What is the DFG?

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is the central self-governing research funding organisation in Germany. The DFG serves the sciences and humanities and promotes research of the highest quality in all its forms and disciplines at universities and non-university research institutions. The focus is on funding projects developed by the academic community itself in the area of knowledge-driven research.

The DFG funds research projects, creates competitive opportunities and conducts procedures for the review, evaluation, selection and decision of research proposals. It helps shape the overall conditions and standards of academic research. The DFG maintains dialogue with society, politics and business and supports the transfer of knowledge. It advises state institutions and institutions working in the public interest on issues relating to academic research and research policy.

Moreover, the DFG takes particular care to promote international cooperation, early career researchers, gender equality and diversity in science and the humanities.

The DFG has a current annual budget over €3.9 billion, provided primarily by the German federal government (69.7 percent) and the states (29.4 percent).

The DFG is an association under private law. Its member organisations include universities, non-university research institutions, such as the Max Planck Society, Fraunhofer, the Helmholtz Association and the Leibniz Association, academies of sciences and humanities, and scientific associations. The Head Office supports the work of the statutory and additional bodies.

The DFG’s mission: promoting research of the highest quality

The DFG’s primary task is to promote excellent knowledge-driven research, especially at universities. Funding science across the entire spectrum of academic disciplines and scientific institutions, the DFG also has a special responsibility to shape the development of the German science system in general. In this context, the DFG’s three main areas of responsibility are as follows:

  1. The DFG selects and funds incoming research proposals, enabling a fair, science-led competition.
  2. The DFG adopts strategic funding initiatives to support specific research fields or to react upon acute research needs or upon suggestions for expanding collaborative ventures in certain cases.
  3. The DFG helps shape appropriate conditions and standards of academic research.

Within the DFG, researchers make funding decisions and other decisions on a self-organised basis – as members elected by the academic community to the DFG’s statutory bodies.

Enabling fair, science-led competition

Eligible individuals, groups or institutions can submit funding proposals to the DFG at any time and on any topic. To this end, the DFG’s funding portfolio includes a broad range of different funding instruments that cover all academic disciplines and all phases of the research process as well as a wide variety of project formats and forms of collaboration and all career stages.

For its funding instruments, the DFG develops processes for peer review, comparative assessment and decision-making which specify, among other things, the proposal requirements, process sequences and rules, the supervision of the review bodies (in particular the review boards) and decision-making bodies, the decisions themselves and the financial handling of the approvals. In order to identify expertise and reviewers, the DFG maintains a large international network in all academic disciplines, thereby ensuring project-specific review of every conceivable research topic at the highest level.

Die DFG takes particular care to promote early career researchers and offers them programmes which provide appropriate support at every phase of their qualification. The DFG has also adopted principles of effective career support in academia in order to recommend universities and non-university research organisations how to structure the situation of researchers in early career phases.

A strategic response to research needs

The DFG identifies current needs in specific research fields or acute research needs in order to be able to respond early by offering strategic funding initiatives. Strategic funding also includes targeted support for international collaboration. The DFG designs its funding instruments to be as open as possible to national and international collaboration.

Many DFG-funded projects are not geared to application; for this reason, the DFG specifically promotes the transfer of knowledge from the research it funds in its various dimensions. This includes funding for science communication and citizen science in DFG-funded projects.

Suggestions for strategic action come from the academic communities themselves – directly from the communities or from the review boards, from the Executive Committee, the Senate, the project groups and commissions appointed by the Executive Committee, the Senate commissions and subcommittees, and – in consultation with the bodies – the Head Office. Here, too, solely the criteria of academic quality are considered when assessing research proposals.

Shaping sound conditions and standards of academic research

The DFG seeks to shape the best possible conditions and standards of academic research and contributes to establishing these in the research system through its funding instruments, thereby creating a modern research culture.

The DFG nationally and internationally promotes independent research, rigorous and consistent scientific, ethical and legal standards, equality, diversity and equal opportunities. It harnesses the opportunities of the digital turn, shapes legal frameworks that promote science, and fosters sustainability. As the voice of science in political and social discourse, it counsels and participates in political decision-making processes with scientific expertise.

Researchers must be able to access suitable, appropriate research infrastructures in order to be able to carry out their research. For this reason, the DFG also funds research infrastructures, scientific instrumentation and information technologies, as well as scientific library services and information systems.

Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany

The Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany is a union of the most important German research organisations. It issues statements relating to research policy and funding and the structural development of the German research system.

Further Information on the Alliance