FAQ: Natural Sciences

These are some of the questions frequently asked by researchers in chemistry, physics, mathematics and the geosciences.

Review boards 322 (Chemical Solid State and Surface Research), 323 (Physical Chemistry), 324 (Analytical Chemistry) and 326 (Polymer Research) meet in the Chemistry 1 expert forum, whereas review boards 321 (Molecular Chemistry), 325 (Biological Chemistry and Food Chemistry) and 327 (Theoretical Chemistry) meet in the Chemistry 2 expert forum.

The Chemistry 1 and Chemistry 2 expert fora generally meet five times a year. All proposals are compared and evaluated in a discussion held among the members of the respective forum, and the funding priorities of each one are ranked together.

It is now possible for researchers at different locations to submit proposals for a Research Unit. However, like transregional Collaborative Research Centres, but on a smaller scale, multi-location Research Units for mathematics are expected to form a potential "national team" working on promising research topic. The additional value to science expected of a multi-location initiative must be discussed explicitly. Research Units in mathematics which typically involve between 5 and 8 projects but can also link to other disciplines come under the normal process and therefore compete directly with funding for individual projects. In order to select the best from a large number of initiatives while taking account of the financial circumstances, the initiatives for which proposals have been requested also undergo comparative review. A cycle emerges as a result: it is advantageous to submit ideas for new Research Units in mathematics in the autumn; the Mathematics Review Board decides at the beginning of the following year on the basis of written reviews whether or not to request that a full proposal be drawn up and submitted. The full proposals which are then submitted in the summer might undergo comparative review in the autumn and the Senate and the Joint Committee of the DFG make the final decision in the first quarter of the following year. Researchers proposing initiatives for Research Units are recommended to telephone the DFG Head Office for advice early in the planning phase.

The objectives and work programme of interdisciplinary proposals which are submitted jointly with researchers from other disciplines should be formulated clearly and structured so that the funds requested can be allocated unambiguously to the applicants and the disciplines. Joint proposals should not be made by more than four applicants, as otherwise the limit for a Research Unit can be reached or even exceeded. When the proposal is submitted, the participating disciplines can be specified so that they can be taken into account in the review as appropriate. The Review Board primarily responsible carries out the final evaluation of the proposal; if it cannot be clearly assigned to a Review Board (because the proposal involves different subjects equally, for example), it is possible for the proposal to be reviewed by more than one Review Board. Generally speaking, the following should also be considered: If the proposed research project concerns a new mathematical method, that is, genuinely new mathematics, the proposal should be submitted for mathematics as the primary discipline. If, however, the new method for the intended research is "only" a new method in the sense that it has not yet been applied but in principle is a known and usable method, then the proposal should be submitted in the appropriate discipline (usually that of the application). Please contact the DFG Head Office with any questions.

Statistics is a cross-disciplinary subject which is essentially a mathematical discipline. Proposals in mathematical statistics fall naturally within the remit of the Mathematics Review Board. For proposals which go beyond mathematical statistics, the gist of the answers to question M2 applies.

Research proposals in the area of didactics are as a rule not processed in individual disciplines, but under Education Sciences where they should be submitted.

Proposal documents must be submitted to the DFG in pdf format, so there is no restriction on the text processing system used to create them. However, the specifications in the guidelines and instructions regarding font and font size in particular must be followed. The specifications for the project description for research grants (font Arial, font size 11) are given in Guidelines 54.01. It is important that the pdf documents created from LaTex can be searched for text strings.

The Review Boards for chemistry, physics, mathematics and geosciences require proposals to be written in English. This allows Head Office to ask English-speaking as well as German-speaking researchers to review them. All of the project description (including section 4 on the funds requested) should be in English. The English outline is in

At proposal level, any amount between 50% and 100% can be allocated to a doctoral post. However, in the areas for which the physics, mathematics and geosciences review boards are responsible, doctoral posts are as rule granted a maximum amount (upper limit) of 75%. There is an overview for all the disciplines here:

Proposal documents must comply with the DFG's instructions on lists of publications. These are summarised in Guidelines 1.91. For project-specific lists of publications and in the publications listed in the curriculum vitae, papers which are stored in public databases come under 1.1.2 "Other publications". These papers can also be listed in the bibliography. It is not necessary to attach these papers in a file.

DFG funding can be requested for field and laboratory work in other countries. As a rule this covers funds with which to finance the cooperation partner's assistants and consumables on site. The work programme for the project and the cost plan must justify the costs; the DFG does not specify fixed amounts for these posts. The cooperation partner is expected to make a reasonable contribution which should be clearly set out in the proposal to the DFG. This also applies to collaboration with developing countries. Please address any further questions to the specialist responsible for this area.

If you have any questions about funding opportunities offered by the DFG or about subject-specific issues, the relevant contacts at the Head Office will be happy to help you.

Further Information

on DFG funding programmes: