General Questions about Proposals and Proposal Submission

Before you actually submit a proposal, you must look for the correct funding programme. You can obtain information to help you with this from the DFG website, from the DFG programme contacts and from the DFG liaison officers at your university.

Researchers in Germany, or those working at a German research institution abroad, who have completed their academic training (a doctorate as a rule) are eligible to submit a proposal.

In general you are not eligible to submit a proposal if you work at an institution that is not non-profit or one that does not allow immediate publication of research findings in a generally accessible form. Researchers who are employed at one of the institutes or member organisations of the Max Planck Society, Fraunhofer Society, Helmholtz Association or Leibniz Association, researchers working at a publicly funded institute associated with one of these research institutions, and researchers working at international research facilities located in Germany should note the rules on the duty to cooperate.

Please see the relevant guidelines for information on the particular eligibility requirements for each DFG programme.

Researchers on fixed-term employment contracts can also submit proposals to the DFG. The proposal must contain the information that the employment relationship is fixed-term and also indicate the date that it ends. The proposal will then be reviewed on the basis of this information. An informal statement from the management of the institute confirming that the applicant will continue to be employed throughout the duration of the project is helpful.

Researchers at non-university research institutions are eligible in principle if they are categorised as "early career researchers". Early career researchers in this context are all researchers who are employed on a fixed-term basis. These proposals must also state that the contract is fixed-term and indicate when it expires. After the employment relationship ends, funds that have been awarded can only be used if there are other opportunities for employment. Applications for a temporary position for a principal investigator are governed by special regulations.

An overview of the DFG's funding programmes and of the guidelines and forms can be found at

The choice depends on a number of different factors:

Who is submitting the proposal?

Individual researchers submit proposals for the DFG's individual grant programmes, for Research Units and Priority Programmes. Research Units and Priority Programmes are part of the DFG's "Coordinated Programmes". Coordinated programmes promote cooperation and structural innovation by encouraging national and international collaboration in areas of current relevance and by concentrating scientific potential at a university. Proposals for Research Training Groups, Collaborative Research Centres and DFG Research Centres, which are also Coordinated Programmes, are submitted by institutions.

What stage of his or her career has the researcher submitting the proposal reached?

Is funding required for a single project?

Is funding required for a position as a researcher?

Is funding required for research infrastructure or information systems?

Is funding required for international collaboration?

Once a suitable programme has been chosen, the applicant is offered several modules to tailor the funding exactly to the requirement. These can be accessed via the compact overviews of the programmes.

The DFG has a wide range of options to support international collaborative ventures.

DFG support for collaborative ventures

  • Travel funds and guest funds for foreign cooperation partners as part of the Basic Module
  • Travel funds and, where applicable, remuneration for foreign cooperation partners in connection with the Mercator Fellows module
  • Travel funds for foreign cooperation partners in connection with the Project-Specific Workshops module
  • Funds for project implementation by the foreign cooperation partner under special procedures via transfer of funds on the part of the project leader entitled to apply to the DFG (cooperation with the Middle East and with developing countries)
  • In exceptional cases, it is possible for the researcher abroad to apply directly to the DFG to obtain funding for individual research projects in connection with an established DFG Priority Programme or with individual projects being pursued by a DFG Research Unit. In such instances, the project abroad must make an important additional contribution to achieving the objectives of the network and add significant value to the projects planned in Germany.

Support for cooperation provided by foreign partner organisations

In addition, researchers at a foreign research institution can participate as part of a so-called “general international cooperation”.

Further Information

There are several factors that an applicant must consider before submitting a proposal. This applies to subject-specific issues and to funding programmes intended specifically for early career researchers or international collaboration. The DFG also provides suitable instruments for proposals with the potential for knowledge transfer.

The DFG programme contacts for specific subjects and the DFG liaison officers at the universities can advise on the choice of a suitable programme and on other questions arising during the submission process.

The principles below apply to the submission of a proposal as a matter of course. They include good scientific practice, various aspects of diversity and legal requirements.

The DFG has a particular obligation towards certain groups. The duty to fund early career researchers or to support international collaboration is set out in the DFG's statutes. The "Research Careers" and "International Cooperation" pages offer details about specific funding programmes and other information. The DFG also supports scientific exchange and potential areas of application by funding knowledge transfer.

In some disciplines, particularly in the life sciences, there is specific information for applicants:

Logo: elan - DFG-Portal für Antragstellende, Gutachtende und Gremienmitglieder

Proposals submitted to the DFG vary very much depending on the programme in question. However, there are some basic details which all proposals must include, irrespective of whether they are submitted in writing or via the elan portal. There is a two-stage proposal submission process for some programmes. In the first phase applicants submit a preliminary proposal, a draft proposal or a plan and are only asked to submit a proposal when this has been reviewed positively. The submission of a revised draft application is possible once.

The information required includes:

  • Details of the participating people/institutions
  • A description of the project, such as the state of the art in your field and preliminary work, objectives, work programme and proposed research methods and duration
  • Requested modules and funds
  • Conditions for project implementation

The steps from submission of the proposal through the review process to a decision shows the following graph.

- Graph
- Decision-making process

Lists of publications in proposals, draft proposals and final reports are governed by rules specific to the DFG. In order to keep the focus on the description of the research project, the number of own publications listed in the application is specified.

Logo: GEPRIS – Informationssystem zu DFG-geförderten Projekten

Special attention must be paid to the text summarising the project because it is used to describe the project in the DFG project information system Gepris as well as in the proposal. It is therefore key to providing information about the project and should be written in German and in English, using generally comprehensible language.

This text is also published in the "Programmes and Projects" section of the DFG's Annual Report. The DFG requests notification of any changes to data within four weeks so that the database can be kept up-to-date.

The DFG offers applicants and funding recipients the opportunity to voluntarily present personal situations/cases of hardship and request that such situations be taken into account when processing proposals or claiming funding. Examples of this might include unavoidable delays in an academic career due to family obligations (child-raising/care obligations) or due to a serious illness. For more information on this subject, see:

All applicants receive notification of an award or a rejection in writing from the DFG. Notification of award includes information about the funds granted. Notification of rejection also gives reasons for the rejection and information about the decisions taken.

Electronic Proposal Processing and Research Information Systems

Further FAQs on submitting proposals to funding programmes