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Basic principles of the DFG’s work in the area of equal opportunity and diversity

The DFG’s Equal Opportunities and Diversity Concept

Here we present the DFG’s approach to its work relating to the issue of equal opportunities and diversity.

The objectives are to achieve gender equality – one of the DFG’s key priorities – and also promote other dimensions of diversity based on the notion of intersectionality, i.e. taking the various dimensions of diversity into account jointly. Diversity in the research system, i.e. the inclusion of the full range of potential, is an important aspect when it comes to promoting quality of research. For this reason, DFG actively cultivates it at the structural level. In doing so, the DFG regards the diversity of researchers and non-discriminatory participation as a resource and an opportunity in the research system, not simply as a way of making up for disadvantages at the individual level. All in all, based on this concept and the measures that follow from it, the DFG seeks to provide impetus for greater diversity and equal opportunity within the German research system.

DFG support involves the recognition of categories of diversity in research careers, concrete options and provisions to be successively introduced in DFG funding, and offers of support for research institutions. In this way, the DFG strives to bring about cultural change in the research system in the long term. This can only be achieved in mutual interaction with the research institutions in Germany and with the respective strategies that these institutions pursue themselves.

The DFG’s concept primarily seeks to set standards for itself as a research funding organisation. As a self-governing organisation of research in Germany, it also endeavours to ensure that the measures developed from the concept are fed into the research system. Under the following link, the DFG will report continuously on the introduction of new measures in connection with its equity and diversity concept and what this means for applicants in concrete terms: www.dfg.de/equal_opportunities

In the course of 2020 and 2021, the DFG Head Office organised a total of four discussion events involving external experts, stakeholders and their interest groups relating to various diversity categories as well as members of the DFG’s statutory bodies.

The following issues were debated: which dimensions of diversity could and should the DFG address through its funding activities, to what extent are there structural obstacles in its funding system, and which gaps in funding ought to be closed, if any. The DFG’s equity and diversity concept was developed on this basis; after approval by the Executive Committee and Senate, it was adopted by the DFG Joint Committee on 28 June 2022.

The central aspect in evaluating a funding proposal is its research quality, as stipulated in the DFG statutes. Proposals whose research quality is insufficient do not receive funding.

In order to achieve excellence in research, however, diversity must be structurally incorporated both in the development of research ideas and in the staffing of a working group. This structural incorporation of diversity is a key concern addressed by the equity and diversity concept.

There are no plans to require or query the specific staffing of working groups on an individual basis with regard to characteristics other than gender. There are several reasons for this.

  • Working groups in research should be staffed according to the suitability of the individual researchers to the specific activity required by the project. In this context, taking diversity aspects into account means assessing suitability without prejudice or implicit bias, based on equity and according to transparent criteria.
  • Since research teams typically tend to be small working units, they cannot always be expected to include researchers who reflect different dimensions of diversity. Nonetheless, this is an aspect that should certainly be taken into consideration when staffing a research team.
  • Many dimensions of diversity touch on very personal areas of an individual’s life (such as social background or sexual orientation). It is a key concern of the DFG that researchers should not be subject to any pressure of disclosure regarding dimensions of diversity other than gender and date of birth – either when applying to the DFG or within their research institutions.

  • Decision-making process

The DFG maintains close contact with experts, other research (funding) organisations and other stakeholders on the issue of equity and diversity. In doing so, it regularly monitors national and international developments, as well as examining measures applied in other countries to assess whether they might be suitable for Germany.

Some other countries are indeed more advanced in many areas of diversity work compared to Germany; in the USA, for example, offices for “Equity, Diversity and Inclusion” (EDI) are largely standard at universities, and many research funding organisations design their programmes in a way that is sensitive to diversity. Nonetheless, it is not usually possible to simply copy existing strategies and measures from other national systems. Differing national priorities with regard to the dimensions of diversity addressed tend to derive from such aspects as the historical development of the country in question, the legislative environment and the composition of the population.

These are just a few examples which illustrate the disparity of the various national systems and the resulting need for measures to be tailored to the research system of the specific country. This is why the DFG has taken it upon itself to develop a concept that is specifically suited to the research system in Germany.

The equality of female and male researchers has been enshrined in the statutes of the DFG since 2002 (since 2021: “Gender Equality and Diversity in Research”). Furthermore, the DFG has been committed to the dimensions of diversity mentioned in the General Act on Equal Treatment (AGG) since 2006. These are: gender, sexual identity, disability, age, ethnic origin (including measures to combat racism), religion and beliefs. For details, see www.dfg.de/equal_opportunities.

In addition to these dimensions, for which further measures are now being developed, the concept will also take into account dimensions of “social background”. According to the DFG’s equity and diversity concept, these include originating from a non-academic home background (so-called “first generation academics”), a person’s financial resources or economic situation, their status after immigration or as a direct descendant of immigrants, and researchers who have fled or are seeking asylum.

  • This is an “integrated equity and diversity concept”: in other words, equal opportunity and the promotion of diversity are to be addressed jointly, not least so as to address intersectionality more effectively – i.e. the occurrence of several dimensions of inequality in a single person. Nonetheless, ensuring equal opportunities for female and male researchers continues to be a priority.
  • The DFG aims to identify any possible existing barriers that apply to certain groups within its funding programmes and structures and neutralise these as far as possible. As such, no special programmes will be offered for people who embody certain dimensions of diversity: instead, diversity will be supported as something that promotes quality research in all programmes.
  • One priority will be on measures aimed at raising awareness of the fact that people are not to suffer explicit or implicit discrimination as a result of prejudice or bias relating to diversity characteristics. Among other things, this will involve a cultural shift in terms of applying diversity-sensitive criteria to the assessment of individual performance.
  • Dimensions of diversity offer potential and broaden perspectives. The DFG explicitly opposes focusing on deficits or reinforcing prejudices.

The DFG’s equity and diversity concept provides for the successive development and implementation of measures over a period of approximately five years. The following five fields of action are to be addressed as a matter of priority:

  • expand awareness-raising measures for those involved in the DFG’s decision-making process (especially reviewers and committee members);
  • include the topic of diversity in the proposal documents required for submission under the DFG’s coordinated programmes;
  • expand the range of application for the Standard Allowance for Gender Equality Measures provided for in various DFG funding programmes under the heading “promotion of diversity”;
  • validate funding activity to promote diversity by collecting data and initiating research projects, thereby strengthening evidence-based action, and
  • establish centralised provision of information for the research system on the issue of diversity and DFG research funding, e.g. including information on disability and chronic illness specifically aimed at those working in research.

Over a period of several years, the Equal Opportunities Team at the DFG Head Office will develop, implement and publicise numerous measures in an ongoing process of consultation and participation with researchers, persons concerned and research institutions. Please feel free to send us any suggestions or recommendations in this regard or draw attention to aspects relating to equity and diversity in the DFG’s funding programmes.


The DFG will report on new measures on an ongoing basis under the www.dfg.de/equal_opportunities. Here you will also find details of contacts and online information events offered by the DFG’s Equal Opportunities Team.

In addition, the newsletter DFG-aktuell regularly provides information on a wide range of DFG topics, including equity and diversity measures as relevant.

Background information and further explanations

Here you will find background information and further explanations regarding the DFG’s work in the area of equal opportunity and diversity.

Contact persons

Here you will find the right contacts at the DFG Head Office for various matters: