Press Release No. 1 | January 13, 2020

DFG2020 – Because Research Matters: Nationwide Campaign Highlights the Value of Free Research

Numerous activities and unusual formats planned / New President Katja Becker: "Academic research needs to engage everyone" / Press conference in Berlin

Numerous activities and unusual formats planned / New President Katja Becker: "Academic research needs to engage everyone" / Press conference in Berlin

Over the course of 2020, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) will be running a highly visible nationwide campaign to raise awareness of the principles of free, independent research and its value to an open, informed society. On Monday, 13 January 2020, the aims and selected features of the campaign, which has the motto DFG2020 – Because Research Matters, were presented by the new DFG President Professor Katja Becker in Berlin. "The purpose of the campaign is to show how essential knowledge and the sciences and humanities are and why it's especially important at the present time to recognise that they matter," said the medical scientist, who took over the presidency of the largest research funding organisation and central self-governing body of the research community in Germany on 1 January.

The campaign coincides with the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the DFG's predecessor organisation, the Notgemeinschaft der Deutschen Wissenschaft, in 1920. "What we are celebrating this year is not the 100-year history of an institution, but the 100th anniversary of science-driven research funding. This principle, established during a period of severe austerity, has been a success story since then. But academic freedom can no longer be taken for granted everywhere, despite the fact that it is becoming increasingly important in the face of global challenges such as climate change, species loss, resource scarcity and population growth," said Becker at a press conference at Berlin's WissenschaftsForum. "We want to show the general public our commitment to independent academic research and inspire them to advocate for it too."

DFG2020 – Because Research Matters will achieve this aim with a wide range of activities and, according to Becker, "some unusual formats", developed by the DFG in partnership with Hamburg communications agency Mann beißt Hund and other arts and culture partners and designed to appeal to different target audiences.

A key element of the campaign is the #fürdasWissen ("forKnowledge") expedition with its own specially designed tour bus, which was presented at the press conference at Berlin's Gendarmenmarkt. Starting in the spring, members of the theatre and performance collective Kompanie Kopfstand will be touring Germany on behalf of the DFG, engaging with the public at around a dozen locations and talking about the importance of academic research, expectations of it and trust in it. The artists will be supported by researchers from local universities and institutes.

The expedition will tour both larger university towns and smaller towns with less research infrastructure and tradition. "Science matters to everyone, and that's why it needs to engage with everyone: people who are already interested in academic research but especially those who haven't had much contact with it before," said the DFG President. "We aim to share our enthusiasm for the potential of science as well as show the workings and limitations of the scientific endeavour."

The expedition bus will also call at DFG member organisations, which, like other universities and research institutes, will be hosting their own events throughout the year to tie in with the campaign. In this way, the campaign will be supported by the research community itself and be integrated in that community.

Accompanied by a social media presence, the expedition will start in April in Hamburg, with other stops including Bad Münstereifel, Zeche Zollverein in Essen and Sankt Peter Ording. At the close of the expedition, in early November the DFG will combine a celebration of the 30th anniversary of its Research Training Groups programme with a colourful public event at the 'Base Camp' in Bonn.

Also at the funding organisation's Bonn headquarters, as well as in the Cologne-Bonn region, a bus and tram service featuring a DFG2020 design will operate throughout the year, raising awareness of the campaign and the value of independent research in the public space.

The campaign will also focus on digital formats, first and foremost with the online campaign #fürdasWissen. Using this hashtag, people can create text, image and video statements explaining why they opted "for knowledge". "The reasons may be as diverse as people themselves, but they all stem from the same stance, acknowledging the value of knowledge," said Becker. Statements will be posted on the DFG Twitter account DFG @dfg_public and on the DFG2020 website, which will go live at the same time as today's press conference and will provide regularly updated information. There will also be a new Instagram account, designed primarily to appeal to a younger audience through images.

The DFG will also organise a series of events in partnership with other organisations, especially Stifterverband, whose predecessor organisation was also founded in 1920 as the Stifterverband für die Notgemeinschaft der deutschen Wissenschaft. Since then it has encouraged support for the DFG and the research community as a whole through industry and private donations. At the beginning of July, the DFG and Stifterverband intend to hold their annual meetings in parallel in Berlin. The highlight will be a joint event at the city's Tempodrom on 1 July, which Federal President Dr. Frank Walter Steinmeier is expected to attend. In another partnership, the DFG is taking part in this year's national poster competition for design students organised by the Deutsches Studentenwerk (German National Association for Student Affairs), with the theme "I'm a student – what does research have to do with me?".

Introducing these and other activities, the new DFG President expressly linked the goals of the DFG2020 – Because Research Matters campaign with her own personal mandate in her new role. "Science can't solve the world's problems on its own – but many of these problems can only be solved with a research-driven approach," said Becker, speaking from her own experience as a scientist in tropical medicine. What we need is academic research that is independent and that generates knowledge and value as a result of scientific curiosity, rather than this knowledge and value being predefined. Only the freedom to think and diversity at all levels – in terms of researchers, funding formats, topics and national and international cooperation – enable truly new combinations, ideas and real innovation. We need to raise awareness of this, and this is something I feel personally committed to, in all areas of society."

The New Year’s speech given by the new DFG president featured the DFG2020 – Because Research Matters campaign and addressed a "new kind of communication and cooperation" required between the research community and its organisations and between science and academia, government and society to meet today’s global challenges. The reception in Berlin was attended by 400 guests from science and academia, politics, the diplomatic corps, industry, the media and the public.

Further Information

Media contact:

  • Marco Finetti,
    Head of DFG Press and Public Relations,
    Tel. +49 228 885-2230,

DFG2020 project management at the DFG Head Office:

Regularly updated information and materials on the campaign, the expedition, online activities and more can be found at

The speech given by DFG President Professor Katja Becker at the New Year reception
will be available on the DFG website as of Monday, 13 January 2020 at 6 pm: