Information for Researchers, No. 5 | January 14, 2021

COVID-19 Focus Funding: Impacts of the Coronavirus Pandemic in the Global South: Health Systems and Society

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 the topic “Impacts of the Coronavirus Pandemic in the Global South”. With this subject the DFG is highlighting the countries and regions which have been particularly affected by the impacts of the pandemic due to major social disparities, a relatively weak economy, a high degree of informality, a lack of social security and overburdened health systems.

The call includes two thematic focus areas. The first is on research projects that address the health systems of the Global South, as well as their reaction to the pandemic and to the changes brought about by it. The second focus of the call is on projects that deal with the various changes to society triggered by the pandemic, for example in terms of migration, the economy, political systems or social practices. It must be convincingly demonstrated in the research project why the quantitative and/or qualitative data to be collated can only be collected and secured within a short, critical time frame due to the highly dynamic situation at present. The collected data may not be purely descriptive in nature, but instead must enable health systems to better understand how to deal with pandemics in the future or have a theoretical basis that makes it possible to analyse processes of social change. Applicants should explain how the research results can lead to further research projects.

Research projects that primarily address topics related to climate change and its impact on the pandemic are not eligible under this call. However, these projects may be submitted at any time to the DFG’s standard programmes.

In order to ensure that the projects can begin quickly, the call is explicitly aimed at researchers who have already established ties with their counterparts at research institutions in the Global South. It must be demonstrated convincingly in the proposal how existing research contacts or existing research data can be used to address the respective research question. Documentation of the intended collaboration must be submitted with the proposal. Furthermore, the situation in the selected country must be taken into consideration for the purposes of carrying out fieldwork to ensure that the project is realistically feasible. If a statement from the ethics committee is necessary, this must be submitted with the application 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 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 are supported through Focus Funding for a maximum period of twelve months. The amount is limited to the funding for staff and direct project costs in the basic module. The funding opportunities from the international instrument “Cooperation with Developing Countries” apply to the Focus Funding to fund international collaborations. 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: Globaler Süden” by 17 February 2021. When completing the proposal, please note the limitations on the funding duration and the funding modules available, 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 10 February 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:

Cooperation with developing countries:

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

Administrative questions can be directed to the following contact person: