Information for Researchers, No. 99 | December 14, 2020

COVID-19 Focus Funding: Measures to Prevent Infection in Social Settings and Population Groups

With its COVID-19 Focus Funding, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has developed a new funding opportunity designed to enable scientists to address especially urgent research questions requiring rapid answers (cf. DFG Information for Researchers No. 51). The projects can be used as preparation for subsequent larger-scale projects.

In this call under COVID-19 Focus Funding, the DFG is inviting proposals on measures to prevent infection in social settings and population groups.

In the absence of widespread vaccination or effective medicines against COVID-19, protection against infection currently relies on implementing measures to change people’s behaviour and on changes to social norms. The acceptance, feasibility, implementation as well as the effectiveness of the measures vary among social settings and different group of populations. This means that in certain social settings, measures to prevent infection are only possible to a limited extent or are associated with high social and societal costs. The impact of these barriers against becoming infected in social settings is unclear. Likewise, the acceptance of behavioural recommendations among different population groups also varies.

The focus of this call is on measures relating to individual behaviour and/or contact between people. Applicants are expected to explain the scientific relevance of the social settings and/or population groups chosen with regard to containing the pandemic. In addition to collecting and analysing quantitative and qualitative data on the current pandemic, it is also possible to address the topic from a historical perspective by comparing previous pandemics or by using a modelling approach. The research projects should go beyond individual case studies and form the basis for generalised statements on how the current pandemic can be managed. An outlook of future research activities, such as a systematic evaluation of the measures and how they can be implemented or the development of new measures, is desired but not compulsory. However, a clear differentiation must be made from projects which are ongoing or which have been completed.

In order to ensure that projects can begin quickly and that they can be completed within no more than 12 months, the call is predominantly aimed at researchers who already have access to the relevant settings and/or population groups, who can ensure access to them reasonably and quickly or who have access to existing (historical) sources and/or data. An appropriate description, including evidence, should be included in the proposal. If a statement from the ethics committee is necessary, this must be submitted with the proposal or shortly thereafter (see the FAQ for proposals in the humanities and social sciences and in life sciences, available in German only).

Type of Funding

To submit research projects under this call, applicants should use the newly developed COVID-19 Focus Funding instrument, which takes the form of an individual research grant. Focus Funding seeks to enable scientific communities to pursue, in a rapid and simplified process, research on current questions in response to the ongoing need for rapid knowledge of the highest quality as a contribution to analysing and overcoming the coronavirus pandemic.

Individual projects limited to the topic of the call can be supported through Focus Funding for a maximum period of 12 months. The amount is limited to the funding for staff and direct project costs in the basic module. Unlike proposals for individual projects, in Focus Funding, instrumentation over €10,000 and the modules for Mercator fellows, temporary positions for principal investigators, substitutes, temporary substitutes for clinicians, and project-specific workshops are not eligible for funding.

Support is available for projects of the highest scientific quality that break new scientific ground, promise to deliver a substantial contribution to knowledge on the specific research question of the call and are expected to be completed in a funding period of up to one year. The brevity of the proposal documents and the short funding duration of a maximum of only one year mean that the applicant must have a sound track record – demonstrated for example by past merits (publications, awards, etc.) – and that established research infrastructure and a corresponding repertoire of methods must be available. In all other respects, the normal quality criteria for DFG funding apply.


To apply for financial support through COVID-19 Focus Funding, applicants must submit a brief proposal containing a description of the scientific project of no more than five pages. Detailed information can be found in the proposal instructions and guidelines for COVID-19 Focus Funding. A proposal template is also available. Proposals, curricula vitae and other proposal documents should be in English and should be submitted via the elan portal under “Fokus COVID-19: Infektionsprävention” by 13 January 2021. When completing the proposal, please note the limitations on the funding duration and available funding modules, as these cannot be preset in the system.

If this is your first proposal to the DFG, please note that you must register in the elan portal before you can submit your proposal. Registration must be completed by 7 January 2021 to be able to submit your proposal under this call.

Researchers based at universities, universities of applied sciences, non-university research institutions and healthcare facilities are equally eligible to submit proposals. As an exception, this funding measure is exempted from the normal duty to cooperate in order to integrate all areas of science in Germany and enable rapid action. In all other respects, the normal eligibility requirements apply.

Further Information

Detailed information on the coronavirus pandemic:

DFG Information for Researchers No. 51/2020 with additional information on Focus Funding can be found at:



Elan template:

FAQ for proposals in the humanities and social sciences

FAQ for proposals in the life sciences

Questions about the call can be directed to the following DFG programme contacts:

Administrative questions can be directed to the following contact person:

  • Ansgar Demmer
    Humanities and Social Sciences 2: Social and Behavioural Sciences
    phone +49 228 885-2928