Press Release No. 9 | March 30, 2020

The DFG is Sad to Announce the Death of Reinhard Grunwald

Former Secretary General died at the age of 77 / "A moderniser with all his heart and mind"

Former Secretary General died at the age of 77 / "A moderniser with all his heart and mind"

Generalsekretär Reinhard Grunwald

© DFG/Querbach

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is sad to announce the death of Professor Dr. Reinhard Grunwald. The former Secretary General of Germany's largest research funding organisation and the central self-governing organisation of the country's research community died on 21 March 2020 at the age of 77, after a long, serious illness.

"Many people at the DFG, in the science policy community and the research system as a whole, will remember Reinhard Grunwald as a remarkably dedicated Secretary General and human being, who knew how to use the gentle touch to implement his ideas for the benefit of scholarship. He will always be gratefully remembered for that," said current DFG President Professor Dr. Katja Becker.

Reinhard Grunwald led the DFG Head Office between June 1996 and September 2007. He was born on 21 August 1942 in Göttingen and studied law in his home city, in Munich and at Berkeley. He earned his doctorate from Göttingen in 1974 with a thesis on "Unconscionability, illegality and dolus malus: decision types and guidelines, developed on the basis of bank liability for credit measures". He subsequently held various management roles in research administration, firstly at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Garching, then as administrative director of the German Primate Center in Göttingen and finally, from 1984, as administrative director of the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ) in Heidelberg.

During his 11 years at the DFG, Grunwald led the organisation alongside three presidents as Secretary General: until the end of 1997 with literary scholar Professor Dr. Wolfgang Frühwald, between 1998 and the end of 2006 with biochemist Professor Dr. Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker and finally, until his retirement, with engineer Professor Dr. Matthias Kleiner. During this period, the DFG budget doubled to almost €2 billion and the number of staff at Head Office increased from around 600 to nearly 800.

It was under Grunwald's leadership that in 1999, following the international system evaluation of the DFG and the Max Planck Society, the DFG Head Office was reorganised and modernised. In the years that followed, with his great interest in procedural matters, Grunwald drove the transition to electronic proposal processing and the introduction of the review board system in the DFG's review, evaluation and decision-making process.

Other key issues and responsibilities during his time in office included the rapidly increasing internationalisation of research and research funding, and thus also the activities of the DFG, as well as the growing debate on the handling of scientific misconduct, which resulted in the standard-setting Recommendations for Safeguarding Good Scientific Practice.

When Grunwald retired from his role in early September 2007, a special event was organised in his honour at La Redoute in Bonn, attended by more than 150 guests representing academia, politics and society. Attendees paid tribute to him as one of the most influential and effective research managers both nationally and internationally, as a "soft-spoken general" and a "moderniser with all his heart and mind".

After his retirement, Grunwald maintained close links with the academic community and research administration, particularly as a director of the Centre for Research Management (ZWM) and honorary professor at the German University of Administrative Sciences (DHV), both in Speyer.

Further Information

Media contact:

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

A print-friendly portrait photo of Reinhard Grunwald is available on the DFG website at