Quo vadis, proposal?
From submission to decision
Without a proposal, there is no funding by the DFG, but what happens to the proposal once it has been received? The following text describes the route a proposal takes on its way to a final decision. You will also see how repeated assessment and decision-making contribute to ensuring that funding decisions are made in a fair and transparent manner.
A funding proposal may be submitted to the DFG by individual researchers or universities, depending on the programme. The DFG provides information, such as programme guidelines, to assist in the preparation and submission of proposals. These are available online or by mail. Questions may also be addressed to the DFG’s staff.
Prior to the review process the DFG Head Office checks the proposal to ensure that all of the formal requirements have been met. If not, the applicant has the opportunity to supply the missing information. The process only continues once the proposal is complete.
The quality of each proposal is assessed by peer reviewers selected by the DFG Head Office. The appropriate programme director must ensure that all important aspects of the proposal fall within the expertise of the selected reviewers. Reviewers must be recognised experts in their fields and be capable of giving an objective appraisal of the proposal. The Head Office is careful to avoid conflicts of interest arising from collaboration or competition, teacher-student relations, reciprocal reviews, etc. The DFG solicits statements from approximately 10,000 reviewers annually, from Germany and abroad. DFG reviewers work in an honorary capacity.
The reviewers prepare their statements, following careful consideration of the proposal. These statements form the basis for the subsequent funding decision. Review boards ensure that reviewers were selected appropriately.
The review boards, the members of which are selected from the scientific community, ensure the quality of the decision. In cases where the reviewers have prepared written evaluations, a separate procedural step is carried out. Here, the review boards assess whether reviewers were appropriately chosen and the content of their statements, in order to prepare a funding decision based on a comparison of all proposals received within the particular subject. The funding recommendation is then forwarded to the decision-making bodies.
Before the proposal reaches the decision-making body, it is once again checked by the DFG for errors and potential conflicts of interest.
In certain programmes proposals are initially passed to DFG Senate Committees, whose members are drawn from the scientific community. These committees discuss the proposals and make preliminary funding decisions.
The final funding decision, including the level of funding to be awarded, is made by the DFG’s Joint Committee or a Grants Committee, consisting of scientists and representatives from the federal and state governments and installed by the Joint Committee.
The DFG Head Office informs the applicant of the funding decision and may forward comments made during the review process.
Additional Information on DFG Programmes and the Review Process
The procedure described to the left also applies to the DFG’s coordinated programmes, such as Collaborative Research Centres, Research Training Groups, Priority Programmes and Research Units. The DFG has modified the procedure slightly, to allow for special requirements in these programmes. For example, members of review boards and the decision-making body join the on-site review panel, in order to ensure that the same quality and standards are applied throughout all programmes and disciplines, and to give an account of the experiences made on-site.
Decisions in the Excellence Initiative are also based on the same quality criteria as in other DFG programmes. However, as the German Science Council participates in the decision-making process, the schema has been modified slightly.