Press Release No. 38 | September 28, 2020

Focusing on Sustainability

The DFG intends to systematically expand its multifaceted activities / Numerous funding projects in a wide variety of fields / Commitment to resource conservation and climate neutrality in research

The DFG intends to systematically expand its multifaceted activities / Numerous funding projects in a wide variety of fields / Commitment to resource conservation and climate neutrality in research

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) intends to intensify and systematically expand its activities in the field of sustainability. DFG President Professor Katja Becker announced this in the latest meetings of the statutory bodies for the largest self-governing research funding organisation in Germany. "The DFG has recently been active on several fronts addressing issues of sustainability, resource conservation and climate neutrality. Although, just like our entire society, we also have good reason to commit ourselves even more to sustainable thinking and action," said Becker.

The DFG has funded numerous research projects dealing with various aspects of sustainability for well over a decade. Its funding portfolio includes both the individual grants programme and larger research networks; the research areas involved and the issues researched range from agricultural economics, geography, marine and climate research, human biology and veterinary medicine through to business administration, factory planning, production engineering, sociology and political science. The DFG also paid early attention to issues of biodiversity. As early as 2008 it conducted so-called biodiversity exploratories and in 2012, as one of the seven DFG research centres, it set up the iDiv – German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research – based in Halle, Leipzig and Jena.

Other activities in addition to these and further research projects underline the high importance the DFG attributes to the subject of sustainability in the way it manages its funding. The task of the German Committee Future Earth (DKN-Future Earth) set up by the DFG's Executive Committee, for instance, is to create a network of researchers in Germany who cover the widest variety of research areas involving sustainability and thus further advance the interdisciplinary topic of sustainability research. The DFG has also used the Belmont Forum to fund multilateral projects in the field of sustainability research for over a decade.

Furthermore, several DFG senate commissions also consider sustainability issues. The Permanent Senate Commission on Fundamental Issues of Biological Diversityaddresses ecological issues, but also subjects such as digitisation. It even accompanies the negotiations on the supporting programme of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, which formulates the "post 2020" biodiversity targets. The former Senate Commission on Oceanography formulated principles for responsible marine research. These are intended to avoid research activities with negative impacts on the marine environment. Sustainability is also the current topic for the Senate Commission on Earth System Research. Here a working group was recently formed to address "research interests versus protection interests in relation to sustainability" and is now for the first time reporting on its work to the DFG's statutory bodies.

The subject of sustainability has numerous further dimensions for the DFG beyond its funding activities, Becker stressed in the meetings of the DFG Senate and Joint Committee, which were again held via video conference due to the coronavirus pandemic. As examples she named the organisation of review sessions, the procedures in the funding organisation's Head Office and last but not least the offsetting of CO2 emissions resulting from business trips by DFG employees, members of the statutory bodies and reviewers, but also by the funding recipients. Here the DFG, together with the other members of the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany, is in the process of obtaining approval from its funders to finance compensation payments that are now to be decided in autumn by the statutory bodies of the Joint Science Conference (GWK - Gemeinsame Wissenschaftskonferenz) of the German federal and state governments.

"We want to continue in future to pursue all these varied activities and expand them into one systematic process. Because sustainability is essential to us all," Becker concluded.

Further Information

Media contact:

Information on funded projects relating to sustainability can be found via keyword search in GEPRIS, the DFG's project database:

Further information on the stated senate commissions is available via the DFG website:

In relation to the German Committee Future Earth (DKN-Future Earth) see also: