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Information for Researchers No. 8 | 17 January 2020
Research Units and Centres for Advanced Studies in the Field of Artificial Intelligence

Please note

Given the current tense situation caused by the spread of the coronavirus, the deadline is extended for Draft proposals until 16 September 2020 and for full proposals until 8 September 2021.

As part of its strategic funding initiative on artificial intelligence (AI), the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) invites proposals for the funding of Research Units and Centres for Advanced Studies in order to foster knowledge-driven basic research in this field.

AI methods are increasingly becoming an integral part of the research process in many fields of science and the humanities. Successful integration of AI into basic research and the scientific investigation of AI itself should therefore go hand in hand.

The aim of this call is to promote the interlinking of AI methods with areas of research that either use AI techniques to gain scientific insights or that investigate overarching issues related to the use of AI.

The call is therefore geared at teams of outstanding researchers seeking to collaborate on AI methods for the purposes mentioned above. Research projects of exceptional scientific quality and originality are eligible for funding. The cooperation of the participating researchers within the Research Unit or Centre for Advanced Studies must generate a distinct added value that clearly exceeds the possibilities of individual project grants.

Funding objectives

The methodological and thematic objective is to closely link research into AI techniques with another field of research (“partner field”) within the Research Unit or Centre for Advanced Studies. The partner field can be one that uses AI methods to gain scientific insights or one that investigates overarching questions associated with the use of AI. Overarching questions include, but are not limited to, formal questions addressed in mathematics and computer science, epistemic and practical scientific questions, as well as legal and sociological questions. Mutual added value resulting from the cooperation between research into AI methods and the partner field must be explicitly sought and described in the proposal.

For profile-raising purposes, the collaboration must have a recognisable local focus. The structural objective is to integrate the methodological and thematic objectives of the Research Unit or Centre for Advanced Studies into the local long-term research profile. The integration of a professorship (“bridge professorship”), either by creating a new professorship or by integrating a suitable existing professorship at the interface between AI methodology research and the partner field, should support this objective. It is therefore necessary to specify who will assume the bridge professorship. The relevant infrastructural environment and the corresponding objectives of the participating institutions must be described (e.g. access to data collections, computer infrastructure). The project-specific needs for profile-raising infrastructure funding should be presented accordingly.

Within the DFG’s strategic AI funding initiative, the term AI methods is defined very broadly. It encompasses areas including, but not limited to: machine learning, logic and reasoning, data analytics and data mining, knowledge representation, knowledge-based systems, planning, uncertainty modelling, Bayesian methods, explainability, inference; and, in particular, mathematical, statistical and informatical analysis of the properties of methods from the aforementioned subject areas.

This call also invites proposals for Centres for Advanced Studies. The restriction of this funding instrument to the humanities and social sciences does not apply in the context of this call. These centres are characterised by collaboration requiring intensive research by two to three principal investigators as well as intensive exchange with guests from Germany and abroad. The suitability of this format for the research question must be justified accordingly. All methodological and thematic objectives of this call also apply to Centres for Advanced Studies proposed in this context.

Requirements for draft proposals and full proposals

Unless otherwise specified in this call, the standard rules on eligibility and proposal submission relevant to Research Units and Centres for Advanced Studies apply here as well.

To integrate the bridge professorship, one of the following conditions must be met:

  • The “Professorships” module is submitted for this person as part of the project.
  • At the time of draft proposal submission, the person has been offered a temporary or permanent professorship at the relevant institution. By the time the full proposal is submitted, this offer should have been accepted.
  • The person has been nominated for an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship at the time of draft proposal submission. By the time the full proposal is submitted, the person should have been offered the professorship at the location and accepted the offer.
  • The person holds a temporary professorship.
  • The person has been newly appointed to the institution (usually no more than 3 years ago) on a permanent basis.

Bridge professorships that are not yet permanent are expected to be made permanent for the collaboration to be eligible for a second funding period. A corresponding written commitment from the respective institution must be attached to the renewal proposal.

Deadlines and proposal submission

Draft proposals must be submitted in English via the DFG’s elan portal by 17 June 2020 (Given the current tense situation caused by the spread of the coronavirus, the deadline is extended until 16 September 2020).

Please note that you must be registered on the elan portal before submitting your draft proposal. You must register by 10 June 2020 (Given the current tense situation caused by the spread of the coronavirus, the deadline is extended until 9 September 2020) to be able to submit a draft proposal. Confirmation of registration will generally be sent by the following working day.

The deadline for submitting full proposals in English is 23 June 2021 (Given the current tense situation caused by the spread of the coronavirus, the deadline is extended until 8 September 2021).

All modules listed in the Guidelines Research Units Programme and the Guidelines Centres for Advanced Studies can be used.

To ensure that the submitted draft proposals and full proposals are assigned to the AI call correctly, the project title in the elan portal must be preceded by the designation “KI-FOR”.

Funding duration

The total funding duration for a Research Unit or Centre for Advanced Studies is eight years. The first funding period is four years. A decision on continued funding will be made following a review on the basis of a renewal proposal.

Plan of action

This call for proposals is part of a strategic DFG funding initiative in the field of AI. It constitutes the second part of a package of measures designed to support knowledge-driven basic research in AI. Another call for Research Units and Centres for Advanced Studies in this field is planned for 2021.

The first part of the measures package involves three calls for proposals and funding for Emmy Noether independent junior research groups, of which the first call has already been issued. The aim is to attract the next generation of highly qualified researchers who focus on AI methods by opening up academic research career options with a high degree of autonomy at an early stage.

The measures envisage giving those funded under the AI initiative the opportunity to exchange ideas and network with each other and with other national and international stakeholders in the field at various events. Grantees are expected to present the results of their projects in this context.

The DFG intends to create synergies between the projects it funds under its AI initiative and Alexander von Humboldt Professorships, especially those awarded for contributions to the German Federal Government’s Artificial Intelligence Strategy.

Further Information

Information about other calls for proposals within the “Artificial Intelligence” funding initiative:

Detailed information on the funding programmes and proposal procedure can be found in DFG forms 50.04 and 54.03 for Research Units and 50.09 and 54.04 for Centres for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences (note that the restriction to the humanities and social sciences does not apply within this call):

Contacts at the DFG Head Office:


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