of human social cognition has revealed important findings to define the neural systems that enable individuals to perceive and recognize signals in the visual (e.g. face expression) and auditory channel (e.g. voice expressions). The description of the neurocognitive mechanisms and the neural systems and network involved in these types of social cognition have been however limited by recent technical systems (i.e. traditional scan settings in functional magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI) to record and by analytic approaches to analyze such brain data (i.e. linear statistical analyses). These technical and analytical limitations also limited the depths and diversity of neuroscientific interpretation and conclusion about the neurocognitive dynamics supporting social cognition. In the proposed project we aim to overcome these limitations in several ways by performing a fMRI experiment including human volunteers. (1) We aim to take advantage and to further develop recent developments in fast fMRI neuroimaging of human individuals. New fMRI scanning techniques now allow recording brain data in the sub-second range, which provides better estimates about neural processes of social cognition with 3-4 times better temporal resolution than before. (2) Based on these new neuroimaging techniques, researchers will be also enabled to quantify new measures of neural activity during social cognition task. Fast neuroimaging technique now will provide data that allow new analysis approaches of these data and resulting neural measures (e.g. neural BOLD oscillations) that pave the way for new and diverse insights in the neural dynamics of social cognition. (3) The proposed project is interdisciplinary and links two research groups and research expertise at UNIGE (i.e. Geneva Medical Center; medical discipline) and UZH (i.e. Institute of Psychology; psychological discipline) on a common topic of social cognition, but viewed from different sensory modalities. We aim to investigate the neural dynamics of social face perception (i.e. the expertise of Prof. Patrik Vuilleumier) and social voice perception (i.e. expertise of Prof. Sascha Frühholz). Recent research pointed to a potential common neural code of processing. (4) A final new feature of the project is also to not only investigate natural face and voice recognition but also to investigate the perception of digital faces (e.g. in computer games) and digital voice (e.g. in car navigations system) as they are now frequently encountered in daily environments. The first major objective of this proposal is to perform a fMRI study including ~20 human individuals to investigate the hypotheses that common mechanisms of the neural processing of face and voice signals can only sufficiently be investigated by using new fast neuroimaging techniques and by using new statistical measures of brain activity. A second major objective is to investigate these mechanisms by examining the brain differences in perceiving natural and digitally synthesized social signals. The proposed project is intended as a seed project that lays the groundwork to establish an UNIGE-UZH link on state-of-the-art human neuroimaging in Switzerland, and by developing new fast neuroimaging techniques and analysis techniques it will inspire future research that will strengthen the UNIGE-UZH link.

projects
Participants
Prof. Sascha Früholz
University of Zurich
Prof. Patrik Vuilleumier
University of Geneva

Dissecting the mechanistic connection between inositol pyrophosphate signaling and mRNA polyadenylation in different eukaryotes.

Call 2018
Earth & Environment Science

Inositol pyrophoshates (PP-InsPs) are fully phosphorylated myo-inositols carrying at least one diphosphate group. In recent years these enigmatic signalling molecules have been implicated in regulating growth and development, cellular bioenergetics and tumor progression in animals. Very little is known about the molecular functions of PP-InsPs in other eukaryotes. PP-InsPs may signal by promoting or blocking protein-protein interaction sites, and/or inducing conformational changes in their protein targets. The detailed molecular mechanisms and the full spectrum of PP-InsP-mediated signalling pathways are presently unknown.

The Hothorn lab at UNIGE previously discovered that SPX domains act as conserved high-affinity sensors for PP-InsP in all eukaryotes (Wild et al., Science, 2016). To identify the PP-InsP interactome in plants and to explore PP-InsP-governed signalling pathways, the Hothorn lab has recently performed a systems-scale proteomics study, based on a non-hydrolysable and matrix-adsorbed PP-InsP analogue. This yielded a comprehensive data-set of the Arabidopsis PP-InsP-interacting proteins, comprising more that 600 candidates. Remarkably, a large fraction of novel PP-InsP-interactors identified in this screen include components of the highly conserved mRNA 3’ end polyadenylation machinery, which is composed of four multiprotein complexes.

3’ terminal polyadenylation of mRNAs occurs following transcription termination on specific sites that are determined within the transcript sequence. However, alternative polyadenlyation (APA) may occur in response to external stimuli, or in a cell/tissue-specific manner, making it a major mechanism for regulation of gene expression. Recent work in the Jinek lab, UZH (Clerici et al., eLife 2017; Nat Struct Mol Biol 2018) has provided detailed structural insights into the molecular architecture and mechanism of transcript recognition by the core human polyadenylation complex CPSF. The exact mechanisms that determine the choice of (alternative) polyadenylation sites are not well understood, but it has been hypothesised that differences within the composition of the polyadenylation machinery, or recruitment of additional factors, may play a critical role.

To date, no connection between PP-InPs and mRNA polyadenylation has been reported. Our finding that polyadenylation factors are PP-InsP-interacting proteins opens the door to novel regulatory mechanisms mediated by PP-InsP that could influence complex formation, RNA recruitment and/or enzymatic activities. We now propose a joint effort of the Hothorn and Jinek labs to: (i) confirm and describe in detail the interactions between PP-InsPs and the polyadenylation machinery in vitro; (ii) investigate how PP-InsPs influence the assembly of the polyadenlation machinery; (iii) test whether PP-InsPs have a direct regulatory role over polyadenylation using in vitro polyadenylation assays; and finally (iv) investigate the biological meaning of our findings. We envision that the powerful combination of structural biology and biochemistry with plant genetics will enable us to define a novel signalling paradigm connecting cell nutrition with mRNA processing in different higher organisms. Participants:

projects
Participants
Prof. Michael Hothorn
University of Geneva
Dr. Daniel Couto
University of Geneva
Prof. Martin Jinek
University of Zurich
Dr. Marcello Clerici
University of Zurich

Distance Learning with 3D Hologram Technology

Call 2018
Digital Studies
Educational Sciences

Recent technology developments raised communication into the next level in which remote contact can feel very real and geographical distance is no longer an obstacle. Students can take advantage of knowledge at various locations while interacting with the teachers in a natural and efficient way. Remote and online classes have already been implemented, they however often suffer from technical problems, making the experience somewhat limited. Despite the efforts invested in distance learning approaches, the number of students participating remotely in astrophysics classes remains today disappointedly small. Our plan is to bring distance learning and teleconferences to the next level by using 3D Hologram Technology (3DHT) system between the Universities of Zurich (UZH) and Geneva (UniGE). We strongly believe that, using this advanced technology, the experience of participants to classes and workshops will be significantly improved compared to standard facilities. Such technology was recently adopted at CERN and found to exceed expectations. A growing literature on the subject is available, the corresponding hardware stays however highly versatile with prices varying by tow orders of magnitude. We propose to use the UniGE-UZH seed funding to clarify the needs, survey the available hardware, and chose the best solution compliant with the high-level requirements and budget constraints. At the same time a credible 3rd-party funding will be organised for the subsequent implementation of the project. We'll begin with classes in planetary science, a field where the two institutes are complementary. Astronomers at UniGE are experts in exoplanet detection and characterisation while in UZH researchers are experts in theory and simulations of planet formation and interiors. Although research connection between the two institutes has already began within the NCCR PlanetS (to be continued in a Swiss Institute of Planetary Science; SIPS), we propose to expand the collaboration to teaching (undergraduate, graduate classes). This way we'll take advantage of the diversity of courses within the two institutes, expose students to a broader offer of topics, and increase the knowledge base in the field within Switzerland. The project fits well the strategy for developing "the numerical university" in both institutions. The initiative is very timely, with the creation of a new Master in Astrophysics at UniGE in September 2019, with three orientations offered: planetary science, astrophysics, and instrumentation and data analysis. A Master in planetary science is also envisioned at UZH. We'll use the project to develop common teaching programs and enhance our collaborations. This approach will then develop to other disciplines across Science, and beyond. We plan the entire project development over a period of one year, from September 2018 to a fully operational system available for the academic year 2019-2020. The proposed timeline includes defining high-level requirements for a successful distance-learning system and teleconferencing, a survey of the most recent available hardware solutions, the installation of dedicated class rooms in both institutes, and testing the system performances in various configurations. A special emphasis will be put on reciprocal interactivity. The requirement definition and hardware survey phases are the parts to be supported by the requested seed funding.

projects
Participants
Prof. Ravit Helled
University of Zurich
Prof. Stephane Udry
University of Geneva

ED-PLATE: developing a research and teaching platform

Call 2018
Medicine

Eating Disorders (ED) affect between 10-20% of adolescents and young adults. They are not only common but also have a great impact on an individual’s social, physical and psychological wellbeing. ED are costly to healthcare and society, however we still know little about how ED onset, develop, and their course over the lifetime. Research and clinical approaches to ED are very fragmented in Switzerland, with little expertise and specialist centres. This lack of research and collaboration does not only affect single institutions, but also the opportunity to create a leading common research and teaching strategy that can serve as a catalyst for joint work. This project aims to start joint research and teaching activities between the two academic leading research centres for ED in Switzerland (led by Prof Micali and Prof Milos), by developing the first register/biobank of ED in Switzerland, and designing corollary teaching and training materials. We will develop a digital platform that will: a) enable research data collectionfor the ED register/biobank,and b) at a later stage the development of training modules for students, researchers and clinicians. The register/biobank will focus on collecting pseudonymised (according to the rules of swissethics.ch) behavioural, biological and healthcare access data on individuals with ED to enable large-scale research studies on risk factors and outcomes of ED, these research activities will foster training of students and researchers. Switzerland is the ideal country to develop a register/biobank, given the size of the population, the diversity, and natural proximity of large cities and to other European Countries. This will include patients and individuals from the community leading to lower likelihood of bias. An ED register/biobank that only includes genetic and phenotype data has been very successfully achieved in the UK and Australia. Strengths of this collaboration include building on synergies and unique expertise: clinical research and teaching, focus across ages (children – adolescents - adults), integration of research on behavioural, and biological aspects. UNIGE focuses primarily on genetics. UZH on physical health, e.g. long-term consequence of underweight on bones, and other organs systems. Both UNIGE and UZH on neurobiological research. The applicants have excellent collaborations with international ED experts (e.g. both are members of the Eating Disorders Research Society), and contribute to international consortia (Prof Micali is a member of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium ED group; Prof Milos is a member of ENIGMA-ED, a working group dedicated to improving the understanding of brain changes in ED). Moreover, both applicants have expertise in epidemiology. UNIGE has collaborations with some of the Europeanlargest birth cohorts (ALSPAC, Generation R, DNBC, HUNT, MCS), and biobanks (ALSPAC, HUNT). The seed funding will allow planning meetings, putting in place the necessary ethical and digital framework for setting up the register/biobank; as well as developing a strategy for teachingand training activities. Building on the seed fund we aim to apply for national and international funding to enable specific research and training activities based on this novel resource.

projects
Participants
Prof. Nadia Micali
University of Geneva
Dr. Gabriella Milos
University of Zurich

From speech to text – Interlingual subtitles and subtitling practices in Switzerland

Call 2018
Languages

The aim of the present proposal is to study interlingual subtitling in Switzerland. This is timely and relevant because SRG SSR, the federalist media company providing audiovisual public service broadcasting, decided in September 2017 to increase the proportion of subtitled programmes from today’s 50% to 80% by 2022, given the new opportunities that digital TV offers and facing the needs of an aging population, but augmenting in our view the need for translational expertise and multilingual linguistic reflection. The project will strengthen the cooperation between UNIGE and UZH in that it will bring together researchers with complementary expertise in translation studies, linguistics, and psychology to investigate language use, accessibility and translation in the context of digital media. We intend to design an interdisciplinary research project that will be submitted for funding by the Swiss National Science Foundation in autumn 2019. Media accessibility has become a major issue in today’s world and refers to the need to ensure that information and entertainment disseminated via audiovisual media can be used and understood by all, across linguistic and cultural barriers. Media accessibility, however, also means overcoming sensory barriers, making audiovisual content available for the hard-of-hearing, the deaf, and the blind. Access services therefore include a wide range of audiovisual translation modes: subtitling, dubbing, sign interpreting, and audio description. The significant expansion of these services has been facilitated by technological progress in computer-assisted and machine translation on the one hand, and digital television on the other. Recently, there has been a shift towards investigating accessibility in terms of overcoming sensory barriers, most notably in the form of intralingual subtitling. We think that the more traditional interlingual subtitling, i.e. the transfer of oral source language content into written target language content, raises a series of highly relevant questions for translation studies and linguistics that still await investigation, not least regarding the degree of norm conformity of subtitles or applied aspects such as the challenges of digital communication under the impact of considerable space constraints (comparable to text messages or Tweets) and cultural sensitivity. Switzerland is a promising object of study for research into subtitling, not only because of its multilingual character, but also the language situation in German-speaking Switzerland, characterised by diglossia (standard vs. Swiss German dialects). Subtitling Swiss German productions into French (or Italian) is often complicated by the fact that these projects involve translating from a dialect. What is more, some interlingual subtitling projects may even involve three languages, such as when news programmes produced by Rhaeto-Romanic Television (RTR) are subtitled into French via German. To our knowledge, no empirical study has so far systematically investigated a corpus of interlingual subtitles of Swiss TV programmes. The present cooperation aims to bring together researchers working in several disciplines in order to lay the foundations for a research project investigating subtitles and subtitling in Switzerland. It will explore the following core questions: (1) What are the linguistic characteristics of interlingual subtitles of Swiss TV programmes? (2) To what extent do they reflect the source-language material? (3) What contextual factors such as programme genre, language pair or computer-assisted translation tools have a bearing on the linguistic features of subtitles? Whereas these questions primarily deal with how linguistic barriers are overcome, the cooperation will also explore the feasibility of investigating how interlingual subtitles are used to overcome sensory barriers. Thus, television consumption is high among elderly people who often suffer from a hearing impairment. More research is needed to understand to what extent interlingual subtitles are consumed and understood by the hard-of-hearing and the deaf. To answer these research questions, the project will explore the use of a combination of methods (corpus analyses, observational studies of the subtitler’s workplace, reception studies). The project builds on a collaboration between two co-PIs: Prof. Alexander Künzli (Faculty of Translation and Interpreting of the University of Geneva), expert in interlingual subtitling; and Prof. Elisabeth Stark (Department of Romance Languages of the University of Zurich), expert in mobile digital communication (text messages, WhatsApp messages). SWISS TXT, the multimedia competence centre of SRG SSR, has agreed to make its corpus of subtitled productions available to the investigators.

projects
Participants
Prof. Alexander Künzli
University of Geneva
Prof. Elisabeth Stark
University of Zurich

History by Numbers. E-Learning Modules for MA Courses in Economic History

Call 2018
History
Statistics

The digitalization of archival catalogues and historical sources is opening access to hitherto hidden treasures, including troves of numerical information on socio-economic structures. This project aims to create two introductory modules focusing on handling such historical data for UNIGE and UZH MA students in economic history. The first module will provide a brief overview of the history of statistics in Switzerland as well as introduce students to the Historical Statistics of Switzerland Online (HSSO). The second module will teach students how to extract and prepare analog data sources for digital use. The project will further an ongoing collaboration between the only two Swiss universities offering a MA degree in economic history (<www.histecon.uzh.ch/de.html>and <www.unige.ch/sciences-societe/IHEPB/etudes/master/>). Both universities have already worked together to relaunch (in March 2018) the HSSO (www.hsso.ch), a dataset offering unique perspectives on socio-economic, as well as political and cultural, development. The first e-learning module will offer an overview of (proto-)statistical collections by public and private institutions since 1800 as well as introduce students to the HSSO dataset. This contextual overview will include practical examples drawn from recently digitized archival sources – for example the Zurich School Survey of 1771/2 (Staatsarchiv Zürich) or the WWII Refugees List of Names (Archives d’Etat de Genève). In addition, students will understand which historical numerical data already do exist in digital form, where such data can be found, how such data was pre-processed, as well as the various challenges linked to the preservation of historical data. Focusing on data preparation, the second module will familiarize students with the preparation of data for statistical analysis.
We are already cooperating with the editors of the UZH-based transcription-training tool «Ad fontes» (www.adfontes.uzh.ch/1000.php) to implement data table transcriptions. We plan to implement training sessions dealing with the digitalization of printed and archival sources and enabling statistical evaluations such as panel data and time-series analysis. Students will develop an understanding of the overall data set structure and will be made aware of potential gaps, data corruption, and other imprecisions in historical data. Finally, students will produce a dataset in a generic standard, including accurate source and data descriptions as well as precise reproducible citations. Student produced datasets could then be included in the HSSO dataset and thus contribute to its development. These two introductory modules will be part of a larger e-learning course. Additional modules will include sessions on descriptive statistics, linear regression, and visualization of quantitative historical information. Some of this latter content will be based on a revision/re-launch of the Economic and Social History Online (ESO) e-learning tool developed at the UZH a decade ago and discontinued in 2014. This e-learning course will be module-based, ensuring digital flexibility and sustainability. In order to facilitate cooperation between UNIGE and UZH, as well as offer potential access to a wider audience within (and beyond) Switzerland, we will realize this project in English.

projects
Participants
Prof. Pilar Nogues Marco
University of Geneva
Ma Ariane Salem
University of Geneva
Prof. Matthieu Leimgruber
University of Zurich
MA Gabi Wüthrich
University of Zurich
Dr. Christian Stohr
University of Geneva & Zurich

Language and interpretation skills for Zurich and Geneva law students

Call 2018
Digital Studies
Languages
Law

All federal laws in Switzerland are published in German, French and Italian. The three versions have equal standing. The comparative linguistic interpretation method is thus a unique feature of Swiss legal doctrine. Lawyers must be able to compare the different versions and to draw normative inferences from them. Furthermore, approximately 95% of the jurisprudence of the Federal Supreme Court is rendered either in French or German. There are no official translations of these judgments. Understanding German and French is therefore an indispensable prerequisite for any Swiss lawyer. Our project aims at enabling law students of Geneva and Zurich to understand federal acts and jurisprudence in German and French. We achieve this goal by a language exchange. For several years already the professors André Kuhn (UniGE/UniNE) and Yvan Jeanneret (UniGE) have taught criminal law courses in French at the University of Zurich, while professor Marc Thommen (UZH) has taught criminal procedure in German at the University of Neuchâtel. This initiative has been very well received by the students on both sides of the Sarine. As a first step we would like to extend this program to the University of Geneva and to make it a permanent part of the criminal law/criminal procedure curricular. Secondly, we would use the funds to invite our colleagues to teach civil and public law in their native language at the other university. The long-term goal would be that law students of the University of Zurich get familiarized with the French legal language and that the law students of the University of Geneva acquire legal language and interpretation skills in German.

projects
Participants
Prof. Dr. Marc Thommen
University of Zurich
Prof. Yvan Jeanneret
University of Geneva
Prof. André Kuhn
University of Geneva/Neuchâtel

Medieval Philology: Romance and Latin

Call 2018
Languages
Humanities

The project aims to strengthen the existing collaboration between four chairs in Medieval Latin (Cardelle UZH and Tilliette UNIGE) and Medieval French (Trachsler UZH and Collet UNIGE) through a common research seminar for their respective doctoral students during two semesters (Spring and Fall 2019). The idea is to bring our individual areas of expertise together around a subject selected within the vast field of translations from Latin into French in order to show our young researchers why it is sometimes important to work with specialists from outside our own field. At the end of the two terms, some students will have co-authored a publication on the topic of the seminar. In addition, and depending on the research subject, we could be working on a manuscript kept in Zurich, Geneva, Bern, or the Martin Bodmer-Foundation, which could be made available on e-codices (Virtual Manuscript Library of Switzerland), together with our codicological study. In order to keep matters simple from an administrative point of view, this course will begin on an entirely voluntary basis: interested doctoral students and early post-docs will be offered the possibility to discover and work in a transregional context and to meet and work with their counterparts in Geneva or Zurich. The four project partners will offer the course in addition to their teaching responsibilities. Given the transformations of the administrative context for doctoral studies underway at UZH, no attempt will be made to assign any ECTS points to the course at this point. Its aim is just to foster skills, interest, knowledge, and collaboration within a group of young researchers.

projects
Participants
Prof. Dr. Richard Trachsler
University of Zurich
Prof. Carmen Cardelle
University of Zurich
Prof. Dr. Olivier Collet
University of Geneva
Prof. Jean-Yves Tillette
University of Geneva

MIAPARLE: A set of computer-based tools for the acquisition of prosody in a second language

Call 2018
Digital Studies
Languages

Second language learners tend to imprint the prosody (i.e., accentuation, intonation, rhythm) of their native language onto the second language (L2). This prosodic cross-language transfer is often combined with segmental (i.e., vocalic and consonantal) transfers, which can lead to the presence of a foreign accent. A foreign accent can not only hamper communication between learners and natives, but it can also affect the credibility of learners and how they are evaluated by others; this can sometimes lead to social discrimination. Despite the crucial role of prosody in speech comprehension and social interactions, it is rarely taught in language courses, even in foreign-language pronunciation courses. In the framework of computer-assisted pronunciation teaching (CAPT), the objective of our project is to develop MIAPARLE (from French: Méthode Interactive d’Aide à la Prononciation pour l’AppRentissage d’une Langue Étrangère), a web application designed to offer a wide range of perception and production tools dedicated to L2 prosody learning. In 2017, Dr. Sandra Schwab and Jean-Philippe Goldman received a INNOGAP grant from the University of Geneva to build a prototype for our application (miaparle.unige.ch). Three innovations characterize this prototype, and hence MIAPARLE. First, it is the only web application, among the existing web or mobile applications, that specifically deals with the perception and production of L2 prosody. Second, innovative training methods, validated with empirical investigations (carried out in collaboration with Prof. Volker Dellwo, U. Zurich), are used. Finally, the visualization of the learners' productions is easily interpretable for non-phoneticians. The prototype is currently designed to train the discrimination and production of Spanish stress contrasts (e.g., NUmero versus nuMEro). The goal, within the framework of this collaboration, is to implement MIAPARLE for different foreign languages, in particular for learning stress contrasts in German, Italian, English, as well as for learning tone contrasts in Chinese Mandarin. Moreover, as a first step, MIAPARLE is designed for French-speaking learners of foreign languages, since they have been shown to experience the greatest difficulties in acquiring L2 prosody. In this collaboration, MIAPARLE will be adapted for learners of other native languages (e.g., German, Italian, English). The combination of the linguistic/phonetic expertise of Prof. Volker Dellwo and his international team (Computational linguistics, U. Zurich), the knowledge of Prof. Mireille Bétrancourt (TECFA, U. Geneva) in the field of information technology and learning processes, the psycholinguistic experience of Dr. Sandra Schwab (ELCF, U. Geneva) and the computational skills of Jean-Philippe Goldman (U. Geneva) represents an ideal context for the realization of the present project. Besides, the partners already collaborated in the past within the framework of different projects (SNF Ambizione, SNF Agora, INNOGAP). The UZH-UNIGE Joint Seed Funding would not only strengthen the existing link between UNIGE and UZH, but would also give more power to the field of L2 prosody in Switzerland, an under-investigated field in our country. To that respect, we will organize a one-day workshop: “SWIP4”, the fourth edition of “Swiss Workshop in Prosody” that will be specifically dedicated to the acquisition of prosody in L2 and computer-based tools in L2 learning.

projects
Participants
Dr. Sandra Schwab
University of Geneva
Prof. Volker Dellwo
University of Zurich
M. Jean-philippe Goldman
University of Geneva
Prof. Mireille Bétancourt
University of Geneva

National Research Network for Historic Photographs in Art History

Call 2018
Art History
Humanities

The department of Art History of the University of Geneva (1) and the Swiss Art Research Infrastructure (SARI) (2) of the University of Zurich apply for Joint Seed Funding in order to establish a sustainable collaboration. The goal of the proposed project is to make the department of Art History of the University of Geneva’s unique collection of historic photographs available across all Swiss Art History departments within SARIs national research environment, thus representing the first academic use-case providing the means for a sustainable and multilingual research collaboration in SARI.

Current situation

During several years, the department of Art History of the University of Geneva has been building a comprehensive database of digitized images to support various research and teaching requirements. Initially conceived and managed by the Division de l’information scientifique (DIS), the database is technically outdated and no longer being fed. Instead, its data has partially been supplied to the German database aggregator Prometheus (3), which does not properly support multilinguality nor feature adequate tools for research collaborations. Therefore a significant amount of images on European and mediterranean architecture at the department of Art History is not yet properly accessible, though it represents an important and valuable resource for teaching and research and is expected to generate significant public interest (approx. 20’000 historic photographs).

Solution

The Swiss Art Research Infrastructure (SARI) provides unified, mutual, and sustainable access to research data, digitised visual resources, and related reference data from various national institutions in the field of Art History and the humanities at large, such as universities, public research institutions, museums, archives, and individual collections. By creating a tailor-made, state-of-the-art research environment based on scholarly acknowledged, yet extendable international standards and reference data vocabularies, SARI closes a critical gap within Switzerland’s national research infrastructure and combines the long-lasting scholarly expertise from specialized institutions all over Switzerland and abroad in an unprecedented way. By addressing pivotal issues such as re-usability and multilinguality of data it also also enhances visibility and accessibility of Switzerland’s outstanding research and collection data beyond national boundaries.

Approach and deliverables

This proposal aims at creating a tailor-made and networked research environment for the management, discovery, and research of digitized visual artefacts from all Swiss Art History departments, starting with the most significant holding of the department of Art History at UNIGE and the Institute of Art History at UZH. In order to achieve this goal, UZH will provide UNIGE with the relevant tools available as part of SARIs research infrastructure, that allow the UNIGE to extract, transform, and load the digitized images and metadata from its photographic collection into a dedicated research environment, allowing collaborative research across both institutions. By using SARIs data standards, infrastructure, and technology, UNIGEs department of Art History not only will be enabled to make its dataset available to a larger audience on a multilingual basis, which constitutes the basis for collaborative research across lingual and institutional barriers and, thus, significantly broadens the potential scientific use on a large scale.

projects
Participants
Prof. Dr. Tristan Weddigen
University of Zurich
Prof. Frédéric Elsig
University of Geneva
Mr. Thomas Hänsli
University of Zurich

Preliminary results: comparison of two different radiological exams (thoracic MRI versus CT-scan) to characterize congenital lung malformations in infants

Call 2018
Medicine

Short project description (max 500 words) (this may be published online if your project is selected) Congenital lung anomalies (CLA) detected prenatally represent a group of rare malformations (8 /10000 births) , including adenomatoid malformation, sequestration, bronchial atresia or congenital hyperinflation. Postnatal clinical management of lung malformations generally implies the surgical removal of the affected lung lobe. However, some medical centres use a conservative approach without applying systematic surgery; the pro and contra arguments being pondered between the prevention of malignant transformation of the malformations and an increased risk of cystic infection. After birth, CLA are investigated during the first months of life by radiological exams to obtain a more acurate characterization (localisation, aspect: size of the lesion, presence of cysts, abnormal pulmonary parenchyma, abnormal vascularization). Usually a thoracic CT-scan (computerized tomography) is performed. This exam, used by Geneva's team, allows a good description of the lesions, but with the disadvantages of radiation. Since a few years, Zurich investigated these patients using a thoracic MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). These radiological exams have the advantage to be non-radiating, but are currently not clearly recognised to have the same precision as CT-scan. After the radiological exams, the majority of these patients are treated by a surgical removal of the affected lung. Histological analysis of the resected lung will precise the real subtype of the malformation and evaluate potential malignant transformation risk. The goal of our retrospective study is to analyse thoracic CT-scan performed in Geneva and thoracic MRI performed in Zurich, comparing to the histological informations obtained on the resected lung malformation. Each radiological exam and each histological samples would be blindly interpreted with a standardized form, with similar items for CT-scan, MRI and histological analysis. The preliminary results would allow a better management of these patients by helping clinicians to choose the more adapted radiological exam to follow up these patients with prenatal diagnosis of CLA.

projects
Participants
Dr. Isabelle Vidal
University Of Geneva
Dr. Isabelle Ruchonnet
University Of Geneva
Dr. Mehrak Annooshiravani-Dumont
University Of Geneva
Dr. Méryle Laurent
University Of Geneva
PD Dr. Ueli Moehrlen
University of Zurich
Dr. Christian Kellenberger
University of Zurich
Dr. Peter Bode
University of Zurich

Quantifying microvascular damage in proteinuric kidney disease

Call 2018
Medicine

Synopsis:

With this application for joint seed funding, we seek to combine the expertise of Prof. de Seigneux’s group (UNIGE) in chronic kidney disease (CKD) with the know-how of Prof. Kurtcuoglu’s group (UZH) on renal imaging and computational modeling to lay the basis for long-term collaboration. The short-term outcome will be an application for funding to the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Project plan:

Klotho is a protein produced in kidney tubular cells. It plays an important role in balancing phosphate, acting as antioxidant and in cardiovascular health. Loss of klotho is a crucial factor involved in both progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and associated cardiovascular complications. ATF3 and ATF4 are gene transcription factors involved in cell survival. They play a protective role in acute kidney injury, are markers of tubular injury, and act as regulators of endothelial cell to fibroblast differentiation during fibrosis. In a recent study, the de Seigneux group demonstrated that in acute and chronic proteinuria (excess loss of protein through urine), ATF3 and ATF4 production is increased while klotho production is decreased. They further identified the binding site of ATF3 to the klotho promoter and confirmed that ATF3 and ATF4 binding decreases klotho transcription. In our collaboration, we plan to use ATF3 and ATF4 knock-out mice to study the impact of deficiency of these transcription factors on the development of renal fibrosis, klotho expression and damage of the microvasculature in the context of proteinuric kidney disease. To this end, the de Seigneux group will carry out the animal experiments, while the Kurtcuoglu group will assess changes in the mouse kidneys by imaging and computational analysis. We will apply to the SNSF for funding to carry out this work (PI: de Seigneux). In preparation of that application, we will perform a pilot study for which we are herewith applying for joint seed funding. This pilot will provide high-resolution structural information on proteinuric kidneys, which will serve as the basis to calculate the number of animals needed in the full study, and will further serve to demonstrate our state of the art. The specific planned activities are

1- Scan the vascular structure of mouse kidneys with proteinuria using contrast-enhanced X-ray microcomputed tomography (microCT)
2- Quantify vascular damage by computational image analysis
3- Identify potential organizational or scientific risks to include in the study plan of the full proposal
4- Write the sections of the proposal pertinent to the envisioned collaboration

projects
Participants
Prof. Vartan Kurtcuoglu
University of Zurich
Prof. Sophie De Seigneux
University of Geneva

Science in a digitalized era: Swiss Open Psychological Science Initiative (SOPSI)

Call 2018
Digital Studies
Psychology

The so-called “reproducibility crisis” has shaken the standards of science (Open Science Collaboration, 2015). It’s becoming increasingly clear that open practices are the heart of science. The built-up of scientific knowledge requires careful scrutiny and replication across multiple sites, scientists, and populations. This task is further compounded by the need to systematically vary parameters of the experimental set-up to uncover the boundary conditions of the phenomena under study. This is not a small endeavor, and one that can only be achieved when scientists align themselves with the new digital advancements. Science in a digitalized era is open, public, reproducible, and collaborative. Psychology is in the avant-garde of this scientific revolution. As psychology’s renaissance (Nelson, Simmons, & Simonsohn, 2018) unfolds though, it is likely to reshape the scientific landscape. We should seize the opportunity to remain competitive by fostering the adoption of open practices and multi-site collaborations among Swiss-based psychologists. Although many psychologists recognize the importance of open science and multi-site collaborations, in practice its adoption still faces barriers. This project aims to break-through these difficulties. More specifically, our goals are three-fold: (a) to get a better understanding of the difficulties Swiss-based psychologists face in adopting open practices (see 2017 survey carried out by the Open Science Working Group at Cardiff University); (b) to create a network of pro-open-science psychologists that share tips and tools (see Network der Open-Science-Initiativen and UK Open Science Working Groups, for similar initiatives in Germany and the UK, respectively), and (c) to create a platform for the launching of national (and, potentially, international) multi-site studies (see https://psysciacc.org/, for a similar initiative). The pursuit of these goals is critical for allowing UNIGE and UZH to meet their digital strategies regarding psychological science, and to take a leading role in shaping the landscape of this scientific field. Ultimately the launching of a Swiss consortium of multi-lab studies will create collaborations among Swiss-based psychologists, and offer a medium-scale opportunity to meet the standards of reproducible and generalizable psychological science. With its multi-cultural background (e.g., three languages), great pool of experts, and relative small area (making travel-distance manageable for even a single-day event), collaborations among labs based in different Swiss universities offer the best of multi-lab consortiums (i.e., different scientists, populations, languages) with smaller risks and costs (e.g., reduction in management difficulties). Last but not least, this provides an opportunity to train the new generation of researchers in open science in a sustainable manner and to create a culture of open science among Swiss-based psychologists. To achieve these goals, the following steps will be required:

1- Creation of a survey to assess the experiences of Swiss-based psychologists with open science and multi-site collaboration
2- Creation of interconnected platforms (website + twitter account + email newsletter) for gathering pro-open-science psychologists (and maintaining a pro-open-science culture), and for launching of multi-site collaborations
3- Organization of a workshop that a) promotes open science practices among psychologists, b) provides targeted training for psychologists, addressing the barriers as revealed in the survey, and c) launches the multi-lab consortium, thereby establishing the Swiss Open Psychological Science Initiative (SOPSI).

projects
Participants
Prof. Dr. Evie Vergauwe
University of Geneva
Dr. Alessandra S. Souza
University of Zurich

SnowCover.CH: Monitoring Snow Cover changes over Switzerland using Earth Observations time-series

Call 2018
Earth & Environment Science

Like many other countries in the world, Switzerland faces challenges (e.g., land management, environmental degradation) caused by increasing pressures on its natural resources. These challenges need to be overcome to meet the needs of a growing population. Switzerland is acknowledged as the water reservoir of Europe. While its territory represents four thousandths of the continent's total area, 6% of Europe's freshwater reserves are stored in Switzerland.

Snow is one of the most relevant natural water resources present in nature. It stores water in winter and releases it in spring during the melting season. Monitoring snow cover and its variability is an indicator of climate change and identification of snowmelt processes is essential for effective water-resource management.

Remotely-sensed Earth Observations (EO) data acquired by satellites are helpful to monitor snow conditions through time. Synthetic-Aperture Radar (SAR) images are effective and robust measures to identify meltingsnow, whereas optical data are able to identify snow cover extension.

Earth Observations Data Cubes (EODC) are a new paradigm revolutionizing the way users can interact with increasingly freely and openly available EO data. They minimize the time and scientific knowledge required to access, prepare and analyze large volume of data having consistent and spatially aligned calibrated observations.

Switzerland is the second country in the world to have a national-scale EODC. The Swiss Data Cube (SDC – https://www.swissdatacube.ch) is an initiative supported by the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and developed, implemented and operated by the United Environment Program (UNEP)/GRID-Geneva in partnership with the University of Geneva (UNIGE). The objective of the SDC is to support the Swiss government for environmental monitoring and reporting as well as enable Swiss scientific institutions to fully benefit from EO data for research and innovation. Currently, the SDC contains 33 years of Landsat 5,7,8 (1984-2017) and 2.5 years of Sentinel-2 (2015-2017) optical Analysis Ready Data over Switzerland (total volume: 3TB; 110 billion observations).

Recently, UNIGE has developed a new algorithm using the SDC to map snow cover extension. Preliminary results have shown a clear decrease of snow cover over the Alps in the last 30 years. However, to provide an integrated and effective mechanism to monitor snow cover and its variability, SAR data are missing and impeding identification of snowmelt processes. A valid source is the European Space Agency (ESA) Sentinel-1 high-resolution C-band SAR satellite.

Consequently, the aims of this project are: (1) to develop a methodology for generating and ingesting Sentinel-1 Analysis Ready Data into the SDC; (2) improve the Snow Observations from Space (SOfS) algorithm to identify snow melted and iced areas; (3) generate time-series of 2D composite backscatter products over Switzerland; and (4) explore the potential of SAR/optical data fusion techniques as well as additional SAR data sources.

projects
Participants
Dr. Gregory Giuliani
University of Geneva
Dr. David Small
University of Zurich
Prof. Pascal Peduzzi
University of Geneva
Prof. Michael Shaepman
University of Zurich
Mr Bruno Chatenoux
University of Geneva
Ms Charlotte Poussin
University of Geneva

Swiss School of Latin American Studies

Call 2018
Area Studies
Humanities

This project aims at consolidating the role of the University of Zurich and the University of Geneva in the Swiss community of Latin Americanist scholars and at fostering more cooperation between these universities for the purpose of training graduate students as well as a strengthening of our international profile. Latin American Studies is still a marginalized field in Switzerland despite the increasing number of students at Swiss Universities working in/on the region. This was the reason why scholars from several Swiss Universities, led by Yvette Sánchez and Corinne Pernet from the University of St. Gallen, applied for and obtained funds from the SNF to build a ProDoc workshop and research program for graduate students. Running from 2011 to 2016, the program organized twenty interdisciplinary workshops in which graduate students from all over Switzerland could present their theses. Moreover, the ProDoc has fully financed six Ph.D.s and contributed to fieldwork of around forty Ph.D. students. After the end of the ProDoc Program, we have attempted to maintain the inter-university network under the name of Swiss School of Latin American Studies (SLASS) to continue promoting the training and research forum for doctoral and postdoctoral students in the social sciences and the humanities working on Latin America. In total, the SSLAS network has associated 65 researchers (45 students, 10 postdoctoral – former ProDoc students – and 10 associated professors/senior researchers over the years). In 2016 and 2017 we counted with an average of 30 participants per workshop (attendance fluctuates as a function of the needs of doctoral students in different stages of their PhD to perform fieldwork research in Latin America). After the ending of the SNF funding for a centralized ProDoc program, each university became responsible for obtaining their own financial resources to participate in/contribute to the SSLAS network. The University of Zurich and the University of Geneva remained relatively marginal to this new configuration, mainly because of the lack of institutional funding. With the foundation of the Lateinamerika-Zentrum in Zurich in 2016 and the growing Latin-Americanist nucleus at the University of Geneva (History and Romance Language Departments), the prospects of our two universities fully joining the network has increased. The objective of our project is to strengthen the ties between Zurich and Geneva and to consolidate our place in the Latin Americanist community in Switzerland. Both universities count with highly qualified professors and researchers as well as with an increasing demand from Ph.D. students. We are looking for more stable financial support in order to consolidate our participation in the SSLAS network. The joint seed funding would allow us to host two workshops in June and October 2019 (one in Zurich and one in Geneva) and plan further activities.

projects
Participants
Prof. Dr. Yanina Welp
University of Zurich
Prof. Valeria Wagner
University of Geneva
Dr. Corinne Pernet
University of Zurich
Dr. Alice Froidevaux
University of Zurich
Prof. Johannes Kabatek
University of Geneva
Prof. Aline Helg
University of Geneva

Tailoring epilepsy surgery to achieve seizure freedom

Call 2018
Medicine
Health

Epilepsy is the most common severe chronic neurological condition. In Switzerland, about 30% of patients with focal epilepsy do not respond to antiepileptic medication, which results in about 200 new patients per year that could benefit from epilepsy surgery. During surgery, EEG recordings may be crucial to identify the minimal area of cortex whose removal is necessary to achieve postsurgical seizure freedom. However, current methods achieve seizure freedom only in about 60% of patients. New biomarkers to tailor the area of surgical removal are therefore urgently needed. High-frequency oscillations (HFO) in the EEG have recently emerged as biomarkers to detect epileptogenic tissue more specifically than by standard methods. In earlier work, our team at Zürich has successfully devised an automated computer algorithm to identify a clinically relevant HFO. In the proposed project, we will validate the algorithm prospectively in a larger patient cohort together with Genève. We will try new electrode designs to optimized recording. Furthermore, we will extend HFO detection to HFO evoked by electrical brain stimulation to study seizure onset and propagation areas. Measuring HFO rapidly and accurately before and during surgery is an exciting prospect that may add substantially to current diagnostics. This pioneering technology will provide a competitive edge for our hospitals and improved treatment options for patients with epilepsy.

projects
Participants
Prof. Dr. Johannes Sarnthein
University of Zurich
Prof. Dr. Serge Vulliémoz
University of Geneva
Dr. Pierre Mégevand
University of Geneva
Dr. Tommaso Fedele
University of Zurich

The visual dictionary of bacterial glycans

Call 2018
Digital Studies
Medicine
Health

All living cells are covered with a dense coat of complex carbohydrates also called glycans. The structural complexity of surface glycans is especially diverse in prokaryotes given the multiple involvements of glycans in regulating the interactions of prokaryotes with their environment. On prokaryotes such as bacteria, glycans are essential components of bacterial cell walls, they also act as receptors for bacteriophages and enable the evasion of bacteria from immune recognition. In contrast to glycans covering animal cells, which consist of an alphabet of only 10 monosaccharides, bacterial glycans are built from an alphabet of nearly 200 monosaccharides. This tremendous diversity hinders the analysis and visualization of bacterial glycans. The development of mapping tools for bacterial glycans is essential for the identification of pathogenic strains (e.g. enterotoxic Escherichia coli O157:H7), for vaccine design (e.g. Neisseria meningitidis) and understanding the contribution of bacterial antigen mimicry in triggering autoimmune disease (e.g. Guillain-Barré syndrome). The goal of the proposed project is to develop a visualization system for bacterial glycans, which enables a clear, yet thorough representation of complex structures. The visualization system will be used as a query language to search for related molecules through glycan databases (e.g., CSDB). Moreover, the visualization system will be linked to bacterial glycan arrays applied for determining the glycan-binding specificity of antibodies and other immune proteins. The combined expertise of the applicants in glycobiology and bioinformatics is critical to the success of the project. The areas of competence covered include the isolation and structural characterization of glycans, analysis of carbohydrate-binding proteins on glycan arrays, development of glycan databases and analysis software. The first stage of the project will consist in establishing a catalog of bacterial glycans of interest, including O-antigens, capsular oligosaccharides, and cell wall glycoconjugates such as lipoarabinomannan. These structures need to be rationally encoded and translated into the visualization system to be used interactively. An important aspect will be the preservation of information relative to the biosynthesis and degradation of carbohydrates. Glycan databases and catalogues are too often composed of independent items while common substructures and therefore common biosynthetic enzymes emphasise the relatedness of glycan molecules. The visualisation system will bring out the similarity of glycans on that basis. The CAZy database of carbohydrate-active enzymes is a rich source that will be integrated, while CSDB will provide useful structural information to explore the diversity of glycans. In a second phase, the structures present on a bacterial glycan array will also be integrated into the visualization system. The application of the tool will allow the rapid delineation of glycan epitopes recognized by antibodies by parsing the global data obtained from bacterial glycan arrays. So far, such analyses can only be achieved through manual examination, which is slow and prone to mistakes. The application of automated visualization analysis will accelerate the discovery of bacterial epitopes of interest for vaccine development. The visualization tools developed will be accessible to the research community through the ExPASy portal, which is hosted at UniGE and maintained for the glycomics part by the Lisacek group.

projects
Participants
Prof. Dr. Thierry Hennet
University of Zurich
Dr. Frédérique Lisacek
University of Geneva

Advanced Research Network for Historic Photographs in Art History

Call 2019
Art History
Humanities

The Department of Art History of the University of Geneva and the Swiss Art Research Infrastructure (SARI) of the University of Zurich have successfully implemented the project National Research Network for Historic Photographs in Art History, starting 2018. The goal of the project was to make the department of Art History of the University of Geneva’s unique collection of historic photographs accessible to all Swiss Art History departments, by creating a national, multilingual network for the management, research, and retrieval of digitized historic photographs, slides, and other visual artefacts (along with the Institute of Art History at University of Zurich’s collection, amongst others).

As part of this initial project, a multilingual research environment for scholarly data curation has been implemented and made available to the University of Geneva. Next, a representative number of digital reproductions of the University of Geneva's historic photographic collection has been loaded and the related metadata then have been extracted, loaded, and curated using the tools developed within the project. The results are currently undergoing editorial verification and will be published to the scholarly community by the end of the project (8/2019).

In view of the next generation of this network and in close cooperation with the international Consortium for Open Research Data in the Humanities (CORDh), the University of Zurich’s SARI developed and published a standardised, peer-reviewed Reference Data Model for the semantic representation of all key entities that are required for describing visual artefacts, such as historic slides and photographs. Being entirely based on scholarly acknowledged, yet extendable standards for conceptual modelling in the cultural heritage domain (such as CIDOC-CRM) and the current de-facto standards for storage, access, and exchange of semantic data (such as OWL, RDF, RDF-S), the implementation of the new Reference Data Model significantly improves the visibility of the collection data in question and guarantees better re-usability for research, by providing standardised, machine-processable access across the world-wide Semantic Web. Thus, the content becomes interoperable and re-usable with comparable data from internationally leading actors, such as the PHAROS Consortium, the British Museum, and the Yale Center for British Art. However, this approach not only fosters visibility of the project and it’s collection data, but also significantly raised the potential for funding in the context of further research projects (see below).

This proposal aims at transforming the existing Research Network for Historic Photographs in Art History to become fully interoperable with the world-wide Semantic Web, allowing for both human-interpretable and machine-processable data access, exchange, and re-use (based on Linked Open Data technology). This requires further development, full implementation, and publication of an extended Semantic Reference Data Model, tailored to the specific needs of the Research Network for Historic Photographs in Art History. It also includes the development, implementation and publication of dedicated, multilingual Reference Entity Vocabularies for historic terms, places, persons and institutions, and alike, that will guarantee both machine-processability and -reusability within the data across the semantic web.

projects
Participants
Prof. Dr. Tristan Weddigen
University of Zurich
Prof. Frédéric Elsig
University of Geneva

CAsAnOMa: A computer-based tool for the assisted annotation of manuscripts

Call 2019
Digital Studies
Languages
Literature

Working with historical manuscripts requires skills in the area of Digital Humanities, for example annotation standards (TEI, XML) in order to construct, query and explore digital corpora for linguistic, historical, societal, literature and diversity studies. Creating and annotating conformant documents is often too demanding for the students themselves. In order to facilitate the task, we are developing a graphical tool which allows the students to perform all the necessary steps in a user-friendly fashion, from OCR corrections to adding annotation and querying the documents.

A prototype is currently being designed, based on Transkribus and in close collaboration with the Transkribus developers. Jean-Philippe Goldman is the main programmer. We are using the genres ‘letters’ and ‘diaries’ as a first application, constructing a corpus of the letters to/by and the diaries of Mary Hamilton (1736-1821). The challenges of hand-written text recognition (single hand) and TEI annotation (letters/diaries) offer a good starting set. In the proposed project we would like to extend to more and more open domains, several hands, different languages, and further applications, to test the versatility and portability of the tool.

In particular, a larger and different subset of TEI will be used, and extensions for researchers with partly different questions and needs will be added. For linguists and historians, e.g. the ability to aggregate and tabulate query results according to the metadata is important. For semantic analyses, we will add keyword detection.

Such a tool will allow linguists to perform a variationist analysis of the Mary Hamilton corpus, a domain in which Marianne Hundt, Eric Haeberli, and Gerold Schneider have ample experience. They will investigate syntactic variation (e.g. do-support, word order, PP complementation) morphosyntax (progressives, past tense), and development of vocabulary, in comparison to corpora of the period, like ARCHER and CLMET. Some of the texts exist in draft versions, which allow us to track the editing process from a cognitive perspective.

projects
Participants
Prof Eric Haeberli
University of Geneva
Dr Gerold Schneider
University of Zurich
M. Jean-philippe Goldman
University of Geneva
Prof Marianne Hundt
University of Zurich
Prof Martin Volk
University of Zurich
Prof Gilles Falquet
University of Geneva

Characterizing vascular smooth muscles in intimal hyperplasia during vascularized composite allotransplantation

Call 2019
Medicine

Vascularized composite allotransplantation (VCA) is the transplantation of composite tissue as a single unit. Both acute and chronic rejection is inevitable during VCA, albeit in the presence of immunosuppression. Rejection is associated with graft vasculopathy and typically identified with intimal hyperplasia (IH) in blood vessels.

The Plock laboratory at UZH has established an in vivo model of VCA with allogenic hind limb transplantation in rats. In this model, acute and chronic rejection was achieved by transplanting hind limbs from Brown Norway to Lewis rats (complete mismatch) and from Fischer to Lewis rats (partial mismatch), respectively. Histological analysis of the transplanted tissue at rejection revealed typical features of IH as observed in the clinics. The participating inflammatory pathway during this pathology is an ongoing study in the laboratory. Simultaneously, understanding the mechanism of IH is pivotal to develop strategies to attenuate IH in VCA.

During IH, vascular smooth muscle cells (SMCs) accumulate in the intima where they switch from a contractile to a synthetic phenotype, proliferating and producing extracellular matrix components. The Bochaton-Piallat laboratory at UniGE, extensively compares, at a molecular level, the characteristic features of SMCs during atherosclerosis, a pathology that also involves IH.

The main goal of this collaboration is to mitigate IH, lowering graft vasculopathy and thereby attenuating rejection in VCA. This will be achieved by bringing together the expertise of Bochaton-Piallat laboratory in characterizing SMCs during IH and that of Plock laboratory in VCA.

projects
Participants
Prof. Jan Plock MD
University of Zurich
Dr. Pranitha Jayadev Kamat PhD
University of Zurich
PD. Marie-Luce Bochaton-Piallat PhD
University of Geneva

Evaluation of discovery programs for refugees at University – The impact on students, peers and social integration

Call 2019
Psychology
Educational Sciences

The Department of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry and Psychosomatic Medicine of the University of Zurich and the Abnormal Emotion and Trauma Lab of the University of Geneva, in close collaboration with the Immigration Policy Lab of the ETH Zurich and the Department of Economics of the University of Zurich, apply for Joint Seed Funding in order to establish a sustainable collaboration.

The number of refugees requesting asylum in Switzerland and Europe has sharply increased in 2015 and remains at high levels. Most, if not all, refugees have endured traumatic events, struggled through forceful relocation, and suffered an abrupt dissolution of their social ties, interruption of their scholastic carrier, and change in their daily lives. Not surprisingly, once settled in a new environment, many refugee children and teenagers suffer from behavioral problems and school deficits. Therefore, refugee arrivals present an opportunity, but also a challenge for host communities and schools. Several Swiss universities have started to address this challenge by planning specific integration programs for refugees wishing to pursue academic studies. The University of Zurich and the University of Geneva both offer a discovery program, intended to enable refugees to attend lectures and to experience student life. The program usually last one year and is open to refugees with previous study experience. Usually, each refugee can count on the support of another student as a mentor figure who accompanies him/her in the process of academic integration.

To the best of our knowledge, no empirical study has evaluated these programs. The impact of the discovery programs on refugee students’ well-being, integration into host society and their labor market outcomes remain open to date. Given the importance of a better understanding of these programs cost-effectiveness, their impact on refugee students, on regular students and stakeholders will be considered.

The current project aims to provide further understanding of these academic programs in a multi-center perspective. At the same time, the project will consolidate a joint Swiss research network fitting together knowledge and resources of Swiss research centers interested in refugees and migration. The project will be conducted in collaboration with academic partners responsible of the discovery programs in Zurich and Geneva.

The overall aim of this project is to evaluate the discovery programs. This will include an assessment of refugee students, mentors, local students, and integration stakeholders. As a first step, a joint workshop is planned, where the goals, methodology, and relevant partners of the study will be identified. On this basis, a joint pilot study and research proposal will be prepared to further strengthen the collaboration between the universities.

projects
Participants
Dr. Naser Morina
University of Zurich
Dr. Grazia Ceschi
University of Geneva
Prof. Dominik Hangartner
ETH Zürich
Prof. Pietro Biroli PhD
University of Zurich
Dr. Andreas Beerli PhD
ETH Zürich

Even more Language and Interpretation Skills for Geneva and Zurich Law Students

Call 2019
Languages
Law

French diplomat Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord is reported to have said that “language was given to man to disguise his thoughts”. While this may be correct for diplomacy it could not be further from the truth for the field of law. For lawyers, language is not merely an important but the only tool to express their opinions, interpretations and arguments. Whether a judge is delivering a judgement, a defence lawyer is pleading for her client’s innocence or a corporate counsel is drawing up a contract, they all need strong active and passive linguistic skills to achieve optimal results.

The language requirements for Swiss lawyers are unique in the sense that all federal laws in Switzerland are published in French, German, and Italian. The three versions have equal standing and lawyers must be able to compare the different versions and to draw normative inferences from them. Furthermore, approximately 95% of the jurisprudence of the Federal Supreme Court is rendered either in French or German with no official translations. Although the leading cases are generally translated from one language into the other, this is often done with considerable delay, thus exposing attorneys to liability issues. Understanding German and French is therefore an indispensable prerequisite for any Swiss lawyer and being able to express oneself in both languages presents a distinct career advantage.

With that in mind professors Yvan Jeanneret (UniGE), André Kuhn (UniGE/UniNE) and Marc Thommen (UZH) created a project which from September 2018 until June 2019 invited professors from Geneva to Zurich to teach a course in French and professors from Zurich to Geneva to teach a course in German. The aims of the project are to enable law students to understand federal acts and case law in German and French and to make them comfortable with considering legal matters in their non-native tongue.

The project was kindly supported by UniGE-UZH Joint Seed Funding making it possible for Alexandre Flückiger (public law), Anne-Sylvie Dupont (social security law), Ursula Cassani, Yvan Jeanneret, and Bernhard Sträuli (all criminal law) from Geneva to hold lectures in Zurich. Their counterparts traveling from Zurich to Geneva were Thomas Gächter (social security law), Regina Kiener, Johannes Reich (both public law), and Marc Thommen (criminal law). These exchanges have not only enhanced the German-speaking students’ skills in the French legal language and vice versa but also provided excellent opportunities for professors of both universities to meet and discover shared research and teaching interests.

The fact that the project was not only very well received by students but also by faculty colleagues shows a strong demand for French-German language exchanges between Swiss law schools. As several professors from both universities have shown a keen interest in participating, we wish to continue and expand the project to more fields (foundations, civil law, commercial law) and other formats (tutorials, seminars, workshops). The long-term goal is to offer students from Geneva and Zurich a constant and permanent opportunity to develop language and interpretation skills in their non-native tongue as part of their studies.

projects
Participants
Prof. Dr. Marc Thommen
University of Zurich
Prof. Dr. Regina Kiener
University of Zurich
Prof. Dr. Thomas Gächter
University of Zurich
Prof. Dr. Johannes Reich
University of Zurich
Prof. Yvan Jeanneret
University of Geneva
Prof. André Kuhn
University of Geneva/Neuchâtel
Prof. Dr. Ursula Cassani
University of Geneva
Prof. Dr. Stéphanie Dagron
University of Geneva
Prof. Dr. Bernhard Sträuli
University of Geneva

Improving metabolic health by activation of futile adipose de novo lipogenesis

Call 2019
Medicine

Obesity is a major metabolic disease manifested with increased peripheral and central accumulation of subcutaneous and visceral white adipose tissue (WAT). During prolonged cold exposure the subcutaneous WAT undergoes major morphological and functional alterations, leading to appearance of mitochondria-rich, UCP1-expressing beige adipocytes that promote energy dissipation and heat generation, a process called fat browning. An under-appreciated function of WAT is its role in clearing glucose and amino-acid from plasma by converting them into lipids for storage. The synthesis of fatty acids from non-lipid precursors is called de novo lipogenesis (DNL). High fat diet or defective lipid metabolism often found in obese individuals suppresses DNL in the adipose tissue which renders the patients insulin resistant and diabetic. Against all expectations, it is becoming increasingly clear that activation of adipose DNL is beneficial for improved fat metabolism, glucose homeostasis, insulin sensitivity, and whole-body metabolism, especially when these pathways are active in visceral WAT. Most of the work to understand fat browning, has, however, been done in subcutaneous fat. Despite its critical importance in obesity-related metabolic disorders, the capacity of the visceral WAT to convert into beige-like adipose tissue, remains poorly investigated.

The Trajkovski group at the Unige recently made an unexpected discovery and showed that exposing microbiota-depleted mice to low temperatures promotes UCP1-independent browning of visceral WAT. This leads to a drastic metabolic activation of this tissue, and dramatic weight loss of the animals. Preliminary transcriptome analyses of the involved tissues show an unanticipated up-regulation of DNL and high glucose consumption specifically in visceral WAT. The gene expression data also indicate that under these conditions DNL might run in a futile cycle that is specific for the visceral WAT of microbiota-depleted cold-exposed mice. This raises the possibility that the visceral WAT is continuously degrading fat it has just synthesized; a situation which leads to a net loss of metabolic energy and might explain the drastic loss of fat mass in these animals.

The Klemm laboratory at UZH has recently discovered that adipocytes have specialized cellular machinery to control DNL in order to regulate healthy development of white adipocytes. The Klemm lab has established methods for the genetic perturbation of adipocytes by CRISPR-Cas9 gene knock outs and developed a set of approaches to trace incorporation of isotope labelled glucose and amino acids into fat to quantify DNL in these cells.

The central working hypothesis in our seed project is that futile DNL is the underlying reason for the drastic weight loss in the described mouse model.

To test this hypothesis we will carry out the following specific experiments, which will start the collaboration between UZH and UniGe:

1- Use the isotope based tracing experiments to test if microbiota-depleted, cold exposed mice prepared at UniGe run futile visceral DNL.
2- To identify factors involved in driving futile DNL we will analyze transcriptome changes in a differentiation time course of a CRISPR-Cas9 adipocyte K.O. model defective in futile DNL (already produced at UZH) and compare them to the transcriptome data obtained with the mouse model.

projects
Participants
Dr. Robin Klemm
University of Zurich
Prof. Mirko Trajkovski
University of Geneva

Língua-lugar, Digital journal of literature, history and cultural studies in Portuguese

Call 2019
Area Studies
Languages
Literature

Língua-lugar. Literatura, História, Estudos Culturais is an upcoming, academically challenging, digital, scientific journal, aiming to advance dialogue amongst scholars across various disciplines, academic traditions and geographical areas of Lusophone countries.

Associated with the Centre d'Études Lusophones (CEL), Língua-lugar. Literatura, História, Estudos Culturais’s mission will be to study Portuguese-speaking cultures from a postcolonial and interdisciplinary perspective. It will pool the experiences and academic visions of two university departments, namely, the Département de Langues et Littératures Romanes in the humanities faculty of the University of Geneva and the Romanisches Seminar of the University of Zürich. The journal will be jointly coordinated by Alexander Keese and Nazaré Torrão of the University of Geneva and by Eduardo Jorge de Oliveira of the University of Zurich, and will encourage academic collaboration between the two.

The journal aims to be a channel for reflection in Portuguese — a language that is enriched by a variety of aesthetic and literary phenomena and benefits from a wealth of epistemological and critical material. We propose, on one hand, to reflect upon the plurality of literature and culture in several different types of Portuguese, and on the other hand, to conduct our reflection in Portuguese. This will allow us an insider’s perspective of the language, with its hallmark flexible syntax, reversible punctuation and figures of rhetoric, as Fernando Santoro[1] insightfully noted.

It is crucial for us to engage in critical interdisciplinary reflection. Today’s world is marked by audio-visual culture, that interfere in the creation and reception of our imaginary worlds and distort scientific interpretation of the world. Only critical reflection can help us to detach ourselves, step back and deeply reflect upon this moment in history, when media manipulation has so greatly increased. The journal will seek to spur readers to deconstruct the discourses cross the cultural products of the Portuguese-speaking world. The notion of “discourses” will be addressed through the concept of "discursive formations", a notion first defined by Michel Foucault in L'Archéologie du Savoir, and further developed by other scholars, such as Deleuze and Guattari[2].

Thus, discourses’ common theme will be divided into subtopics that analyse different types of discourse in politically relevant contexts of the Lusophone world. Over the next four years, our areas of study will focus primarily on the construction of discourses based on the concepts of identity, memory, colonialism and post-colonialism, exile, migration and gender. Toward this end, workshops will be held with students and faculty members from both departments, with digital training provided.

[1] Santoro, Fernando (2004). “Portugais”. Cassin, Barbara. Vocabulaire européen des philosophies, Paris, Seuil, Le Robert, p. 967.

[2] Maingueneau, Dominique (2011) : « Pertinence de la notion de formation discursive en analyse du discours », CAIRN, 2011/1 n˚ 135, pp. 87-99.

projects
Participants
Dr. Nazaré Torrão
University of Geneva
Dr. Eduardo de Oliveira
University of Zurich
Dr. Alexander Keese
University of Geneva

Materials by design: Experimental and computational realization of artificial oxide materials

Call 2019
Physics

Search for novel strategies and materials is nowadays key to keep with the present race towards electronic device miniaturization. In this context, transition metal oxides arise as attractive candidates for next generation devices due to the variety of physical properties they display (i.e. magnetism, superconductivity, etc.). In addition to the many functionalities of bulk oxide crystals, very fascinating are also the phenomena occurring at the interface between two dissimilar oxides. That is, when an oxide layer (only a few atoms thick) grows on top of another one, the two compounds must accommodate to the new structural and electronic environment resulting into interfacial reconstructions. This approach allows the further tuning and control of the properties of oxides and, interestingly, also paves the way to the emergence of novel properties at interfaces that can be completely different from those exhibited by the parent compounds. Outstanding examples include the emergence of superconductivity between the insulators LaAlO3 and SrTiO3 or magnetism in a material a priori non-magnetic like LaNiO3 – both results reported by the PIs of this proposal. Therefore, atomic-scale understanding of the interfacial interactions is decisive for the design of oxide materials with the desired properties. This research field is known as oxide interface physics and constitutes the core of the present proposal.

In this project, we aim to intensify the research and share expertise in the novel properties of oxides by promoting the collaboration between the well-established UNIGE group of Prof. Jean-Marc Triscone and the recently developing group of SNF-Prof. Marta Gibert at UZH. We will also extend our collaboration with the computational group of Philippe Ghosez in Liège (Belgium) – the ab-initio computational support for these artificial materials being absolutely key.

projects
Participants
SNF Prof. Marta Gibert
University of Zurich
Prof. Jean-Marc Triscone
University of Geneva
Gabriele De Luca
University of Zurich
Claribel Dominguez
University of Geneva

Monitoring Land Surface Phenology over Switzerland using the Swiss Data Cube satellite Earth Observations time-series

Call 2019
Earth & Environment Science

Land Surface Phenology (LSP) is defined as the seasonal and inter-annual variation in land surface vegetation photosynthetic activity, as measured by satellite vegetation indices. LSP is a key indicator for understanding the dynamics (e.g., responses and feedbacks) of ecosystems to changing climate system and environmental stresses, as well as for representing these in terrestrial biosphere models. By allowing the quantification of vegetation phenological trends at various scales, LSP fills the gap between traditional phenological (field) observations and the large-scale view of global models.
The important role of LSP is recognized by its contribution to the Remote Sensing enabled Essential Biodiversity Variables (RS-EBVs) project initiated by the European Space Agency (ESA). RS-EBVs are defined as the measurements required to study, report, and manage biodiversity changes using satellite data. They provide information on the status and trends of biodiversity, and have the potential to act as brokers between monitoring initiatives and decision makers.
The Swiss Data Cube (SDC – http://www.swissdatacube.ch) is an innovative analytical cloud-computing platform allowing users the access, analysis and visualizationof35 years of optical (e.g., Sentinel-2; Landsat 5, 7, 8) and radar (e.g., Sentinel-1) satellite Earth Observation (EO) Analysis Ready Data. Importantly, the SDC minimizes the time and scientific knowledge required for national-scale analyses of large volumes of consistently calibrated and spatially aligned satellite observations.
The objective of the SDC is to support the Swiss government for environmental monitoring and reporting, as well as enabling Swiss scientific institutions to benefit from EO data for research and innovation. Additionally, the SDC allows for high spatial and temporal resolution LSP monitoring, thereby facilitating the study of seasonal dynamics of vegetated land surfaces in response to climate and environmental change.
In the framework of the ESA-funded GlobDiversity project (https://www.globdiversity.net),UZH has developed a new algorithm for monitoring LSP. It has been tested and validated in the Laegern region (10 km2) and shows promising results. In order to provide national information on the biodiversity of terrestrial ecosystems and simultaneously generate a decision-ready product, the LSP monitoring algorithm now requires to be scaled up from the development stage to the operational level, encompassing entire Switzerland. Such a product could be readily used as a basis for the design, implementation and evaluation of policies, as well as developing policy advice, programs and regulation.

  • Consequently, the aims of the project are to use the SDC platform to:
  • Implement the LSP algorithm developed by UZH and consider improvements;
  • Generate an LSP product retrieval from EO data for the entire Switzerland to contribute to provide baseline data for monitoring biodiversity;
  • Demonstrate the use and capability of processing open and freely available Big EO data on a cloud-computing platform;
  • Review and evaluate the variability and evolution of satellite-derived growing season length (GSL) nationwide;
  • Test start- and end-of-season metrics (SOS and EOS, respectively) for linear trends as well as for significant trend shifts over the study period;
projects
Participants
Dr. Gregory Giuliani
University of Geneva
Dr. Claudia Röösli
University of Zurich
Dr. Vladimir Wingate
University of Zurich
Dr. David Small
University of Zurich
Prof. Michael Shaepman
University of Zurich
Mr Bruno Chatenoux
University of Geneva
Ms Charlotte Poussin
University of Geneva
Prof. Pascal Peduzzi
University of Geneva
Prof. Anthony Lehmann
University of Geneva

Practical lexicography for speakers and linguists: developing a usage-embedded dictionary of Albanian in multilingual Switzerland

Call 2019
Digital Studies
Languages

Being able to speak various languages is considered an increasingly valuable skill, not only in terms of practical aspects such as job and career perspectives, but also in terms of strengthening cultural awareness and intercultural competence. Both is of particular relevance for heritage speakers: they face the double challenge of developing language skills that enable them to successfully participate in the socio-economic life of their new home while at the same time keeping the language of their origin in order to maintain ties to the socio-cultural background they brought with them. The relation between both aspects changes over time: while for first generation speakers, acquiring the languages of their (new) social surrounding is most challenging, the later generations struggle with the language of their (grand)parents. Even though specific classes in school do a good job in teaching children their heritage language, there is a growing need of hands-on material supporting these speakers in a very practical way. One of the main needs consists in a dictionary covering and meeting the demands of actual language usage, i.e. reflecting contemporary language and being at hand whenever need arises.

This project aims at developing the technical infrastructure for such a usage-embedded dictionary of Albanian and German/French, thus taking into account the multilingual environment in Switzerland. The above-mentioned needs are meet by designing it as an interactive web application with the following functionalities: (a) text fields for adding lemmas and translations to existing lemmas, (b) multiple choice fields for judging translations (highly reliable – not reliable), (c) questionnaires asking for personal information (anonymised) such as age, gender, language competence etc. Functions (a) and (b) are contributed by and beneficial for users, functions (b) and (c) provide for linguistic insight into lexical contact, entrenchment and change. Within the project the basic technical infrastructure will be developed and tested on the basis of a prototype.

In 2018, an SNF-grant investigating Albanian as a heritage language in Switzerland was awarded to Barbara Sonnenhauser (PI) and Paul Widmer (cooperation partner; both U Zurich). A crucial component of this project, which aims at tracing mechanisms of language change, identifying processes of identity formation and developing teaching materials, consists in building-up a crowdsourcing platform to involve speakers in acquiring linguistic data. This platform is being developed with the help of Jean-Philippe Goldman (U Geneva). He provides his computational skills for the present project as well, which allows for synergies on the linguistic and technical level. The linguistic and technical expertise is complemented by Shpresa Jashari’s (U Zurich) ethnological approach. She will identify the precise needs to be covered by the dictionary, take care of the equal integration of speakers/informants and supply her networks among the Albanian community. At the University of Geneva, a precious technical help will be added by Luka Nerima (U Geneva) from the unit of Computational Linguistics (within the Department of Linguistics). He has a long experience on building, maintaining and capitalizing on syntactic bilingual lexicons for various NLP applications.

projects
Participants
Barbara Sonnenhauser
University of Zurich
Paul Widmer
University of Zurich
Luka Nerima
University of Geneva
M. Jean-philippe Goldman
University of Geneva
Sphresa Jashari
University of Zurich

The Cell Line Tool: Digital two-step verification of cancer cell lines

Call 2019
Digital Studies
Medicine

Cancer cell lines are important tools for understanding disease mechanisms the as well as for development and pre-testing of appropriate therapeutics. However, cancer cell lines are prone to contamination and misidentification, which devaluate observations with respect to the assumed original cancer type. The ICLAC (International Cell Line Authentication Committee) has confirmed more than 500 problematic cell lines, many of which are commonly used for research resulting, in ~32,000 publications with questionable results according to a recently published estimate.

Large-scale surveys of identification errors for cancer cell lines have been mostly limited to text-based analysis. Importantly, such analyses cannot estimate the concordance between cell line data and corresponding primary tumors of a given disease. Here, the use of genomic profiling data for the review of published cell line experiments provides a novel, highly promising approach to this problem.

We propose a strategic collaboration between the team behind the Cellosaurus reference cell line resource at the University of Geneva (lead: Prof. Amos Bairoch), and the group "Theoretical Oncogenomics" (lead: Prof. Michael Baudis) at the University of Zurich. Synergies will arise from resources and data curation of the Geneva team, combined with cancer profiling data and expertise in genome data analysis of the Zurich group.Recently, the Zurich group has developed a method to quantify similarities between cell lines as well as type-matched primary tumors. Initially, 3675 genomic profiling experiments of 1539 distinct cell lines were processed and data was mapped to corresponding Cellosaurus entries. Probe-level genome data was visualised and re-calibrated, using arrayMap data and software. Future refinements of the method will include linkage disequilibrium (LD) models for CL identity mapping, to make identification and contamination status of a cell line unambiguous.

The primary aim of the proposed project will be to provide a high quality tool for researchers to assess their cell lines, collaboratively developed by the groups at Zurich & Geneva. This tool will provide a two-step identification of the cell lines. First step is genomic cell line fingerprinting based on genomic variation profiles and - where available - LD block analysis. In a second step, cell line variation data is compared to the vast arrayMap & Progenetix cancer datasets, providing a similarity score for the genome of interest compared to primary tumor profiles. Our resource will provide researcher in the areas of cancer genomics, physiology and pharmacology with an important tool for optimising resource use and guaranteeing correct interpretation of expensive and time consuming experiments. Support of this Data Science proposal through the UNIGE - UZH collaborative framework would allow us to develop this proposal into a long-term strategy with appropriate funding support and increasing collaborative participation.

projects
Participants
Prof. Dr. Amos Bairoch
University of Geneva
Prof. Dr. Michael Baudis
University of Zurich
Rahel Paloots
University of Zurich

Visual and Reward Adaptation in the Schizophrenia Spectrum

Rolling Call 2020
Medicine

We are bombarded by sensory inputs and constantly need to decide which of these inputs to attend to, which poses a problem for sensory systems. Adaptive processing of inputs maximizes sensitivity to the most likely inputs and thereby reflects an efficiency principle used by neural systems. Previous studies have used fMRI tasks to show that the brain uses adaptive coding in the context of reward paradigms; however, there are currently no well-developed fMRI tasks to investigate adaptive coding in the context of sensory paradigms. In addition, previous work has shown that intact dopamine signaling is necessary for efficient adaptive coding of reward in the brain. Given this, researchers have been interested in studying adaptive coding in people with disorders entailing dopamine-signaling dysfunction, such as Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders, in order to understand how deficits in adaptive coding may contribute to the overall disease progression. Here, we plan to develop fMRI visual paradigms in order to compare adaptive sensory and reward coding across the Schizophrenia spectrum.

This one-year collaborative study has three specific aims. The first aim is to develop fMRI visual tasks aimed at capturing adaptive coding both behaviorally and neurally. The team at UZH, has developed an object discrimination visual task, while the team at UNIGE has developed a brightness discrimination task. Both of these visual tasks have been developed in order to increase the ease of comparing adaptation between visual and reward tasks. This collaboration will expand the category of visual tasks available to both teams, and increase our ability to understand how the brain is able to process information for humans to function optimally in the world. The second aim is to use these newly developed tasks to determine if adaptive coding occurs differently (domain-specific) or similarly (domain-general) in the processing of reward and other inputs. Specifically, we will use a variant of a commonly used reward task (monetary incentive delay) previously developed at UZH, and compare it to the two newly developed visual tasks to investigate if adaptive coding occurs to similar degrees in visual and reward modalities. The third aim is to examine if there is a correlation between deficits in adaptive coding and: 1) schizotypy in healthy individuals and 2) positive/negative symptoms in individuals with schizophrenia. The completion of this aim will be the first step in determining if reduced adaptive coding marks the schizophrenia spectrum in general.

The findings from this study will provide novel insights into the role of adaptive coding for the ability of humans to process sensory and reward information, and its relationship to schizotypy. We also will obtain a better understanding of Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders and the way that malfunctioning circuitry at the neural level can result in inefficiency and less-adapted behaviors. In the future, this work may help researchers to develop more predictive diagnostic methods and better targeted treatments, such as personalized interventions to reduce symptomology.

projects
Participants
Dr. Anna O. Giarratana
Postdoctoral Researcher
University of Zurich - Department of Economics
Prof. Dr. Philippe Tobler
Associate Professor of Neuroeconomics and Social Neuroscience
University of Zurich - Dept of Economics
Dr. Stefan Kaiser
Professeur ordinaire / Chef de service
Université de Genève - Département de Psychiatrie
Dr. Mariia Kaliuzhna
Postdoctoral Researcher
Université de Genève - Département de Psychiatrie

Fostering Swiss collaboration towards a future circular collider

Rolling Call 2020
Physics

The goal of this program is to spearhead the collaboration among Swiss institutions on the development of future particle physics colliders by organising 2 workshops during 2021. These workshops will aim at fostering collaboration among the different Swiss groups by nurturing discussions and interactions. In 2020 the European Strategy of particle physics has identified new collider projects as a priority for the next decades. Our workshops will focus on the Future Circular Collider (FCC) project, which is a 100-km accelerator to be hosted by CERN. Swiss scientists will discuss the physics potential as well as experimental and technical challenges of the FCC project. In the first workshop, the scene will be set in all related aspects, accelerator, detector, and physics. The second workshop will be more focused on Swiss contributions to the project. Leading experts from the field will be invited for keynote talks. After these workshops, we envisage having a clear path on a strong Swiss involvement, encouraging collaboration among Swiss universities, starting from the Universities of Geneva and the University of Zurich. The Universities of Geneva and the University of Zurich will each host one workshop. The workshops are endorsed by the Swiss Institute of Particle Physics (CHIPP), which will also advertise them for increased Swiss attendance.

projects
Participants
Anna Sfyrla
Associate Professor
University of Geneva - Department of Nuclear and Particle Physics
Florencia Canelli
Professor
UZH - Particle Physics

PRECHECK: A checklist to evaluate COVID-19 preprints

Call 2020 - Resilient Societies
Communication
Digital Studies
Health

The reporting of studies as a preprint prior to peer-review has gained popularity in the scientific community in the last decade. Preprints are complete scientific manuscripts that are publicly accessible on a preprint server and also citable, but have not yet been peer-reviewed for publication in a scientific journal [1]. Preprint servers, for example medRxiv, Research Square, bioRxiv, PsyArXiv or arXiv, are the result of the rapid digitalization of science allowing researchers to share findings quickly, discuss them on social media, attract potential reviewers, and assure immediate access to content that would otherwise be delayed or even lost.

During the COVID-19 global health crisis we observed an exponential growth of preprints with more than 15,000 preprints related to COVID-19 [2], see also Figure 1 in the Appendix. Some of these preprints suffer from substantial shortcomings [3] such as poor methodology, poor reporting and unjustified conclusions. Given the potential policy implications during a pandemic, it is no surprise that preprints receive a huge amount of attention on social media and the national and international press. Often preprints are accompanied prematurely by press releases as well, but the danger is that newly uploaded preprints or preprints in the wild (not on a preprint server with well-defined publishing policies) often received no checking or vetting at all. If such preprints go straight to the press offices or beyond, unreliable findings are spread without a safety net and could potentially get overblown in the media. Many preprints servers therefore added a disclaimer for their COVID-19 related preprints, or sometimes even reject a manuscript when the study makes claims that may affect clinical practice [4]. In the worst case, unvetted preprints may contribute to the distribution of misinformation and may ultimately undermine trust in science.

We recently discussed three ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic could help to change science for the better in terms of implementation of open science, enhancing team science with larger and better quality studies as well as rethinking peer-review [2]. Careful peer-review is key to identify the best of research in terms of quality that will improve the understanding of this new disease. Admittedly, peer-review has some major limitations: it is very time-consuming, it is not particularly rewarding for researchers and may even be flawed [5]. When research is under a stress test, such as at the moment, other forms of quality control if peer-review is not yet available for a preprint have to be considered.

Quality control is indeed crucial given the current rate of journal publications during this pandemic. Such rapid research will undoubtedly contribute to more research waste [6,7] and retractions. As of November 9 2020, RetractionWatch.com listed 46 COVID-19 studies that have been permanently retracted, temporarily retracted, or were given an expression of concern [8]. However, a preprint is usually withdrawn only at an author's request. It is therefore vital to identify flawed research papers already at the preprint stage before damage is done [9].

For example, on May 18 2020 a preprint was uploaded on MedRxiv claiming that treatment of COVID-19 patients with hydroxychloroquine (HQ) and antibiotics was associated with significantly better clinical outcomes [10]. The study was retrospective in nature despite serious concerns about the low methodological quality of studies with similar design [11]. No study protocol was mentioned nor did the authors adhere to the STROBE reporting guidelines [12] for observational studies. The authors withdrew their manuscript on June 14 2020 “because of the controversy about HQ treatment”. WHO discontinued the HQ treatment arm in their SOLIDARITY randomized trial soon thereafter and as of today, treatment with HQ and/or antibiotics is not recommended by the WHO for COVID-19 patients.

The aim of the present project is to provide simple and clear guidance in form of a checklist to assess the quality and credibility of a preprint. Some guidance already exists, for example, the ResearchSquare preprint server offers data and methods reporting checklists for preprints. Additionally, an interdisciplinary survey among researchers found that preprints provide only little information to enhance their credibility [13]. However, the context of the current pandemic and the rapid response of the scientific community through preprints puts us in a new and urgent situation to provide specific guidance systematically and comprehensively. To start, we target undergraduate students, whom we want to advise to critically assess the information given in preprints. Additionally we propose to work with university press officers to develop easy-to-use guidance in the quality assessment of preprints. To this end we will collaborate with the press offices at both universities (willingness to collaborate confirmed by Marco Cattaneo at UNIGE and Roger Nickl at UZH). Training sessions at both universities will inform about the usefulness of the checklist and may lead to further improvements. A large scale roll-out is beyond the scope of this project but could be the object of a subsequent larger grant application, e.g., from the newly founded Swiss Reproducibility Network (www.swissrn.org)

The collaboration is between the Center for Reproducible Science (CRS) at UZH led by Prof. Dr. Leonhard Held and the group of Prof. Dr. Evie Vergauwe at UNIGE, co-founder of the Swiss Open Psychological Science Initiative. Complementary efforts of both partners to improve the reliability of research results in general and their different scientific backgrounds in biomedicine and psychology form an excellent basis for this project. Specifically, the development of a tool to check the scientific validity of studies by the Higgs.ch magazine was based on a cooperation with the CRS (https://www.higgs.ch/science-check/), and a lecture providing guidance on how to read the scientific literature and the lay literature on research themes critically and sensibly (Scientific Skills and Knowledge in Psychology) has been developed for psychology students at UNIGE. Combining the background of both groups will not only positively influence the development of the material but also allow us to easily reach a wide audience at both universities.

In summary, PRECHECK aims to deliver important insights and training at a critical moment when the trustworthiness of science is at stake. In times of rapid digitalization, information overload, and a global-health crisis, we prepare the future scientists by targeting the youngest members of the academic community. The collaboration between the two partners will contribute substantially to the transformation of both universities towards a culture of reliability, integrity, transparency and true societal impact.

projects
Participants
Prof. Dr. Evie Vergauwe
University of Geneva
Dr. Eva Furrer
Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin
Universität Zürich - Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Prevention Institute
Prof. Dr. Leonhard Held
Full Professor
University of Zurich - Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Prevention Institute

Building Socio-Economic Resilience to Global Shocks

Call 2020 - Resilient Societies
Business and Economics

Covid-19 has not just caused a severe global health crisis but also a severe global economic crisis, by manymeasures the worst since World War II. Once the health crisis is under control, the attention will inevitably shift to the economic crisis and two questions will be at the center of the public debate: What happened tothe economy? And what are the lessons learned?

In this project, we aim to provide answers to these broad questions, using the concept of socio-economic resilience as our unifying theme. This ensures that there is a direct point of contact between our thinking group and the others, given that building resilience is the expert dialogue’s central goal. Our target audience are policymakers and other stakeholders in policymaking, most notably journalists and interested members of the public. We therefore plan to make our result accessible to this audience by summarizing them in a policy brief, underpinned by a collection of explanatory notes.

Our first task will be to establish what we mean by socio-economic resilience and why it is a desirable policy goal. In particular, we need to clarify how it compares to more standard economic policy goals such as efficiency, equity, prosperity, and stability. Is it just a new term for an old concept, or does it describe a genuinely new policy goal? Once this task is completed, we can turn to our two main questions of what happened to the economy and what are the lessons learned.

What happened to the economy? What is already clear is that Covid-19 had very heterogeneous effects on socio-economic systems and our second task will be to document this heterogeneity. Which countries, which industries, which firms, which households, and which individuals were particularly resilient to the pandemic? And has this all increased or decreased existing socio-economic inequality? Moreover, what kind of resilience was even required? Which parts of the economy experienced only temporary disruptions and which had to adjust permanently?

What are the lessons learned? Here, the task is to identify what kind disruptions we even need to becomeresilient to and then compare these disruptions with the Covid-19 shock. To organize our thinking, we find it useful to distinguish between “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns”. The known unknowns are unknown disruptions associated with known challenges, particularly climate change, the digital revolution, and the emerging great power rivalry between China and the US. The unknown unknowns are unknown disruptions associated with unknown challenges, i.e. risks we are not even aware of.

We plan to approach these questions by aggregating existing knowledge and conducting original research. For this, we need the help of a full-time research assistant who can review the existing literature and perform basic statistical analyses.

projects
Participants
Ralph Ossa
University of Zurich
Salvatore di Falco
University of Geneva - Economics

Gobal health law, ethics and human rights for resilient societies

Call 2020 - Resilient Societies
Law
International Relations
Health

Background: The Covid-19 pandemic confronts each government in the world with the same questions: how do we protect the population and save lives today, and how do we address the long-term challenges and prepare our societies from outbreaks in the future. Before the pandemic, evaluations of national epidemic preparedness had been done and epidemic response strategies had been developed (and were strongly connected).

However, many countries have done worse than would have been predicted although they seemed well prepared and with the capacities to prevent and control an outbreak of infectious disease. The Global Health Security (GHS) index report published in late 2019 identified 6 categories designed to assess a country’s capability to prevent and mitigate epidemics and pandemics: 1. Prevention; 2. Detection and reporting; 3. rapid response; 4. Health system (sufficient and robust health system to treat the sick and protect health workers); 5. Compliance with international norms (commitments to improving national capacity, financing and adherence to norms); 6. risk environment. The index attributed more weight to the first two categories. However, the pandemic has revealed weaknesses and identified domains that should be improved in order to render our societies more resilient in the near and far future.

Objectives: The project aims to develop knowledge concerning fields that should be improved in order to render our societies more resilient in the short-, medium- and longer-term future and approaches that should be adopted. Two areas of improvement should be examined based on a human rights and global health ethics approach: the first concerns the national (health) systems and the improvement of the resilience and preparedness of societies through adequate responses to current and future situations; the second concerns the global level and the improvement of collaboration and solidarity through the development and/or reform of legal instruments and of governance structures in global health.

Concerning the first approach, it has already been shown in the literature that life chances differ greatly depending on where people are born and raised, and where people work and live. Within countries, the differences in life chances are also important. This is the conclusion of the WHO Commission on social determinants of health from 2012 and the current pandemic has illustrated this situation perfectly, by focusing attention on the susceptibility of poor and vulnerable populations to disasters.

Concerning the second approach, the specific focus will be on particular agreements designed to protect and promote population health (e.g. the International Health Regulations adopted in 2005) and on the role of WHO as the central international organization governing collective responses in the time of a pandemic and holding the constitutional authority to adopt legal instruments, standards, strategies, guidelines and provide technical support.

The collaboration between our two institutions aims to propose answers solidly grounded on human rights and medical ethics and encouraging the evolution of institutional arrangements and the use of legal instruments for a better preparation for the future. The questions to be discussed are:

1.From human rights, ethical and legal perspectives, what is at stake in the current pandemic:

  • What human rights are (actually or potentially) infringed on by the pandemic and its consequences?
  • How can the proportionality and legitimation of COVID measures be established? (identifying criteria that needs to be included)
  • How can appropriate risk and crisis communication and civil participation be ensured? (for example, we have to find better ways to communicate uncertainty)
  • How can global solidarity and protection of vulnerable groups be fostered and improved?
  • Role of contextual factors (resource level, timing, co-existence of multiple crises etc.)?
  1. What are the consequences for global health governance:
  • Can the COVID crisis be considered a trigger for bouncing back better and enlarging the duty bearers to non-traditional partnerships for multi-level governance.
  • What resources (such as legal instruments, shared ethical norms) are available to meet these challenges?
projects
Participants
Prof. Dr. Stéphanie Dagron
University of Geneva
Prof. Dr Nikola Biller-Andorno
University of Zurich
Prof. Dr. Stéphanie Dagron
University of Geneva
Dr. Jennifere Hasselgard-Rowe
Researcher and Lecturer
University of Geneva - Institute of Global Health

Integrated Risk Assessment and Management 2.0

Call 2020 - Resilient Societies
Health
Earth & Environment Science

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is generating massive adverse health and socio-economic impacts for societies around the globe. Most importantly, this pandemic has also opened a window of opportunity to reflect on and to transform societal processes in order to prevent shocks originating from health, biodiversity, and climate as well as to reduce their impacts on economies across scales. Thus, there is aunique opportunity to upgrade resilience-based efforts and equitable investments into health, physical and social systems, and to build forward-looking sustainable transformations. Growing evidence shows that together the health, biodiversity and climate crises are challenging systems within and across sectors of society and nature, which may be less or more resilient to shocks, of varying duration, intensities, and frequencies.For example, it is becoming increasingly clear that the spread of disease agents with pandemic potential is linked to natural ecosystem fragmentation, as human encroachment in pristine ecosystems leads to more opportunities for human-wildlife interactions and spread of disease agents. There is also evidence that air pollution contributes to the spread of virus, while the measures to deal with the pandemic, i.e. global lockdowns, have had beneficial, yet temporary, effects on greenhouse gas emissions (but not concentrations), biodiversity and Earth system functioning.

To be able to deal with these concurrent stressors and shocks, we posit that there is a need for updating integrated risk assessments and management, to better prepare and recover the resilience of natural and social systems to sudden or gradual shocks as well as to the inherent interconnectedness of these pressures. Therefore, herein we propose to better understand the necessary conditions to devise a novel Integrated Risk Assessment and Management (IRAM2.0) to address the concurrent risks and shocks from health, biodiversity and climate. This approach deals with the opportunities emerging from tackling multiple shocks concurrently, leveraging on synergies and on the creation of co-benefits for the design of effective response systems. More specifically we propose to investigate:
i) What are the key drivers, stressors and vulnerabilities in the health, biodiversity and climate systems and how have they acted individually and synergistically in relation to the pandemic?
ii) What social, environmental and economic trade-offs, synergies and co-benefits can emerge from the adoption of IRAM2.0 measures?
iii) What type of data can better inform and what actions can be implemented to support IRAM2.0?

To answer these questions, we build on a scoping exercise that the PIs organized for the kick-off meeting of “Shaping Resilient Societies”, an initiative of the University of Geneva and University of Zurich in partnership with the World Economic Forum. During a series of “thinking group” meetings prior to and during the kick-off event (held on November 12, 2020), a group of experts provided their visions about key issues related to pandemics, climate, biodiversity and sustainability, including inputs on integrated risk assessment and management. Here we propose the obvious follow up to operationalize the gaps identified by the thinking group.

We will achieve this by (i) triangulating desk-based research and semi-structured interviews with stakeholders in the public, private and academic sectors; (ii) co-designing a citizen science and communication platform to collect, share and provide information necessary for the proposed IRAM 2.0; and (iii) analyzing whether citizen science data meets the theoretically identified needs for achieving IRAM2.0. We will focus on the integration of data to improve process-based understanding, causal explanations (e.g. links between environmental and health factors, as the core theme of the “OneHealth” approach) as well as the identification of social and environmental needs and the evaluation of risk management decisions. The on-line citizen science platform will be co-designed with the thinking group. We will then test the prototype platform in two areas of Switzerland (Geneva and Zurich). We will involve residents in these two cities, with focus on students from the Universities of Geneva and Zurich. Options for upscaling will also be discussed. We will also leverage on the expertise and support of the Citizen Science Center Zurich (https://citizenscience.ch/en/).

Our vision is that this project will provide a discussion forumin tandem with providing research evidence and societal embeddedness through citizen science, improved communication strategies and stakeholder engagement. Ultimately, this will contribute to improve social capacities to live with shocks like pandemics or extreme climate events, as well as ongoing cumulative shocks that require a new narrative on the interlinked health, biodiversity and climate stresses. We will also focus on measures to put in place to quickly respond to shocks and to shape resilient and agile societies. We believe that our results will allow us to identify potentially relevant leverage points for working towards true transformational change to build resilience in societies and for addressing the concurrent global change problems of our and future times.

projects
Participants
Maria J. Santos
Prof. Dr.
University of Zurich - Department of Geography
Prof. Markus Stoffel
University of Geneva
Owen L. Petchey
Prof. Dr.
University of Zurich - Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Richard Kock
Prof. Dr.
University of London - Royal Veterinary College
Stefano Battiston
Prof. Dr.
University of Zurich - Department of Banking and Finance
Jacques Ducrest
Délégué du Conseil fédéral à l’Agenda 2030
Département fédéral des affaires étrangères DFAE
Samantha Hill
UNEP- WCMC
Otto Simonett
Zoi Environment
Cristina Romanelli
World Health Organization
Mario Roher
Research Associate
University of Geneva - Institute for Environmental Sciences
Dr Alexandre Hedjazi
University of Geneva
Akanksha Khatri
World Economic Forum

Lessons from the past: Quantifying pandemic spread and public health interventions during the first three global influenza pandemics in Switzerland 1889, 1918 and 1957

Call 2020 - Resilient Societies
Health
History

The emergence of new viral epidemics continues to be a major challenge for public health and entire societies, as illustrated by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. To integrate lessons learned from the past is beneficial in this situation, as for example all public health interventions currently being implemented are adapted from experiences gained from past pandemics since the 19th century. However, past pandemic experiences are not sufficiently present in Switzerland. This knowledge of experience would be particularly valuable in terms of strengthening the resilience and responsiveness of the society with regard to on-going and future crises.

The literature on past influenza pandemics has shown how to integrate lessons from the past into pandemic planning. We identified the following research gaps: i. Interdisciplinary projects are still the exception rather than the rule; ii. Systematic comparisons and connections between two or more influenza pandemics are rare: iii. For Switzerland, the quantitative evidence basis on past influenza pandemics is still very thin, especially for the outbreaks of 1889 and 1957. For the Spanish flu 1918, outbreak patterns have hardly been reconstructed on the basis of incidence numbers.

In our proposed project, we build on the piloting work on the temporal and regional spread of the Spanish flu in the Canton of Bern in 1918, which was gradually expanded over the last 5 years at the Institute of Evolutionary Medicine at UZH (iem.uzh.ch/en/pastpandemics.html). A first publication on these pilot data from Bern is currently provisionally accepted in the medical top-journal Annals of Internal Medicine (and confidentially accessible for the reviewers of our proposal here. In this paper, we show for example that during the second wave, cantonal authorities initially reacted hesitant and delegated the responsibility to enact interventions to the municipalities, and reductions in incidence associated with interventions were less pronounced. In the present project, we now want to advance the state of quantitative knowledge on past influenza pandemics in Switzerland to a whole new level. For feasibility reasons, we will focus on the first three and still strongest pandemic influenza outbreaks in Switzerland, 1889, 1918, and 1957.

Our main hypothesis is that the patterns of pandemic spread, its determinants, and effects of public health interventions are similar across pandemics. The aim of our project is to use epidemiological methods to reconstruct and connect the temporal and regional spread of the 1889, 1918 and 1957 pandemic outbreaks in Switzerland based on incidence and mortality data, and to explore the determinants of the spreads as well as the change in epidemic growth associated with public health interventions. Our project is intended to digitise and make previously unavailable archive material accessible. This quantitative assessment also includes the critical handling of this data, its background, and uncertainties. Last but not least, we also want to ensure the transfer of these past pandemic experiences to the public and policy makers.
We will work with incidence and mortality data of/from influenza-like diseases, mostly aggregated on a weekly level for all cantons, districts, and (if available) municipalities in Switzerland. We have identified the following archival sources which provide rich information: For 1889, we will digitize what is probably the most comprehensive statistical overview ever compiled on a pandemic in Switzerland (Schmid 1895). This book consists of over 300 pages full of statistics and tables and is currently only available in printed paper form. For 1918 and 1957 we will digitize officially reported cases of influenza-like illness by physicians and municipalities/districts which were listed in the weekly “Bulletin des Eidgenössischen Gesundheitsamtes".

Based on these data, we will a) reconstruct the spatial and temporal spread of influenza like illness across the three pandemics, b) assess ecological determinants of the pandemic spread (environmental, socio-demographic, cultural characteristics, connectivity, etc.) as extracted from historical sources like the Swiss Federal census or existing HistGIS tools; and c) analyse the associations between public health interventions and the pandemic course. We will calculate incidence and mortality rates, estimate basic reproduction rates (R), and calculate space-time scan statistics (SaTScan). In addition we will use general additive models (GAM) to model daily or weekly incidence numbers as a function of covariables (population density, connectivity, share of agricultural workforce, regional GDP per capita, language region, weather data, etc.). The biggest challenge is reporting bias (non-participating physicians, misdiagnosis, etc.), which will be addressed by appropriate methods for presenting statistical uncertainties. Our project will result in joint scientific publications, policy briefs, and a larger grant application to the SNSF. Our project is interdisciplinary (we combine History, Evolutionary Medicine, Epidemiology, and Public Health), collaborative, and it is a continuation of the successful links between the two involved institutes and the involved applicants.

Quantifying past pandemic experience is important because knowledge about past pandemic experiences should be evidence-based. In our work we showed that in Switzerland, due to a lack of direct experience in recent decades, awareness of this immediate pandemic risk has been lost (smw.ch/op-eds/post/the-pandemic-gap). Even in today's Swiss Federal pandemic plan, the explicit knowledge gained from past experience does not go back any further than to the Swine flu in 2009. We will further open the doors to this valuable past and make these past pandemic experiences accessible again, especially for the public and to policy makers, who are key-players in coping with a future pandemic.

projects
Participants
Dr Kaspar Staub
University of Zurich
Prof. Olivia Keiser
University of Geneva
Prof. Antoine Flahault
University of Geneva
Prof. Frank Rühli
Prof. Dr. Dr. med.
Institute of Evolutionary Medicine - Medical Faculty

Governance Mechanisms for Access and Use of Data in Public Health Crises

Call 2020 - Resilient Societies
Law
Health
Digital Studies

1. Objectives of the project
Access to data to inform decision making is of utmost importance in a public health crisis. As the current crisis evidences, access to and effective use of relevant data is not always possible. To remedy this unfortunate situation, this policy-oriented project has three objectives:

(1) Identifying existing barriers for access and use of data in public health crises.

(2) Developing alternative governance mechanisms to facilitate access to and use of the data needed to meet public health crises.

(3) Publication of a high-level policy paper presenting policy proposals for the implementation of alternative governance mechanisms that allow for better access and use of data in public health crises while protecting individuals from privacy breaches and personal or financial harm.

2. Existing barriers
In our previous exchanges, we identified three barriers to access and use of data in public health crises:

(i) Cultural barriers
There is a lack of data culture in our society. Namely personal data is not sufficiently perceived as a key resource for research, innovation and further development of the society on all levels, including (but not limited to) the health sector. Instead, the use of personal data is mainly considered a threat, not an opportunity. While the preservation of privacy is key, the traditional concepts of privacy must be re-thought. Most importantly, the creation, collection and processing of personal data does not necessarily interfere with privacy as it can be carried out without exposing information about individuals to anyone else. Appropriate governance mechanisms for access and use of personal data may lead to a shift in the public perception leading to a more opportunity-oriented data culture.

(ii) Infrastructural barriers
Switzerland has a high level of infrastructure compared to most other countries. However, the recent crisis has demonstrated that this infrastructure cannot be activated properly when required for the monitoring of the health situation, namely due to difficulties to report and aggregate key indicators. In addition to the need of a robust infrastructure supporting fast responses to provide all data resources needed to monitor, understand, and react to a crisis, additional barriers exist regarding data formats. To overcome these barriers, we need to distinguish between shared data, which is shared between different players in the health sector on a constant basis, and shareable data, which can be shared in emergency situations. To allow for the sharing of data in a state of crisis, today’s infrastructure must be adapted towards a robust and interoperable framework that allows to switch between “normal” and emergency situations.

(iii) Legal barriers
There is a lack of an enabling legal framework for access and use of data, especially with regard (but not limited) to personal data. Data protection laws are based on the assumption that the use of personal data is always a risk and a threat for data subjects. Accordingly, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Swiss Data Protection Act (DPA) establish important barriers to the use of personal data. Additional barriers for the access and use of data stem from factual ownership of data which is backed-up by law, namely the protection of trade secrets. As opposed to these restrictive rules, the law contains hardly any provisions that enable and foster the access to data collected and stored by businesses and government agencies. To allow for the necessary access and use of data in a health crisis, an enabling legal framework is needed.

3. Future Solutions
In order to overcome these barriers, substantial progress on three levels is required. While the focus of this project is to improve the access and use of data in public health crisis, some fundamental shifts are necessary that also apply to “normal” times to enable appropriate reactions to future health crises:

(i) Data Literacy
The use of data can only be promoted if politicians, businesses, and the public at large perceive data as a key resource for decision making, research, innovation, and further development in the digital society. To this aim, data literacy, that is, the ability to critically collect, manage, evaluate and use data, must be promoted at all levels of the society. A data literate society would be able to make informed decisions about how data handling should be organized, to assess the implications of data policy decisions, and to evaluate the validity of inferences drawn from data. In the future, data literacy will be as necessary for citizenship as the ability to read and write.

(ii) Interoperability
Data can only be shared in a public health crisis if the systems and formats used for storing relevant data are interoperable. To ensure interoperability, we need to investigate the introduction of mandatory interoperability standards for shared data as well as mechanisms for best-effort, ad-hoc interoperability for shareable data previously not deemed relevant for interoperability. This can only be ensured by establishing mandatory interoperability standards applicable to all data needed to meet a public health crisis (shareable data).

(iii) Rethink Data Protection Law
To use the potential of personal data, novel approaches to data protection law are needed. Such approaches need to abandon the risk-based catch-all concept of the GDPR and the Swiss DPA. Instead, novel rules should focus on providing appropriate means to remedy actual harm that may be caused by the processing of (personal and non-personal) data if such harm materializes. Theses remedies should not be limited to the recovery of damages (e.g., financial losses) but include suitable legal measures to avoid discrimination and manipulation that may result from the processing of personal data. While these novel approaches could apply both under normal circumstances and in public health crises, one could also restrict the application of these rules to a state of crisis, thus allowing a much wider use of data in a crisis while ensuring that no individual gets harmed by such uses. In addition to amendments of substantial law, novel dispute prevention and dispute resolution mechanisms are needed to ensure that disputes about access and use of (personal) data can be solved efficiently.

projects
Participants
Florent Thouvenin
University of Zurich
Jacques de Werra
University of Geneva
Christian Lovis
University of Geneva
Abraham Bernstein
University of Zurich - Informatics
Viktor von Wyl
University of Zurich - Medical Faculty
Yaniv Benhamou
University of Geneva
Diego Kuonen
University of Geneva