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FAQ: Research Fellowships

Frequently asked Questions

General Questions

I’m interested in applying to the DFG for a grant. Where can I find more information?

The DFG’s website contains links to programme information and contacts. Please clarify detailed questions on proposal submission, subject-specific inquiries, or the review status of proposals with the respective scientific programme staff.

Should reference letters be submitted together with the proposal, or can they be sent directly to the DFG by the persons who are writing them?

Reference letters are generally optional. If you will be including references, they can either be submitted together with the proposal or sent directly to the DFG by the reference writers.

In the latter case, please note the following: Approximately two to four weeks after you have submitted your proposal, the DFG will send you a confirmation letter including the reference number assigned to your proposal. Please forward this to those people who would like to send their statements directly to the DFG. Please note that should references be received earlier than your proposal or without reference numbers, the correct assignment to your proposal cannot be guaranteed.

What is the earliest date that I can submit a proposal for a research fellowship?

You can submit a proposal as soon as you have submitted your dissertation to the responsible examining body. In this case please transfer your submitted dissertation electronically, as well as evidence that you have submitted your doctoral thesis. A statement from your supervisor regarding your chances of success must also be submitted together with the proposal. Proof of successful completion of the doctorate, including the doctoral grade, must be submitted as soon as possible. In the event of grant approval, this can only be claimed if the doctoral degree has been awarded and the DFG has received appropriate proof.

How long will it take until I receive a decision on my proposal?

The current processing time cannot be predicted for individual cases. At present, the average processing time for the individual grants programme is approximately six months.

What are my chances for success?

The funding rate for proposals in the individual grants programme (including research fellowships and temporary positions for principal investigators) is between 30% and 40%.

May I submit my proposal in English?

Yes, information regarding the research project can also be submitted in English. Whether and to what extent other parts of your proposal can also be written in English differs according to subject area. Please discuss this with the responsible programme contact. If you plan to complete your proposal in English, please note that the title, summary, and requested funding sections must also be submitted in German.

I would like to do a doctorate and am looking for funding. Can I apply to the DFG directly?

The DFG does not offer direct, individual support for doctoral researchers. To be eligible to apply for a temporary position as principal investigator or a research fellowship, you must already have a doctorate. Doctoral researchers can be funded either through Research Training Groups or within other DFG-funded projects. Research Training Groups are university training programmes established for a specific time period, in which doctoral researchers gain their degrees in structured research and qualification programmes. Researchers who are eligible to submit proposals to the DFG may also apply for such positions within the individual grants programme. Please note, however, that doctorates must be completed outside of the DFG-funded project positions in such cases.

Additional information:

Research Fellowships

I also require additional direct costs for my fellowship: can I apply for these together with the fellowship?

In general, no additional funding can be requested in conjunction with a research grant apart from the funds for a fellowship and requested publications costs; the host institution is expected to provide the necessary direct support (desk space, support staff, equipment, consumables, etc.).

Can I receive additional funding/income during my DFG fellowship period?

Fellowships are intended to cover the recipients’ costs of living and enable them to devote their full working capacity to their research projects. Therefore, secondary employment is only possible in exceptional cases and in instances where it will not interfere with the fellowship objective. Fellows are required to inform the DFG fellowship office of secondary employment; such employment also requires approval by the DFG fellowship office.

The following items will be offset against the fellowship: income from employment, e.g. secondary employment; contributions to assist with the cost of living and benefits with monetary value provided by the host institute or other funding organisations; and benefits received by the fellow in accordance with the legislation on parental allowances and parental leave.

If you receive another fellowship or equivalent either prior to or during the fellowship period, please contact the DFG fellowship office staff as soon as possible to clarify if or to what extent this must be offset against your fellowship.

I am working at a research institution abroad and would like to apply for a research fellowship abroad. Is this possible?

German applicants educated at home (i.e. people who have completed the majority of their school and college education in Germany) are generally eligible to apply for an overseas research fellowship from abroad if they have spent no more than three years in the same foreign country following completion of their doctorate, they plan to spend their future career in Germany following the fellowship, and they declare this in writing at the time of application.

Is it possible to apply for a research fellowship to conduct a project in Germany?

No, research fellowships can only be requested to carry out research projects abroad. If you would like to conduct a project in Germany, the DFG offers funding for a temporary position as principal investigator.

I have spent the majority of my school and college education abroad, but am currently working in Germany. I would like to apply for a research fellowship abroad. Is this possible?

Yes, persons who have been working for at least three years in the German research system (in the doctoral or postdoctoral phase) are eligible to apply. Applicants must intend to continue their scientific career in Germany after the funding.

Is the host required to contribute to the fellowship?

The DFG expects the host institution to provide the necessary direct support (desk space, additional staff, equipment, consumables, etc.). Additional support by the host is welcomed but not mandatory.

Does it matter if I also apply to other funding organisations at the same time?

No, your proposal will not be treated or reviewed differently on account of this. Please note, however, that you are required to specify the other organisations to which you have applied in your proposal. You may not accept parallel funding. Please inform the DFG immediately if, during the review process, you decide to accept fellowship funding from another organisation.

Return  Grants

Can I apply for a return grant if I have already returned to Germany?

No, return grants must be requested from abroad at least two months prior to returning to Germany.

Can I apply for a return grant if I was given a sabbatical in Germany by my research institution for the period of the fellowship?

If there is a possibility of working in Germany directly following the stay abroad, a return grant cannot be awarded.

Can I also apply for a return grant from the DFG if I am working as a researcher abroad but funded from elsewhere, and not by the DFG?

No, previous funding through a DFG research fellowship abroad is a strict prerequisite for eligibility to apply for a DFG return grant.

How do I apply for a return grant from the DFG?

This information is given in the DFG’s guidelines for research fellowships:

What statement must be made by the host institution?

The host institution must state that appropriate working resources are being made available for the duration of the return grant. This statement should be signed by the office that, depending on the organisation of the university or non-university research institution, can provide authoritative approval for the resources and core support. The signature of the professor in whose research group you would like to work is sufficient for this purpose.

Planning Your Fellowship

Additional tips and information

Additional tips and information related to organisational aspects of your fellowship are only available in German.

DFG Contacts

Proposal Submission

Additional information on the proposal process can be obtained from the relevant programme staff

Queries on programme eligibility can be addressed to

  • Anita Benner

  • Birgit Gemein

  • Marco Steffes

by e-mail: Verfahren-Nachwuchs@dfg.de,
by telephone: Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:00 am to noon,
at 0228/885-3008

Questions During Your Fellowship Period

If you have any questions regarding your fellowship, please contact our fellowship office staff.

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