The decision-making process for individual grants

Proposal submission

Individual researchers apply to the DFG for funding by submitting a proposal for an individual grant. The DFG Head Office provides information (e.g. guidelines) on the internet to help applicants prepare their proposal; contact persons are also available by telephone or e-mail. See here for information on individual grants.

The elan portal enables electronic submission of proposals. Here, applicants assign the proposal to a primary subject (in accordance with the DFG’s subject classification system), and the proposal is then received by the relevant department at the DFG Head Office. The first step carried out here is a check to make sure all formal requirements have been met and the proposal has been correctly submitted. At this stage, a check is also carried out to see whether it was submitted in the correct subject area or if it might be better suited to comparative assessment in a different subject area. Applicants then receive written confirmation of receipt, with queries if necessary. This also includes details of which persons at the DFG Head Office are responsible for processing the proposal.


The person responsible for the subject at the DFG Head Office selects suitable and competent reviewers for the proposal who also have the necessary overarching familiarity with current research in the respective field. Special care must be taken to avoid the appearance of bias that can arise in connection with close academic collaborations, competitive relationships, teacher/student relationships or peer review.

The reviewers’ vote provides the basis for the subsequent funding decision. Reviewers’ names remain confidential: this ensures their reviews are comprehensive and transparent. Any queries can be clarified via the Head Office.


After the review stage, the reviews and the proposal itself are submitted to a review board. The members are researchers who are elected by the communities. The review boards are responsible for the comparative evaluation of all proposals submitted in “their” subject areas and therefore for the quality assurance of the DFG’s funding decisions. The review board takes into account the reviewers’ comments and the relevance of their arguments. Bearing in mind the financial possibilities, the review boards prioritise the proposals and prepare a funding or rejection recommendation for each proposal. This comparative evaluation and the need to keep within the budget may mean that the recommendations made by review boards differ from the votes made by the reviewers.

In the case of proposals whose subject matter is relevant to several review boards, experts from the other review boards are consulted. In some review boards, subject forums and sections have been formed for the purpose of evaluation. The DFG has a broad range of expertise at its disposal for handling interdisciplinary proposals.

Before the decision-making body is involved, an independent department within the DFG checks whether the procedural rules have been observed.


The recommendations of the review boards are always submitted to the DFG Joint Committee together with the reviews. Based on an interdisciplinary comparison, this body makes the final decision on approval or rejection.

Notification of the decision

Once the decision has been made, applicants receive written notification from the DFG Head Office. The letter of approval or rejection is also accompanied by all reviews (in anonymised form) as well as notes from the deliberations in the committees.

Further Information