Information für die Wissenschaft Nr. 99 | 16. November 2021

NSF-DFG Lead Agency Opportunity in Molecular and Cellular Biology (NSF-DFG MolCellBio)

Recognising the importance of international collaborations in promoting scientific discoveries, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on research cooperation. The MoU provides for a Lead Agency arrangement whereby proposals may be submitted to either NSF or DFG.

To facilitate the support of collaborative work between US researchers and their German counterparts, the Division of Molecular and Cellular Bioscience (BIO/MCB) at NSF and the Division of Molecular and Organismal Biology and Agriculture (MOBA) at the DFG are pleased to announce a Lead Agency activity in the area of molecular and cell biology. The Lead Agency scheme allows for reciprocal acceptance of peer review through unsolicited mechanisms and its goal is to help reduce some of the current barriers to working internationally. US researchers are invited to read the Dear Colleague Letter NSF 22-015 (see link below).


US-German collaborations are invited to submit joint proposals in the areas covered by BIO/MCB and the DFG’s review board 201 “Basic Research in Biology and Medicine”. The proposals should focus on basic research at a molecular, subcellular or cellular level, including theoretical approaches. Proposals encompassing tissues, organs or whole animals cannot be considered. Research in the area of plant sciences, microbiology, immunology and neurosciences is also excluded. Proposals must provide a clear rationale for the need for a US-German collaboration, including the unique expertise and synergy that the collaborating groups will bring to the project.

Timeline for Submissions

Proposals can be submitted from 3 January 2022 on a continuous base. Please note that there is no deadline for submission to either agency.

Submission and Review

The prospective investigators should discuss within their research team where they believe the largest portion of the research lies and agree on a Lead Agency (either NSF or DFG). The proposers identify the Lead Agency, develop a joint proposal in accordance with the chosen Lead Agency’s standard rules and submit it to the Lead Agency following its submission procedures. Regardless of which organisation will serve as the Lead Agency for the proposal, German and US applicants are subject to DFG and NSF standard eligibility and programme requirements respectively.
Lead Agency proposals are reviewed in accordance with the general rules of the Lead Agency’s relevant funding programme. Proposals will be assessed in competition with all others submitted to the normal funding opportunity round, and outcomes will be subject to both success in peer review and the availability of funds from both DFG/MOBA and NSF/BIO/MCB. The Lead Agency will make reviews and assessments available to the non-Lead Agency as a basis for a joint discussion on the project’s success.

Information on Submitting Proposals to DFG

  1. Please note that the rules for funding eligibility apply to all proposers from Germany, including the duty to cooperate for non-university researchers. Any duty to cooperate for DFG applicants at non-university research institutions can only be fulfilled through cooperation with a partner at a German university/higher education institution (see DFG form 55.01).
  2. The DFG allows a maximum funding period of 36 months. Both US and German investigators should consider this requirement when structuring their proposals and considering the alignment of projects.
  3. The review, evaluation and decision processes on the funds applied for from the DFG will follow the rules and regulations of the individual grants programme (see link below) and funding notices will depend on the adherence to the same reporting and appropriation regulations (see DFG form 2.00).

    If DFG is the Lead Agency
  4. Please prepare the proposal according to the guidelines for the Research Grants Programme (see link below).
  5. Proposals must be submitted via elan, the DFG’s electronic proposal processing system. Please select “NSF-DFG MolCellBio” under “Proposal Data” (DO NOT select WEAVE). Enter a project acronym for your proposal. For each module, please only enter the funds requested from the DFG. Note that only Germany-based applicants should be entered as “applicants”. International partners should be entered as “cooperation partners”. A biographical sketch for each of the applying individuals should be provided, formatted according to the DFG guidelines for publication lists (see DFG form 1.91).
  6. The proposal must include a description of the full proposed research programme and research team, and the total resources for the joint project (meaning the funds requested for the US and German side).
  7. Letter(s) of Collaboration from participating US project partner(s) should be included. A separate document, the Justification of Resources, should include a clear summary and justification of the funds to be requested from NSF.
  8. NSF will only request copies of proposals that are to be awarded, after the funding decision is made. NSF will ask that the US PI prepare and submit the proposal that was reviewed by DFG, in accordance with the guidance contained in NSF 22-1 Proposal & Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (see link below).

    If NSF is Lead Agency
  9. While being a separate activity, the NSF-DFG MolCellBio Lead Agency activity is administered at the DFG similar to the WEAVE Programme, therefore please refer to DFG form 54.019en and follow the instructions therein (under “Submitting proposals to international funding organisations as Lead Agency”), including the submission of the project data form.
  10. A copy of the proposal, which was submitted to the NSF, must be submitted to the DFG within one week (or the proposal may otherwise be rejected for formal reasons).

For information on submitting proposals to the NSF, please refer to the Dear Colleague Letter NSF 22-015 (see link below).

Notification of results

Applicants will be informed in writing of the decision and, where applicable, of the subsequent administrative steps according to the respective national regulations.

Please note the DFG’s data protection notice on research funding (see link below). If necessary, please also forward this information to those individuals whose data will be processed by the DFG due to their involvement in your project.

Further Information

Dear Colleague Letter NSF:

NSF 22-1 Proposal & Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG):

Arriving at a decision in individual grants programmes:

Information on the Research Grants Programme:

Guidelines for the Research Grants Programme (DFG form 50.01):

Guidelines on the Duty to Cooperate (DFG form 55.01):

Reporting and Appropriation Regulations (DFG form 2.00, only in German available):

Guidelines for Publication Lists (see DFG form 1.91):

Weave Lead Agency Procedure (DFG form 54.019):

DFG’s Electronic Proposal Processing System for Applicants – elan:

DFG’s data protection notice on research funding: