Press Release No. 22 | June 28, 2023

Katja Becker elected DFG President for another four years

Biochemist and medical scientist elected for a second term of office by the General Assembly / Commitment to knowledge-driven research / Focus on quality and further internationalisation

Biochemist and medical scientist elected for a second term of office by the General Assembly / Commitment to knowledge-driven research / Focus on quality and further internationalisation

President of the DFG: Professor Dr. Katja Becker

Professor Dr. Katja Becker

© DFG / Rainer Unkel

Katja Becker will continue to hold the position of President of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) for another four years. The General Assembly of the largest research funding organisation and central self-governing organisation for science and the humanities in Germany elected the biochemist and medical scientist for a second term of office with an overwhelming majority at midday today, Wednesday, in Saarbrücken. Having been proposed by a search committee commissioned by the DFG’s Executive Committee and Senate and also by the member organisations, Becker was the only candidate to stand in the election, which was held in connection with the DFG’s annual meeting. Her second term of office begins on 1 January 2024.

Becker has been President of the DFG since 1 January 2020 and is the first female researcher to hold this office. She was born on 7 March 1965 in Heidelberg, where she also went on to study medicine, subsequently obtaining her postdoctoral lecturing qualification in biochemistry after completing her doctorate. Alongside her scientific work focusing on malaria research and the development of medication against infectious diseases and tumours, she continued to pursue her medical training, which she completed by taking the examination to qualify as a medical specialist. Stays abroad have taken her to Basel, Oxford, the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA, and Africa. Becker spent a further period at the Research Center for Infectious Diseases at Julius-Maximilian-Universität of Würzburg, and since 2000 has been Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Justus Liebig University of Gießen, where she was also Vice President for Research and Academic Career Development from 2009 to 2012. Having received numerous grants from the DFG, Becker went on to become Vice President and Chair of the Permanent Senate Commission on Key Questions of Genetic Research from 2014 onwards, before being elected President in Rostock in July 2019 as the successor to medieval German literature scholar Peter Strohschneider.

Becker’s first term of office was marked by a number of global crises and challenges, and the DFG developed a wide range of activities to address the impact of these on science and the humanities during this time. In the coronavirus pandemic from spring 2020 onwards, it sought to relieve the burden on funded researchers and their projects by providing a total of some €175 million in funding, thereby contributing significantly to the continuation of research work and the stabilisation of the research system. In addition, the DFG initiated more than 150 new research projects to study the coronavirus pandemic and other pandemics by issuing Germany’s largest interdisciplinary call for proposals and creating a new funding format (“focus funding”), accompanied by the newly established Interdisciplinary Commission for Pandemic Research.

According to Becker’s firm conviction, it was not least these contributions to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic – including cancer research previously funded by the DFG more than a decade earlier which went on to provide an important foundation for the development of the mRNA vaccines against the coronavirus during the pandemic – that demonstrated the value of free, knowledge-driven research: this is something she has particularly sought to advocate as DFG President.

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Becker and the DFG immediately suspended all funded German-Russian research cooperation at the institutional level and, as organisational spokesperson of the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany, the DFG was also instrumental in the latter’s united response to the Russian invasion. At the same time she turned her attention to researchers from Ukraine who wanted or were forced to leave their country and for whom aid measures were then established, just as they were for Russian researchers who took a stand against the war in their homeland.

The marked international emphasis of Becker’s first term was also reflected in her involvement in the Global Research Council (GRC), a worldwide association of more than 150 research funding organisations in which she was Chair of the Governing Board until May 2023.

Within the DFG, several projects were advanced during Becker’s first term in office that she had announced when she was elected: these included further amendment of the DFG’s statutes and closer interaction based on dialogue and trust with actors in the DFG and within the research system as a whole, as well as with policymakers and the public at large. With regard to funding activities, Becker has also been personally very committed to undertaking more intense efforts to tap into the research potential of universities of applied sciences, and the DFG has since implemented a whole package of measures in this area. Other key issues have been the digital transformation in science and the humanities, equity and diversity, and also questions of sustainability in the research system.

For the coming years, Becker considers a number of other issues to be important in addition to the current ones, as she explained on the occasion of her election for a second term of office: in her view, the recently launched second round of the Excellence Strategy of the German federal and state governments – in which the DFG is responsible for administrating the competition under the Cluster of Excellence funding line – has a key role to play in terms of the international competitiveness of German universities. Becker sees securing funding for the DFG and for research in Germany as a whole as a political priority in the face of dwindling resources. She also believes there are important discussions to be had regarding research quality and the research process, such as greater support for the investigation of unconventional questions and risk-based research while maintaining the very highest quality standards, and also regarding the selection and decision-making processes in funding. Finally, she is of the firm belief that the internationalisation of the German research system will continue to be of great importance.

Further information

Media contact:

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

For a photograph and a detailed curriculum vitae of the DFG President, see:

Further information on her research career, memberships and awards is also to be found in the press release on Katja Becker’s election at the 2019 DFG annual meeting in Rostock: