DFG funding activities in the context of the pandemic

Schmuckbild: Förderhandeln im Kontext der Pandemie

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What measures did the DFG take during the pandemic?

In order to counter restrictions on research activity during the acute phases of the pandemic, the DFG offered specific funding and support measures to mitigate the impact of these restrictions. 

There are also a number of options in the regular funding spectrum that allow a flexible response to unforeseen factors influencing the implementation of research projects.

  • The DFG’s funding guidelines give substantial leeway for the flexible use of approved funds. In individual programs (e.g. Individual Research Grants, Walter Benjamin Program), projects can be started up to one year after approval, without forfeiting funds.
  • The funding guidelines also provide extensive scope for flexible, project-targeted use of the approved funds.
  • Supplementary proposals can be submitted at any time under DFG Individual Grants Programmes if additional funding is required because unforeseeable reasons have led to project delays (e.g. additional personnel funding is request for contract extensions in the event of project delays as a result of damage to critical infrastructure).

In light of the impact of the Corona pandemic on the sciences, the DFG has extended the deadline for participation in a number of its current calls and programs, and time delays in project progress have been addressed with deadline extensions:

  • Extension of calls and proposal submission deadlines under the Emmy Noether Programme
  • Postponement of renewal proposal reviews and granting of bridging funding for Research Units, Priority Programmes and Collaborative Research Centres
  • Research Training Groups and Collaborative Research Centres were temporarily given the opportunity to apply for funds that could not be spent in a single financial year to be carried over to the following year if the necessity was justified.

During the acute phase, scientists found continuously updated information:

As part of the measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus, there were significant disruptions to regular research operations. In March 2020, the DFG therefore addressed the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic on project work in a letter.

Financial burdens were cushioned by granting additional funding to cover personnel and direct project costs:

  • Additional personnel and direct project funding for a period of up to three months in connection with project-based funding
  • Follow-up funding for Research Units, Priority Programmes, Research Training Groups and for funding recipients under the Walter Benjamin, Emmy Noether and Heisenberg Programmes

Those affected by contact and travel restrictions were supported in a variety of ways:

  • Applicants could inform reviewers of downtime or a pandemic-related special approach to their work in the curriculum vitae, in the description of preliminary work, or in another appropriate place in the application.
  • Allocation of cancellation costs to project funds
  • Conversion of Walter Benjamin fellowships into Walter Benjamin positions in Germany, including financial compensation for costs incurred abroad.
  • Flexible formats for review and evaluation meetings (in writing, by video, face-to-face, hybrid).

In March 2022, the Senate Working Group on the Challenges of the Coronavirus Pandemic in Connection with Research Activity, Individual Career Paths and Funding Action published Guidelines on the individual impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Research Activity. The Senate Working Group recommends appropriate consideration of the limitations.

What research related to the coronavirus pandemic does the DFG fund?

During the coronavirus pandemic, numerous DFG-funded projects have become a focus of public attention due to their topic areas. These include projects that relate directly to coronaviruses, projects investigating the basic principles of pathogens and diseases and their pandemic potential, and those concerned with the impacts of pandemics.

The coronavirus pandemic demonstrates that scientifically based knowledge is essential to the handling of the current pandemic. Here you will find selected projects which the DFG has funded in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic or is currently funding. To read more about individual projects and for further information, please refer to the project information system GEPRIS.

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is funding 51 new interdisciplinary projects with a total of €31.5 million to carry out research into epidemics and pandemics. This is the outcome of a broad interdisciplinary call for proposals launched by Germany’s largest research funding organization and central self-governing body for research following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The funded projects cover a wide spectrum of topics and disciplinary perspectives. These range from modelling the occurrence of infections to healthcare under pandemic conditions and global causes such as land use. A whole series of projects focus on the impact of COVID-19 on research itself and the research system, or look at the role of science and the humanities and science communication in times of crisis.

In April 2022, the DFG published a report on “DFG Funding Activities in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic”. This report provides key figures relating to grant applications, to the procedures for processing proposals and to international cooperation during the height of the pandemic. The report also offers insights into research funding relating to epidemics, pandemics and COVID-19, and it provides a substantive classification of funding proposals in this thematic area.