Case Study

University of Zurich

Interview conducted 15 April, 2021  Compare case studies

The University of Zurich (UZH) is Switzerland’s largest university. It was founded in 1833 and has around 30000 enrolled students as well as almost 10000 academic and professional staff. With its 7 faculties and over 100 institutes, UZH boasts the most comprehensive range of academic study programs in the country, covering a wide spectrum of disciplines from medicine, science, law, economics to theology, arts and social sciences. UZH is a member of several university networks and alliances, and attracts students and faculty from all across the globe. UZH’s mission is to generate value for science, society and the economy and deeply commit to the intellectual, professional, and personal development of its staff and students. In this vein, UZH has adopted a number of policies to codify its commitment and support for responsible research assessment in the Swiss research and innovation ecosystem. UZH signed the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) in 2014 and has implemented it in professorial hirings from a perspective infused with good practices from a gender equality point of view. In 2021 UZH adopted an Open Science Policy and signed the Agreement on Reforming Research Assessment in 2022.

Interview originally conducted April 2021. Case study updated August 2023.

Who: Organization profile

Country Switzerland
Profile of institution comprehensive university or equivalent
Number of FTE researchers > 1000
Further information Evaluation framework for Open Science professorial hiring Catalog of assessment questions for use in academic hiring processes
Organization of research evaluation Faculty/department levelInstitutional/university levelresearch unit levels
Who is involved? academic researchersresearch department staffresearch support or management staffresearch support staff

What: What changed and the key elements of change

In response to the evolving Open Science movement, UZH adopted a policy on Open Science in 2021 , which defines priorities in the areas of access, research methods and culture change. As part of culture change, UZH launched the project HI-FRAME at the same time as the Open Science policy was adopted.

HI-FRAME was a 2-year project with the aim of creating a tool that helps align professorial hiring practices at UZH systematically with the demands that Open Science practices make on researchers. The tool consists of a set of questions that hiring panels may put to candidates, either in writing as part of the application submission or as part of the interviews with shortlisted candidates. The candidates’ answers to these questions were considered alongside, not instead of, more “traditional” indicators of academic profiles and track records.

The HI-FRAME tool can be understood as a narrative CV type set of pre-formulated questions to be answered through free text or, in the interview context, verbal answers. Each question refers to Open Science activities in relation to a specific dimension of academic activity (research, teaching, academic culture, service to the institution, clinical work, support for early-career researchers, impact/contributions to society) and asks the applicants to refer to their track record to exemplify their engagement. The hiring panel determined in advance whether to use all questions or a subset, depending on the position to be filled.  

Although HI-FRAME concentrated on professorial hirings, the catalog of questions is in principle applicable to other types of academic hiring and potentially to certain research funding processes, too. Moreover, in addition to the Open Science Policy, HI-FRAME also indirectly helped implement UZH’s policies on gender equality and diversity. 

Why: Motivation for change

UZH recognizes that the appointment of professors is among the most important decisions within a university that can impact its long-term success and well-being. For this reason, UZH continuously reviews its hiring processes to ensure that hiring decisions match and serve its strategic goals. In light of the Open Science shift in academic practices, UZH launched the HI-FRAME project to create a practical tool that would enable them to recognize excellence in the context of the Open Science movement. Given that the Open Science movement redefines the relationship between science and society, it was relevant for UZH to ask whether science serves all groups in society equally and how this relates to the historical underrepresentation of specific demographic groups in academia. The new framework also aimed to serve that purpose too.

Through the HI-FRAME project UZH attempts to alleviate the cross-pressures on early-career researchers that result from increasing demands on them to engage with Open Science practices despite growing concerns that this makes them less competitive when applying for permanent academic positions. To achieve this, the HI-FRAME project was developed through a combination of top-down and bottom-up dynamic involving partnerships between the  project advisory board, project management team, university faculties, and research support staff.

How: Processes and dynamics for developing, implementing and managing change


The HI-FRAME project was co-funded by UZH and the Swiss Federal Program for Open Science for 2 years (September 2021 – August 2023).  Securing this funding was the first important step, which could be successfully taken on the basis of identifying the intersection of UZH interests and the goals of the aforementioned federal program. HI-FRAME is founded in this intersection so that it simultaneously serves UZH policy and federal higher education policy objectives. 

Project management and advisory group:

The project managers implemented HI-FRAME on a day-to-day basis whereas the project advisory group combined relevant expertise from inside and outside UZH and created ownership among the advisory group members and visibility for the project. The members of the advisory group were UZH stakeholders and/or national and international experts in reforming research assessment, and they played a particularly important role in drafting the set of interview questions that constitute the HI-FRAME tool.        

Engaging with internal stakeholders:

Given the faculties’ far-reaching independence in the UZH governance system in general, as well in professorial recruitment in particular, the faculties were the most important HI-FRAME stakeholders within UZH. All 7 faculties were invited to pilot the HI-FRAME tool. 3 decided in favor: Faculty of Theology, Vetsuisse Faculty and Faculty of Science. However, it eventually transpired that only the Faculty of Theology would have professorial hirings suitable for the pilot during the project’s lifetime. The Faculty was able to use the HI-FRAME to good effect and decided to continue with the use beyond its commitment to the project.  

The HI-FRAME website was created and continuously updated for the benefit of internal and external stakeholders.              

Engaging with external stakeholders:

Firstly, during the work with implementing HI-FRAME it quickly became clear that reforming research(er) assessment is a collective undertaking: universities are in constant collaboration and competition with each other, and in particular each university wants to attract the best talents. This drives concerns around moving too much out of step with the rest of the sector in terms of hiring criteria. Wanting to take first steps toward alleviating this early-mover problem, the project management team initiated a collaboration with Open Science colleagues from UZH and from the University of Geneva as well as with the Swiss National Science Foundation’s strategy section. The aim of the collaboration was to create an opportunity for informal networking around reforming research assessment across the higher education sector, and in this vein, two half-day events with speakers Karen Stroobants and Kim Huijpens took place on 10 January 2023 and 15 May 2023. More information about the events is available on the DORA@10 blog.

Secondly, realizing that other European countries were further on their reform journey than Switzerland, the project management team looked in particular to the Netherlands (Leiden Manifesto, CWTS Center) and the UK (Metric Tide, FRAP, RORI) for learning opportunities. Over time, HI-FRAME joined the UK-based Alternative Uses Group and participated in the development of its online Resumé Resource Library, which was launched with a celebratory event in London and online on 21 June 2023.   

Thirdly, the project managers participated in numerous events and gave presentations about HI-FRAME online and in-person in order to connect and to be in touch with other actors with overlapping interests (listed on the HI-FRAME website).

When: Timeline for development and implementation

The project lifetime comprised the following milestones:

  1. Mapping of existing best practices in Open Science hiring frameworks & develop UZH tool (September 2021-February 2022): This time period was used to learn from other initiatives and projects about the best practices for research assessment (see above). 
  2. Pilot & review HI-FRAME tool (March 2022-February 2023): The interview questions were drafted and piloted during this period, as described above. 
  3. Finalizing HI-FRAME tool, publication and dissemination (March 2023-August 2023): On the basis of experience (the pilot), finalize the tool and publish it for use within UZH and for inspiration in other institutions.

The challenges being faced in the protocol development process were due to the vastness of the university size with its decentralized units and varied disciplines. Further, the ease with which the new recruitment protocol would be adopted is highly dependent on the openness of faculties and hiring teams. The HI-FRAME project, however, offers hope for rewarding Open Science approaches during recruitment at UZH.


See hyperlinks in the text above.