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General Information on Dealing with Diversity in the Processing of Proposals

Proposal preparation - do I need to make allowances for special circumstances?

In order to assess appropriately an individual's academic achievements, due consideration must be given to individual circumstances. In this context, equal opportunities in research means that appropriate allowance must be made for unavoidable delays in an individual's career development if it benefits the individual.

The following are some of the circumstances which can lead to unavoidable delays in the development of an academic career:

  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Childcare
  • Care of family members
  • Disability or chronic illness
  • Long period of serious illness
  • National service (military or civilian)

If long intervals between qualifications, a failure to publish regularly or fewer visits abroad result from these circumstances, appropriate allowances should be made for the applicant. However, there is no obligation to disclose all of the above, essentially private, circumstances when submitting a proposal to the DFG. Nevertheless, it may be very helpful to disclose this information in order to explain what may otherwise appear to be unjustified gaps in a person's career development.

Applicants who wish to explain unavoidable delays in their career development must therefore explicitly state the relevant circumstances in the proposal, covering letter and curriculum vitae and if necessary (if the circumstance is not self-explanatory) attach a short explanation.

Both males and females should always indicate in the curriculum vitae the dates of birth of children and periods of childcare (e.g. periods during which an individual temporarily gave up work for maternity or paternity leave).

If, due to the unavoidable delays mentioned above, formal programme criteria are not met (for example, a stipulated period after obtaining a doctorate has elapsed), please get in touch with the stipulated contacts to obtain information about possible allowances.

The request for allowances to be made in individual circumstances can ensure that, despite unavoidable delays in the curriculum vitae, an assessment is made based only the academic achievements of an applicant up to that point.

Review process - excluding non-scientific criteria

In a statement about its role, the DFG said: "The main task of the DFG is to select the best projects by researchers at universities and research institutions on a competitive basis and to finance these projects." The reviewers, who work on a voluntary basis, apply "only scientific criteria" to the votes cast on the proposals. So how does the DFG's Head Office deal with external reviews which mention non-scientific criteria as part of the assessment?

Fundamentally, non-scientific criteria such as the applicant's age, gender, ethnic background, sexual orientation, health or disability must never be used to influence decisions on DFG funding to the disadvantage of the applicant. When researchers submit a proposal to the review process, the reviewers receive instructions which contain guidance in this respect.

The evaluation of a funding proposal by a review board is also based on scientific criteria only. The group members always evaluate the time individuals have spent pursuing a career in research in relation to their achievements up to that point. This means that long intervals between qualifications, a failure to publish regularly or fewer periods abroad are not interpreted to the applicant's disadvantage if they were unavoidable; that is, they were due to caring for a child or another family member, or to sickness or disability. These non-scientific criteria are only taken into account when making allowances for the applicant.

The review boards also examine preliminary reviews for non-scientific and therefore inapplicable criteria. In the event of this, the review board will consider the relevance of an inapplicable criterion for the scientific content of the review. This is because the scientific content of the review can only be taken into account in the decision made by the review board if it considers the criterion of only passing interest. In its own scientific evaluation of the funding proposal, the review board will not use the inapplicable criterion in any event. If the review board considers the scientific content of a review unusable due to the non-scientific criteria included in the review, it will reject it completely and ask the DFG's Head Office to conduct a new review.

This procedure guarantees that the funding recommendations made by the review board and the subsequent final decisions by the statutory bodies are never founded on non-scientific criteria but always only on scientific criteria. This is the principle that the DFG upholds in all its funding activities.