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Submitting a proposal

Before Submitting a Proposal

Before you actually submit a proposal, you must look for the correct funding programme. You can obtain information to help you with this from the DFG website, from the DFG programme contacts and from the DFG liaison officers at your university.

Who is eligible to submit a proposal to the DFG?

Researchers in Germany, or those working at a German research institution abroad, who have completed their academic training (a doctorate as a rule) are eligible to submit a proposal.

In general you are not eligible to submit a proposal if you work at an institution that is not non-profit or one that does not allow immediate publication of research findings in a generally accessible form. Researchers who are employed at one of the institutes or member organisations of the Max Planck Society, Fraunhofer Society, Helmholtz Association or Leibniz Association, researchers working at a publicly funded institute associated with one of these research institutions, and researchers working at international research facilities located in Germany should note the rules on the duty to cooperate.

Please see the relevant guidelines for information on the particular eligibility requirements for each DFG programme.

What rules apply to applicants with fixed-term employment contracts?

Researchers on fixed-term employment contracts can also submit proposals to the DFG. The proposal must contain the information that the employment relationship is fixed-term and also indicate the date that it ends. The proposal will then be reviewed on the basis of this information. An informal statement from the management of the institute confirming that the applicant will continue to be employed throughout the duration of the project is helpful.

Researchers at non-university research institutions are eligible in principle if they are categorised as "early career researchers". Early career researchers in this context are all researchers who are employed on a fixed-term basis. These proposals must also state that the contract is fixed-term and indicate when it expires. After the employment relationship ends, funds that have been awarded can only be used if there are other opportunities for employment. Applications for a temporary position for a principal investigator are governed by special regulations.

What kind of funding is available in the DFG's portfolio of funding programmes?

An overview of the DFG's funding programmes and of the guidelines and forms can be found at

Which funding programme is the right one?

The choice depends on a number of different factors:

Who is submitting the proposal?

Individual researchers submit proposals for the DFG's individual grant programmes, for Research Units and Priority Programmes. Research Units and Priority Programmes are part of the DFG's "Coordinated Programmes". Coordinated programmes promote cooperation and structural innovation by encouraging national and international collaboration in areas of current relevance and by concentrating scientific potential at a university. Proposals for Research Training Groups, Collaborative Research Centres and DFG Research Centres, which are also Coordinated Programmes, are submitted by institutions.


What stage of his or her career has the researcher submitting the proposal reached?

Is funding required for a single project?

Is funding required for a position as a researcher?

Is funding required for research infrastructure or information systems?

Is funding required for international collaboration?


Once a suitable programme has been chosen, the applicant is offered several modules to tailor the funding exactly to the requirement. These can be accessed via the compact overviews of the programmes.

What must I consider before submitting a proposal?

There are several factors that an applicant must consider before submitting a proposal. This applies to subject-specific issues and to funding programmes intended specifically for early career researchers or international collaboration. The DFG also provides suitable instruments for proposals with the potential for knowledge transfer.

Whom can I contact with questions about submitting the proposal?

The DFG programme contacts for specific subjects and the DFG liaison officers at the universities can advise on the choice of a suitable programme and on other questions arising during the submission process.

What principles must I consider?

The principles below apply to the submission of a proposal as a matter of course. They include good scientific practice, various aspects of diversity and legal requirements.

Where can I find more information about a career in research, about international cooperation and about subject-specific questions?

The DFG has a particular obligation towards certain groups. The duty to fund early career researchers or to support international collaboration is set out in the DFG's statutes. The "Research Careers" and "International Cooperation" pages offer details about specific funding programmes and other information. The DFG also supports scientific exchange and potential areas of application by funding knowledge transfer.

In some disciplines, particularly in the life sciences, there is specific information for applicants:

Information for the Planning Phase

There are several things that applicants must consider before submitting a proposal. These things should be taken into account before designing the proposal.

Have the infrastructure resources been secured?

If your project requires significant infrastructure resources, such as equipment or IT infrastructures, you should check during the preparation phase that the appropriate resources exist in your research environment, and whether they are available for your use. You will find an overview of research infrastructures available in Germany in the RISources information portal.

Have all the statements and approvals been obtained?

If tests on humans or on material taken from humans will form part of your project, you will, as a rule, need to submit a statement from the appropriate ethics committee with your proposal. This should be requested as early as possible to avoid unnecessary delays.

What is the relevance of the reusability of research data?

If your project includes the systematic collection of research data which could be re-used later, a plan detailing how this data will be transferred to existing databases or repositories should accompany your proposal. In such cases, it is often advisable to make contact with the operators of the appropriate infrastructures during the planning phases. This allows existing standards to be used, as well as enabling any costs involved in this step to be integrated into the proposal.

Does the project adhere to CBD guidelines?

If your proposed project involves the collection and transport of biological material outside Germany, it may come under the provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). If this is the case, applicants should inform themselves in good time about the regulations in place in their host country, and seek collaboration with researchers there. Further information is provided in the detailed guidelines.

Who should be informed about a DFG proposal?

The DFG requests applicants to inform the DFG liaison officer at their university about the proposal.

DFG Proposal Process

The programme contact can also provide answers to questions arising during the proposal process.

How do I prepare my proposal?

Proposals submitted to the DFG vary very much depending on the programme in question. However, there are some basic details which all proposals must include, irrespective of whether they are submitted in writing or via the elan portal. There is a two-stage proposal submission process for some programmes. In the first phase applicants submit a preliminary proposal, a draft proposal or a plan and are only asked to submit a full proposal when this has been reviewed positively. The information required includes:

  • Details of the participating people/institutions

  • A description of the project, such as the state of the art in your field and preliminary work, objectives, work programme and proposed research methods and duration

  • Requested modules and funds

  • Conditions for project implementation

What happens to my proposal?

The steps from submission of the proposal through the review process to a decision are explained under

What must I consider when compiling a list of publications?

Lists of publications in proposals, draft proposals and final reports are governed by rules specific to the DFG. In order to keep the focus on the description of the research project, the number of own publications listed in the application is specified.

What is the role of the project summary in the proposal submission process?

Special attention must be paid to the text summarising the project because it is used to describe the project in the DFG project information system Gepris as well as in the proposal. It is therefore key to providing information about the project and should be written in German and in English, using generally comprehensible language.

This text is also published in the "Programmes and Projects" section of the DFG's Annual Report. The DFG requests notification of any changes to data within four weeks so that the database can be kept up-to-date.

How do I find out whether my proposal has been approved or rejected?

All applicants receive notification of an award or a rejection in writing from the DFG. Notification of award includes information about the funds granted. Notification of rejection also gives reasons for the rejection and information about the decisions taken.

After the Award

Once the proposal has been approved, the real work can begin. However there are more matters which must be given consideration in the next stages of the process, until the project is complete.

What must I do after the proposal has been approved?

Once a proposal has been approved, the work can begin. Information can be found in the forms and guidelines for each programme on how to request funding and how it should be used.

The DFG requests recipients to inform the DFG liaison officers at their institution of the award.

What are the permitted uses of funding?

The DFG approves funding for direct project costs and staff. In some cases, the funds are designated as "global funding". This means a total amount is applied for and awarded which is not categorised into direct project costs or funding for staff (such as funding for equal opportunities). The DFG awards funding for staff in the form of standard amounts. These amounts are calculated by the DFG Head Office for a typical scenario using the relevant pay scale based on the working hours (full or part-time) and the duration of the employment.

The level on the pay scale is the responsibility of the research institution or the hospital as the employer.

Please contact the External Audits Department of the DFG with questions about the financial arrangements for your project. Please state the business reference and the cost item.

I need equipment. How do I apply for equipment and what specifications apply?

If the price of the equipment you require for the project exceeds €10,000, the Central Purchasing Office at the DFG is responsible for its purchase. As a rule, the DFG acquires this equipment and loans it to you.

Invoice documents must be sent to the DFG immediately so that an inventory can be drawn up. The DFG provides funding for equipment with the proviso that it is used for the research project that has been approved. If the equipment is sold at a later date, the DFG must receive a proportion of any gains.

What are programme allowances for indirect project costs and how do I apply for them?

In addition to the approved funding, the DFG grants programme allowances for indirect project costs for most programmes. The Higher Education Pact 2020 allows the DFG to pay these allowances for approved projects. The programme allowance for indirect project costs amounts to 22% of the chargeable direct project costs. A separate proposal is not required for the programme allowance for indirect project costs. A proportion of the programme allowance for indirect project costs is paid with each draw-down on funds. The university at which the project is being conducted decides how the programme allowance for indirect project costs is to be used.

See the relevant usage guidelines and forms for drawing down funds at

Can I apply for more funding?

The modularisation of the DFG programmes makes it possible to re-apply for individual modules.

What must I do when the DFG funding comes to an end?

When they are awarded funding, applicants undertake to submit interim reports according to the specifications for their programme. When the project ends, they must also deliver a final report with information about the content and successful outcomes of the project. The report includes publications and a progress report and should be ten pages long at most. The final reports are also described in the usage guidelines.

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