Questions on proposals

General administrative questions

You can do this as soon as you have submitted your dissertation to the responsible examinations office. You will need to include the following documents with your proposal:

  • An electronic version of your dissertation
  • Proof of submission of your dissertation
  • A statement from your dissertation supervisor on the prospects of success for your doctoral project.

Please forward details of your doctoral grade as soon as you receive this information. Proof of completion of the doctorate should be forwarded as quickly as possible.

If a proposal is approved, funding cannot be accessed until the doctorate has been completed and proof of completion submitted to the DFG.

General questions

You are eligible to apply for funding through the WBP if you are in an early qualification phase following your doctorate and are seeking a career in research.

Special rules apply for proposals submitted from outside Germany, or from persons who have completed the majority of their schooling or university education outside Germany. Please note the relevant instructions.

You do not need to be in current employment to be eligible to submit a proposal.

The Walter Benjamin Programme is aimed exclusively at postdocs in an early phase after completion of their doctorate. The guideline is the EU definition of “recognised researcher” (R2), to be developed according to the specific subject area. No formal deadline for submission of proposals is specified in the programme. Parental leave is taken into consideration.

For advanced postdoctoral researchers, the DFG offers individual funding opportunities in the Emmy Noether Programme and for researchers eligible to be appointed as professors, the Heisenberg Programme.

There are clear differences between the WBP and research grants in terms of funding objectives, requirements and funding criteria.

The aim of the WBP is to provide funding for the applicant's research career. It funds a stay at a host institution during an early career phase. Therefore, the review process for the WBP also considers the applicant's career potential. In particular, for the WB position this also applies for the planned support.

The research grant, on the other hand, is intended to fund an independent project and this is the focus of the review process rather than the career development of the person managing the project.

Whether you wish to carry out your project in Germany or abroad, you will need to locate it at a research institution. In the case of funding through a WB position, you will need an institution that will take on the role of employer.

Please note that the programme supports geographic mobility (see FAQ “Do I need to change institution?”).

Before you submit a proposal, you need to identify a host institution that will accept you. The institution must provide an assurance to this effect when the proposal is submitted (see question: What assurances need to be provided by the institutions/host researcher?). For the WB position in particular, you need a researcher who will support your career development and describe the specific measures planned for this purpose.

The Walter Benjamin Programme generally involves a change of institution. As an instrument for individual funding, the programme aims to support mobility in the early career stage following a doctorate. Mobility remains an important component of a research career in most disciplines in order to establish a personal, independent research profile and build up networks.

Your position should not be located at the university where you completed your doctorate or where you are currently based. If, despite this, you wish to conduct your project there, you will need special justification. For example, cases where family reasons (childcare, relatives in need of care) allow only limited geographic mobility or cases of highly specialised subjects for which facilities such as essential infrastructures are available only at the current institution. In such situations, there must also be a particular focus on processing new themes (thematic development of your research) and this must be justified in the proposal.

No restrictions apply for the Walter Benjamin position. For the Walter Benjamin fellowship (or a combined proposal), you are eligible to submit a proposal only if you have worked for at least three years in the German research system (during the doctoral phase and subsequently) in Germany.

No restrictions apply for the Walter Benjamin position. Researchers based abroad can apply for the position irrespective of nationality and whether they have previously worked in Germany. You will need to present an “Employer’s declaration” (DFG form 41.027) from a German research institution and prove that a local researcher is supporting your career development.

For the Walter Benjamin fellowship (or in the case of a combined proposal), you are eligible to submit a proposal only if you completed the majority of your schooling and university education in Germany and if you spent no longer than three years abroad for research purposes after your doctorate in Germany or abroad.

In addition, you must not have been working for the host institution selected for the fellowship in a research capacity for more than one year. The date of the proposal shall apply.

You must include your curriculum vitae. The documents explained in the guidelines and in the FAQ “What assurances need to be provided by the institutions/host researcher?” must also be submitted.

Please do not attach any endorsements from third parties to your proposal. Only the information provided by you in the proposal will be reviewed and evaluated. To make sure all applicants receive equal treatment, endorsements are not passed on to reviewers or decision-making bodies. The supporting letter for the WB position is different and is not covered here.

If your project involves other persons or cooperation partners, you must include confirmation from these people with your proposal, together with a description of the planned cooperation for the project in the proposal. (See the chapter “Cooperation with researchers in Germany and abroad for this project” in the WBP guidelines DFG form 50.10).

If you have not completed your doctorate at the time of submitting the proposal, please note the additional instructions.

Proposal funding/modules

1. Remuneration (generally exclusively 100%) for the applicant, optionally over the three modules

  • Walter Benjamin fellowship (abroad)
  • Walter Benjamin position (in Germany), or
  • rotation position under the Walter Benjamin Programme (in Germany).

For information on options for combining the modules, see the other FAQs.

2. Regardless of the type of module, a standard monthly allowance for direct project costs of €250 is granted as flat-rate funding for direct costs and travel expenses as well as publication costs.

3. The only other items for which funding can be applied for are increased publication allowances for book publications of up to €5,000 per year.

All other required items (funds for additional staff, allowance for direct project costs, investments, etc.) must be provided by the institutions at which the project is to be carried out. This support is considered in the review process.

Funding under the Walter Benjamin Programme is provided for a maximum period of two years. Extensions are permitted only in a limited number of exceptional cases.

A project costs allowance is granted. No other funds (with the exception of high publication costs for planned book publications) can be applied for in addition to a Walter Benjamin fellowship or the Walter Benjamin position. The expectation is that the host institution will provide the required additional allowance for direct project costs.

It is not possible to submit a proposal for a research grant in parallel.

Proposals for the Walter Benjamin fellowship must be accompanied by an informal declaration from the host promising to accept the applicant in the event of approval, and provide a workplace for the performance of the project.

In the case of the Walter Benjamin position (or rotation position), the host institution must confirm that it will be your employer for the duration of the project (-> employer’s declaration form DFG form 41.027). You will also need an informal signed statement from the host researcher at this institution.

If your proposal relates to a rotation position, you also need to follow the proposal instructions provided in the module guidelines DFG form 52.04 - 06/19.

The DFG expects the host to guarantee your work facilities for the planned period. If additional funds are required for the implementation of the project (additional staff, equipment, consumables, etc.), these must also be guaranteed. A further contribution to your fellowship remuneration is desirable, but this is not mandatory.

This statement is not a letter of testimonial for your character or an appraisal of your research work to date. Instead, it should clarify how you will be supported and advised in relation to your career during the funding period. Before submitting your proposal, please agree with your contact person at the host institution the relevant support measures that will be available for you. The aim is for you to conduct your research independently, implement your own research project while at the same time benefiting from career development measures.

In the statement, the host researcher promises his or her support. If additional funds will be required for the implementation of your project, an assurance must be provided that these will be made available to an appropriate extent on site.

He or she must also explain the specific measures and activities he or she intends to use to contribute to the development of your research career. These measures could include:

  • Feedback on the progress of your research project and advice on suitable activities to develop your independent research profile.
  • Consultations and mentoring in relation to your career prospects and plans, and advice on appropriate next steps for your career.
  • Measures to ensure integration in thematically relevant research groups at the local institution and in regional, national and international research networks.
  • Enabling participation at key conferences in your research area and at technical training sessions.
  • Support for your cross-disciplinary qualification. For example, guaranteed access to training opportunities for postdocs at your host institution (e.g. sessions on career planning or management qualifications).

This list provides examples of possible support measures. The contact person must describe the relevant measures as meaningfully and specifically as possible in the statement.

The decisive factor is which non-university research institution you wish to choose for the temporary position for principal investigator and for your project, rather than the institution you are coming from.

In the case of a proposal for the Walter Benjamin position module (or rotation position) in the Walter Benjamin Programme, the “institution with a duty to cooperate” must generally guarantee funding for 45% of this position in addition to the support services set out in the programme.

This applies for the following institutions:

  • Institute or member organisation of the Max Planck Society, the Fraunhofer Society and the Helmholtz Association,
  • Member organisations of the Leibniz Association, if as an exception these do not pay one-off amounts to the DFG,
  • Research institutions associated with these organisations which receive their basic funding from public funds,
  • German locations of internationally funded research institutions.

Whether you submit a proposal for a position (or rotation position) in Germany, a fellowship in another country or a combination of both depends entirely on your project, for which you can choose the most suitable environment.

Submission of a proposal for a combination has neither advantages nor disadvantages in the funding review process. The deciding factor is what makes sense for your project. If you submit a proposal for a combination of the two modules, clearly specify in your proposal which months you would like to spend at a specific institution for the position or fellowship. Make sure that the acceptances from the institutions correspond with the details you provide. It is also essential that the two phases are directly consecutive.

Funding in Germany is generally provided through a Walter Benjamin position. Outside Germany, funding is provided through a Walter Benjamin fellowship.

Yes, for up to 3 months in agreement with the future employer.

No, the rotation position is intended for Germany. It is, however, possible to combine the rotation position in Germany with the Walter Benjamin fellowship abroad.

No, however, the objective of the funding through the programme should be achievable.

If you are planning to spend a period of one to three months abroad, please discuss with your future employer whether this phase would be better completed through a position.

Yes, for example, two phases in different institutions or locations abroad are permitted. The periods must be specified in the proposal. Agreements from the host institutions to this effect must be included with the proposal.

Yes, for example, two phases in different institutions or locations in Germany are permitted. The periods must be specified in the proposal. The employer’s declarations and statements from the host researchers must be included with the proposal.

No. The approval must show the number of months during which your research will be funded at the relevant institution. You must therefore specify precisely in the proposal the number of months you wish to spend researching at a specific institution.

No, because the review process for a proposal in the Walter Benjamin Programme makes no distinction between a position or a fellowship. The most important factor is that you choose a suitable environment for your project – whether this is in Germany or abroad or a combination of the two. Uniform funding criteria apply for the programme.

No, funding will end in such cases. If this is a new project and the other requirements for the programme have been met, you can, if you wish, submit a new proposal for a project through the WBP.

No, your proposal will not be treated or reviewed any differently. However, you must specify in your proposal the other organisations which you have also applied to for funding. Parallel uptake of funding is not permitted. Please inform the DFG immediately if at any point during the review process you decide to accept alternative funding.

In its calculation of fellowship grants (plus additional amounts) the DFG assumes that these will cover the necessary living expenses at the relevant location to enable you to devote yourself entirely to the planned research project. Additional employment is therefore permitted only in exceptional cases provided this does not adversely affect the objective of the fellowship. This must be reported to and approved by the Fellowship Office.

Possible income from employment, i.e. from an additional occupation, will also be offset against the fellowship according to the applicable guidelines, as will flat-rate allowances for living expenses and monetary value benefits from the host institute or other funding organisations, and benefits according to legislation on parental leave and family allowances.

If, before the start of and/or during your fellowship visit, you receive an additional fellowship or similar benefits, please contact the Fellowship Office immediately to clarify whether and to what extent these sums must be offset against your fellowship benefits.

No, it is not possible to combine the WB position, rotation position or WB fellowship with an existing part-time position. Proposals for funding through the Walter Benjamin Programme must be on a full-time basis.

You can submit a proposal at any time while in (part-time) employment and wait for the result of the review process. If approval is granted, you would then need to terminate other existing employment relationships before the start of the project, i.e. before taking up the WB position, rotation position or WB fellowship, as you are obliged to devote all your working time to the approved WBP project.

If, at the time of submitting a proposal, you can already anticipate that due to family reasons or a disability/chronic illness you will want to take up the position/fellowship part-time only, please nevertheless submit your proposal on a full-time basis. Calculate the duration of the project and then work out how much time this would require on a full-time basis. Reductions in working hours or subsequent increases to full-time employment can be implemented flexibly to suit your current needs when you take up the position/fellowship.

Funding under the Walter Benjamin Programme can be taken up as part-time funding solely for family reasons. In particular, in cases where the grant recipient looks after children living in the household or relatives in need of care, or in the event of his or her own disability or chronic illness. No other reasons are recognised.

It should be noted that in the case of funding for a fellowship, benefits are also granted which are intended to enable the recipient to work full time. For details, refer to the information for parents in connection with a Walter Benjamin fellowship (DFG form 55.05 - 06/19).

In the case of part-time uptake, in the interest of the productivity of the project, the scope of the position or fellowship should not be below 50%. In the case of the position, the scope can be reduced only in connection with parental leave, with 20% as the very lowest threshold.

All available working hours must be devoted to the project. No other occupations alongside the part-time funding received through the Walter Benjamin Programme are permitted.

For all questions relating to legal time frames, please contact your research institution’s human resources department as it alone can and must decide how statutory options for fixed term employment can be used in your case and to what extent the institution is prepared to conclude a fixed-term employment contract with you.