Seed Grant Projects 2020

Photo by Louis Droege

For more detailed description, please visit the German page.



Let's talk about it! But how?

On the verbalisation of mental illness experience

Talking about the experience of mental illness can help the recovery process. Societal taboos, stigma, feelings of sadness and shame, and the unfamiliarity of the experience however mean that talking about mental illness is often a challenging task.
This research project seeks to explore from linguistic, psychiatric and experienced perspectives how it can succeed nevertheless. Which communicative strategies are helpful for conversations with relatives, employers and friends?

To this purpose, we gather conversations on mental illness in different contexts and analyse them with a variety of mainly qualitative (content- and conversation analysis) methods. Thereby, we seek to identify communicative resources that enable us to share experiences of mental illness and to put them into words.

For further information and participation, please contact Dr. med. Anke Maatz,

Remains of extinct aquatic insect communities


Water bodies are among the most severely impaired habitats in Switzerland. In order to define effective nature conservation measures, a water body typology based on biological criteria is urgently needed. However, a major problem in creating such typologies is the lack of historical distribution data of aquatic organisms that would allow an interpretation of the current status. This is aggravated by the fact that knowledge about aquatic insects is hardly ever taught at universities and is only practiced by senior people outside the universities.

The present project therefore has two goals: Firstly, the extensive (approx. 20'000 insects) and hardly researched historical collections of aquatic insects of the ETH Zurich are to be correctly identified, digitized and analyzed. This should create a unique database for concrete conservation measures and for the development of evaluation methods. Secondly, experienced specialists are to introduce young public scientists to the identification of insects, so that a new generation of experts is trained for future conservation projects and research work in aquatic environments.

The present project will provide insights into the composition of extinct aquatic insect communities and provide clues as to where remains of the former populations can still be found today. At the same time, the collected data will be available to international researchers who will model the distribution of dragonflies, caddisflies, stoneflies and mayflies over many decades and analyze the underlying parameters. These sites can then be specifically supported by conservationists and integrated into the planning process.

For further information and participation, please Dr. Michael Greeff,, ETH Entomological Collection.

With us about us.

Patient narratives as co-production - a contribution to research on participation.


The pilot project "Patient Narratives as Co-production" researches participatory research.
It aims to improve the understanding of how participation is experienced  and how these experiences shape the research and mediation of individual experience of disease and health care.
The project is based on DIPEx Switzerland, the Swiss database of individual patient experiences, which records narratives of patients between health and illness in the form of narrative interviews. Founded in 2017, it will make them publicly accessible in excerpts (video and/or audio files) on a website from spring 2021.

“Patient Narratives as Co-production" examines how the potential of the DIPEx research and mediation process can be expanded and improved through a higher degree of participation by participants and affected users.
- How can participation by the target group be rethought and expanded?
- What new perspectives on the potentials of participation in qualitative research processes are revealed by this?
- How can these findings be used for digital communication and dissemination of research results and impact health literacy?
The metaperspective on participation can highlight and address a gap in the dialogue between researchers, citizens and mediation experts.
Project partner is the Swiss project of the Institute for Biomedical Ethics IBME.

For further information, please contact Karin Seiler, ZHdK,


Stories that are still missing

An ethnography on participatory research in a region

How is a region represented in public? Which stories have not been told in publications, exhibitions and on websites? In the project carried out with the Museum Vitznau-Rigi we ask people from the communes of Greppen, Vitznau and Weggis, which stories are missing from their point of view, and we invite this persons to participate in the presentation of the region with stories, pictures and objects. By doing the participatory field research we also want to gain insights into the possibilities and difficulties of participatory research as well as into the potential of this research approach in a region.

For further information, please contact Cornelia Renggli, University of Zurich,

Piece of evidence: Underpants

A Citizen Science Project to study soil life


Soil enables human life on earth, as it is crucial to almost every aspect of life on land. However, little is known about the creatures that live and thrive in it. This joint venture of the University of Zurich and the Swiss federal research institute Agroscope aims at investigating soil life together with private gardeners, farmers and other interested citizens with the help of underpants. Underpants? That’s right: underpants.
Participants will bury cotton underpants all over Switzerland, dig them up after a while, take a photograph and dry them. The more degraded the underpants, the more active the soil life and – the healthier the soil. This experiment will show, whether the decomposition of cotton fabric by soil organisms is a suitable indicator for soil life activity.

Photographs and background information are uploaded to an online platform and made visible on an interactive map. In addition, simple do-it-yourself tests are presented, so participants can examine and understand soils on their own.
Underpants and a soil samples are sent to the Agroscope-Lab, where, the grade of decomposition of the underpants will be determined and the soil sample be analysed for soil biodiversity, biological activity and soil quality. Interested citizens will also be involved in this analytical process.


The aim of the project is to shine a spotlight on the essential but rather unknown and fascinating universe below our feet. The public will get the opportunity to experience that soil is more than a surface to walk on, more than dirt sticking to our white sneakers and more than substrate to pot our plants into.
Soils accommodate billions of bacteria, fungi, insects, worms and other creatures. Their abundance and activity are central features of healthy soils. The more diverse the soil community, the better the soil can function. For soils, functioning means to be able to produce food and raw materials, filter water and protect against natural hazards.

Credit: Agroscope
Credit: Agroscope

With this project, we will get an overview of the biological activity in Swiss soils and find out under which conditions soil organisms thrive. However, we do not only wish to collect and evaluate data, we also want to give back and provide the participants with tools and knowledge to enable them to independently observe their soils in the future. A picture book created as part of the project introduces the key players in soil life and provides interesting background information.
Through the project "Beweisstück Unterhose" (Piece of evidence: Underpants), an indicator for soil life activity will be developed together with the Swiss population, thus making the topic of soil quality and soil biodiversity tangible.

Project start: Spring 2021
More Information and registration on (DE/FR)

Bullinger digital


As part of the "Bullinger digital" digitization project on the correspondence of Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575), a correction campaign was launched as a Citizen Science project.
The aim of the campaign was to transfer relevant information for each letter into a database with the help of interested citizens. The "Institut für Schweizerische Reformationsgeschichte" had gathered this information over several decades on more than 10,000 index cards, which were filled out both by typewriter and by hand. While the typewritten entries could be automatically recognized via OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and inserted (with a small error rate) into the corresponding database fields, the handwritten entries had to be entered into the database manually. This is where the Citizen Science project came in: Via the Internet dedicated volunteers corrected the automatically created entries as well as added the manual entries.
Within half a year, it was thus possible to create a correct database entry for each index card (and thus for each document of the Bullinger correspondence from 1548 onwards). In this way, the citizens involved have made a valuable contribution to the development of a resource that enables research in theology, history, linguistics and beyond.

For further information, please contact Patricia Scheurer, University of Zurich,

Green areas in Zurich

Green Areas Zurich

Green areas are an important issue in the context of adaptation to climate change. City dwellers are particularly affected by the "heat island effect": Urban heat islands affect health and cause rising costs. Today, urban planning has several adaptation strategies at its disposal, such as green planning (e.g. trees, green roofs, façade greening), measures to change local wind conditions, alternative building materials, water dispensers, etc. Sensors and data acquisition help to analyse the effectiveness of measures.

Our participatory approach is based on focus groups. All interested persons are invited to participate in this process. In a relatively short time we can gain valuable information about experiences, implementation and planning of greening projects via target groups.

Contact: Eliane Suter,,

AP5: App’Ailes d’Air


What is App’Ailes d’Air?
Also called AP5, Atmospheric Physical Parameters and Pollution Probing with Paragliders, is a project carried by independent science explorers, climate and atmosphere scientists (LPCEE Orléans and IAC Zürich), and citizens. It can be described in three ways:
• A participative science project with low-cost and open-source instruments, and a collaboration with citizens.
• A network of atmospheric sensors, flown with paragliders, enabling the mapping of atmospheric and pollution parameters with a unique temporal and spatial coverage.
 • A database, made to last for years, to measure our atmosphere, to contribute to the environment and climate’s conservation, and a tool to help political decisions.

For whom is the data useful?
• Scientists in the fields of atmosphere and climate, such as our partners at ETH Zürich and CNRS Orléans.
• Institutes involved in environmental concerns.
• Politically engaged citizens in contexts of environmental and land development decisions.
• Potentially, the organisations in charge of traffic and pollution regulation.
• Paraglider pilots as they will have access to their own flight and to global analysis (e.g.: average wind speed in a region, etc.).

For what is the data useful?
• To better understand the phenomena of aerosols and pollution transport in the atmosphere, particularly how they reach higher altitudes, and the influence of the topography.
• To study the influence of the surrounding environment on pollution in cities.
• To spot increased pollution or pollen events and alert the relevant organisations (e.g. traffic control, agriculture, etc.).
• To study the arrival and evolution of concentrated aerosols events which originate thousands of kilometres away (e.g. desert storm, volcanic eruption, etc.).

How to participate?
• As a paraglider pilot: help us collect data.
• As citizen: help us collect plastic.
• As a scientist: join the collaboration, help us analyse the data or expand to new regions.
 • “I want to build my own sensor!” No problem! Being open-source, all the documentation will soon be available (after the prototyping phase).
• “I love your project and would like to sponsor it with my company” We are always looking for new partnerships opportunities and are open to discuss collaborations.
• As a cyclist: keep an eye on the project, we also plan to equip bikes with our instruments in the future!

For further information and participation, please contact

Digital health literacy in the Young

Participatory action research on opportunities, risks and new ways of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic

Digitalization has complex effects on the psyche and body of young people. The same technologies can a negative impact, such as addiction and lack of exercise, but also positive aspects such as networking, achievement of new competencies or early detection of diseases. How can digital health literacy in the young be promoted in a timely and sustainable manner, especially taking into account the COVID-19 pandemic?

Based on participatory action research we aim for creating an online platform together with the young to collect findings and knowledge gained during the process. Finally, the online platform could inform and support schools and general pediatric check-ups during adolescence.