Information for Researchers, No. 33 | May 3, 2021

COVID-19 Focus Funding: Exploiting Spatial Data as a Basis for Decision-making as Part of Pandemic Control

Extension of funding period and additional measures for certain programme areas

Extension of funding period and additional measures for certain programme areas

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, 2020). The projects can be used as preparation for subsequent larger-scale projects.

With this call for proposals, the DFG invites proposals on the topic “Exploiting spatial data as a basis for decision-making as part of pandemic control”.

Funding will be provided for the development and demonstration of innovative and creative approaches to data evaluation for a detailed spatio-temporal analysis of infection events. The aim should be, for example, to establish the basis for early detection of outbreaks (also on a local scale) or evaluate prevention and containment measures. Projects can either use innovative approaches to analyse pandemic events to date or set out to develop monitoring systems. In both cases, the use of various official, commercial or freely accessible data sources is conceivable, including mobile phone data, social media data, data from health authorities, behavioural and survey data etc.

The research objective and methodological approach must be presented concisely in the proposal. This also includes a description of the anticipated added value as compared to existing analytical methods, the planning of a demonstration on one or more examples and a plausible presentation of anticipated applicability beyond the concrete case study. In addition, a future perspective is to be provided to indicate potential later applications in research, prevention or containment of pandemics.

In order to ensure a swift start to the project, the proposal must demonstrate that the requirements for implementation of the project are met (e.g. availability and accessibility of data). Furthermore, the proposal must clearly show how the knowledge gained will contribute to a better understanding of the occurrence of infections or the effect of containment measures. Applicants should also explain how the research results can lead to further research projects. Projects should be clearly distinct from measures already in receipt of other funding.

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 twelve 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: Erschließen räumlicher Daten” by 25 May 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 18 May 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:

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

Administrative questions can be directed to the following contact persons:

  • Ansgar Demmer
    Gruppe Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften 2: 
    Sozial- und Verhaltenswissenschaften
    phone +49 228 885-2928