Press Release No. 28 | July 3, 2024

DFG Annual Meeting 2024 in Potsdam: “Free Research for a Democratic and Cosmopolitan Society”

Focus on current issues relevant to research and society / Festive event highlights European research funding / Annual budget of €3.9 billion – 31,750 projects funded 

The annual meeting of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) ended in Potsdam on Wednesday, 3 July 2024, with an urgent plea for freedom of research and proactive commitment on the part of the research community to advocacy of a democratic, cosmopolitan and tolerant society. In addition to passing resolutions on the DFG’s funding activities, the principal statutory bodies of Germany’s largest research funding organisation and central self-governing organisation for science and the humanities engaged in discussion on current issues relevant to research and society. One key topic was that of European research funding and policy, in particular at a festive event involving leading European science organisations. The first DFG annual meeting to be held in Brandenburg, the three-day gathering was hosted by the University of Potsdam.

At the concluding General Assembly on Wednesday, the President of the DFG, Professor Dr. Katja Becker, said with regard to current developments and events in Germany and abroad: “Research can only pursue its diverse tasks successfully if it is left to do so freely. For us at the DFG, this means first and foremost that all funding decisions are made exclusively with regard to science-based quality criteria. And based on this same principle, we will continue to work to ensure that public funding for research as a whole is science-driven and legally compliant. We expressly emphasise the importance and value of the freedom of research, which must be jointly supported and indeed embraced in practice by all stakeholders in the German research system. After all, this freedom is a precious asset that underpins scientific excellence. And it also provides the foundation for the public trust that research enjoys in Germany.”

Based on this freedom, Becker continued, the research community must clearly and resolutely advocate democracy, cosmopolitanism and tolerance, while at the same time unambiguously rejecting of any form of anti-democratic thinking or anti-Semitism, whether in research or in society at large. 

“In situations in which our democracy is under threat from populism or extremism, an organisation such as the DFG must take a clear and active stance. Silence is not an option. In Germany of all countries, the past has taught us how disastrous the consequences can be. Under no circumstances can this happen again,” said Becker. The President noted that this was why the DFG had spoken out and taken a stand in public on numerous occasions in recent months.

At the gathering in Potsdam, the research community’s active commitment to democracy, cosmopolitanism and tolerance was also the subject of other meetings of the various statutory bodies, within the DFG Executive Committee, in an extensive discussion that took place in the Senate as the most important statutory body for science policy, and also in the Joint Committee involving representatives of the research community and of the federal and state government funding bodies.

Other topics addressed included issues of research assessment in the national and European context, a new operating and financing structure for German research vessels and the approval of new Research Units and other funding projects.

General Assembly with Elections and Annual Report 

In their report on the DFG’s funding activities since the 2023 annual meeting in Saarbrücken, President Becker and Secretary General Dr. Heide Ahrens addressed issues such as the progress made in the second round of competition in the Clusters of Excellence funding line under the Excellence Strategy of the German federal and state governments, which is being supervised by the DFG, and also the initial selections made under the Research Impulses programme aimed at universities of applied sciences (UAS,  including HAW – Hochschulen für Angewandte Wissenschaften – and FH – Fachhochschulen). Other topics included the final report submitted by the DFG’s Interdisciplinary Commission for Pandemic Research, developments in science policy framework conditions such as the Pact for Research and Innovation (PFI) and the Animal Protection Act, and the DFG’s international activities. 

The General Assembly also re-elected the two Vice Presidents Professor Dr. Axel A. Brakhage and Professor Dr.-Ing. Hans Hasse for a second four-year term of office. In the Senate, three members were newly elected while eight members were confirmed for a second term of office.

As the largest research funding organisation in Germany, the DFG funded 31,750 projects last year, providing a total of some €3.9 billion. This emerges from the 2023 annual report, which was likewise presented at the General Assembly in Potsdam. It contains the main facts, figures and priorities relating to the DFG’s funding activities as well as details of its involvement in issues relating to the research system and research policy. The report also presents selected funding projects, the unifying theme this time being “Scientific Diversity”.

As in previous years, more than half of all funded projects in 2023 – 17,544 projects, or 55.3 percent – were funded in the form of individual grants; approximately €1.4 billion was approved for these. In terms of Research Training Groups, Collaborative Research Centres and other coordinated programmes, 875 networks with 12,255 individual projects received a total amount of approximately €1.7 billion  for the year.

Broken down according to the major research disciplines, the life sciences received the most funding with about €1.4 billion (36.1 percent of the total amount approved), followed by the natural sciences with about €919 million (23.4 percent), the engineering sciences with about €775 million (19.7 percent) and the humanities and social sciences with about €658 million (16.8 percent); projects not assigned to a specific discipline received funding of approximately €154 million (3.9 percent).

Festive Event and Communicator Award Ceremony

In addition to the meetings of the statutory bodies, two events involving guests from research, politics and society were once again held as part of the DFG annual meeting in Potsdam. On the Tuesday evening, the DFG hosted a festive event at Biosphäre Potsdam. Following a welcome address by President Becker and words of welcome from Federal Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger and the Bavarian State Minister for Science and the Arts and Deputy Chairman of the Joint Science Conference (Gemeinsame Wissenschaftskonferenz - GWK), Dr. Markus Blume, the event was dedicated to the theme of European research funding and policy. “Promoting Research Cooperation in Europe” was the title of an introductory keynote speech given by the DFG President, and this was followed by a panel discussion involving the heads of European research funding and science organisations from Poland, the UK and Germany. The following engaged in discussion with Katja Becker under the motto “Stronger Together: National Research Funding Agencies in Europe”: Professor Krzysztof Jóźwiak of the National Science Centre Poland (NCN), Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and Professor Dr. Walter Rosenthal of the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK). 

As the DFG President was again keen to emphasise in her welcome address: “The independence of research guarantees an open-ended cognitive process that is free of social utility and political expediency. This is something we are thankful for: after all, it is this diverse range of insights and innovations, achieved in freedom, that provides the capital for our future. And that is precisely why it is of such great value in terms of our competitiveness as a centre of science and business and with regard to our society and democracy.” 

This year’s Communicator Award was presented on Monday evening in the main lecture hall on the premises of the University of Potsdam at Neues Palais. The €50,000 prize went to the University of Tübingen’s “Cyber and the City” team – computer scientist Professor Dr. Ulrike von Luxburg, doctoral researcher Tim Schaffarczik and empirical cultural studies expert Professor Dr. Thomas Thiemeyer – in recognition of their pioneering communication on the topic of artificial intelligence. Regarded as the most important distinction of its kind in Germany, the Communicator Award is conferred jointly by the DFG and Stifterverband.

The 2025 DFG annual meeting is to be held in Hamburg.

Further information

Notes on media relations:

The DFG provides information on its funding decisions and other key resolutions passed at the annual meeting in a series of press releases (part 1 has already been published: Tuesday, 2 July; part 2: Wednesday 3 July, from 2:00 p.m. following on from this summary). 

All press releases on the 2024 annual meeting are also to be found in a digital press kit at, which is supplemented on an ongoing basis.

Accompanying information is also available on the DFG website at and via social media at

The full text of the DFG's annual report 2023 is available at, while a printed version can be ordered from: 

Media contact

Marco Finetti
Telephone: +49 (228) 885-2230