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Press Release No. 33 | 5 July 2012
DFG: Universities Must Continue to Be the Heart of the Science Research System in the Future

Annual Press Conference in Berlin / Call for Better Balance between Core Funding and Third-party Funding in Teaching and Research / Annual Report for 2011 Presented

In discussions involving the future structure and funding of the German science research system, in the view of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation), universities must play a central role in all considerations. "Whatever will be discussed in the coming months in terms of new conditions, forms of cooperation and funding models - the universities deserve to be in the driver’s seat and steer new models of cooperation," said DFG President Professor Matthias Kleiner at the annual press conference of Germany's central research funding organisation on Thursday, 5 July 2012, in Berlin. The universities must also continue to be "the heart of the science research system" in the future, stressed Kleiner, thus making reference to similar statements by the German Federal Minister for Education and Research, Professor Annette Schavan.

In order to continue to fulfil their important role, universities must be better equipped financially, Kleiner emphasised. It is particularly necessary to create a "better balance between core funding and third-party funding in teaching and research," said the DFG President.

Other topics at the annual press conference include the decisions taken recently in the second phase of the Excellence Initiative, the Annual Meeting of the DFG from 2 to 4 July in Dortmund, Germany, and the address given there by German Federal President Dr. h. c. Joachim Gauck, and the DFG's funding activities over the past year. In addition to DFG President Kleiner and Secretary General Dorothee Dzwonnek, the annual press conference was also attended by Professor Peter Strohschneider, who was elected the next president of the DFG by the General Assembly in Dortmund on 4 July. He will take up office on 1 January 2013 as successor to Kleiner, who, after serving for six years, will leave office at the end of the year.

The decisions taken in the middle of June in the second phase of the Excellence Initiative have, in the opinion of the DFG, made clear that top-level research in Germany covers a very broad and diverse range. "More than two-thirds of all state universities have taken part in this round of the competition, more than half of all making it through to the final round. And the 45 graduate schools, 43 clusters of excellence and 11 institutional strategies now approved come from significantly more than a third of the universities," said Kleiner.

The breadth and diversity of the top-level research is also clear from the distribution of disciplines, the DFG President added. The new projects, which will be funded for five years as of November 2012, came from all areas of science. "The humanities, cultural and social sciences are not only well represented - despite some criticisms about alleged discrimination against them or inadequate forms of funding - they have even improved, and with 16 graduate schools and 6 clusters of excellence now form the second largest contingent overall, ahead of the natural and engineering sciences," said Kleiner. In the regional distribution the success of the Dresden University of Technology was singled out.

With regard to financing the science research system, the DFG President first of all explicitly welcomed the latest funding decisions of the Joint Science Conference of the federal and state governments. A total of approximately 2.7 billion euros will be available to the DFG in the coming year. "This is a strong signal of the high priority that science and research funding have for politicians," said Kleiner.

However, the universities’ core funding continues to decrease, said the DFG President. This has a negative impact on academic training, but also on research and its funding, in his view. Kleiner said: "In the funding of research, our most sensible approach is always to start from concrete research practice and to ask ourselves what will particularly benefit research. From this practice, we know that science also needs deceleration and quiet periods in order to develop and expand. Against this backdrop, we must be sensitive to the perception of any critical mood in the science system against growing competitive pressure and third-party funding pressures, and of the activities of researchers being increasingly characterised by the acquisition of third-party funding."

To improve the financial resources of the universities, the DFG believes that a stronger commitment by the German federal government is also necessary. On this issue, at the annual press conference Kleiner supported the initiative of Federal Research Minister Annette Schavan to amend the Constitution. "The federal government should be able to fund projects and institutions at universities following amendment to the Constitution," said the DFG President. However, it is equally necessary to enable the states to meet their constitutional obligations with regard to university financing.

Kleiner praised the visit and the address by German President Dr. h.c. Joachim Gauck at the ceremony in conjunction with the DFG Annual Meeting as an "important signal for science and its importance to society." The German President had truly given "time for science", said Kleiner with reference to the theme of the Annual Meeting and added: "I was very impressed with how the President, in a very personal way, encouraged science and asked it to take responsibility and involve itself even more intensely and in a more accessible way in major issues regarding our future. And his phrase, that the greatest benefit of science was knowledge, resonates with all of us."

The DFG’s Annual Report 2011 was also presented at the annual press conference. The 300-page publication illustrates the activity and funding priorities of the past year, including the modularisation of the DFG programme portfolio, the selection of the review boards and the preparations for the second round of the Excellence Initiative, as well as the DFG’s internationalisation strategy.

In a detailed statistical section the Annual Report also presents the most important figures and numerous statistics on the DFG's funding activities. These show that the DFG had over 2.5 billion euros at its disposal in 2011. Of this, 67.0 percent came from the federal government, 32.7 percent from the states and 0.3 percent from foundations and private donations. Across all programmes, a total of around 32,500 projects were currently receiving funding. Of these more than 15,000 projects were in the individual grants programme, which again formed the backbone of research funding provided by the DFG. For 2011, approximately 955 million euros were granted to them.

In the coordinated programmes, in 259 ongoing Collaborative Research Centres more than 4,890 projects were being carried out with a funding volume of approximately 561 million euros. Also funded were 223 Research Training Groups (funding volume: ca. 143 million euros), 110 Priority Programs with just under 3,500 projects (ca. 201 million euros) and 268 Research Units with over 2,600 projects (ca. 175 million euros). In the 6 DFG Research Centres the funding volume for 2011 amounted to almost 42 million euros. In the expiring first phase of the Excellence Initiative, 407 million euros were awarded to the 85 institutions funded for 2011.

In terms of distribution across scientific areas, around 39 percent of the approved funding went to the life sciences, approximately 24 percent to the natural sciences, around 22 percent to the engineering sciences and approximately 15 percent to the humanities and social sciences.

Further Information

Media contact:

  • Marco Finetti,
    Head of DFG Press and Public Relations,
    Tel. +49 228 885-2230,

The DFG’s Annual Report 2011 is available at

The "Programmes and Projects" section of the report provides an overview of the funded projects along with additional information.

The Annual Report 2011 can also be ordered in print form from the DFG Press and Public Relations Office.