Press Release No. 8 | March 28, 2014

DFG Modifies Rules for Publication Lists

Grant Proposals and Final Reports May Cite up to Ten Publications in Project Lists and Academic CVs / DFG Stands by Clear Limits and Quality over Quantity

Grant Proposals and Final Reports May Cite up to Ten Publications in Project Lists and Academic CVs / DFG Stands by Clear Limits and Quality over Quantity

The response was considerable when the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) in March 2010 introduced new rules for the listings of publications in grant proposals, draft proposals and final reports. Since then, scientists and academics have been allowed to cite only a few and especially relevant publications in their proposals and reports, whereas they were previously able to list as many as they wished. With these rules that were adopted by the DFG Senate, the largest funding agency and self-governing organisation for science and research in Germany sent a signal against the growing trend to generate numerical indicators based on publication lists when allocating funding and positions, which in the view of the DFG places researchers under great pressure to publish and has led to falsifications in publication lists.

The rules, adopted under the motto “quality over quantity”, found much praise and approval in the research community as well as in politics, the media and the public. At the same time, however, there were also critical voices, not least within the committees of the DFG, especially in a number of review boards. Objections were raised not so much against the principle of limiting the number of publications that may be listed, but against the specific limits. The maximum of five publications in an applicant’s academic CV was considered too small for the review of grant proposals. It was also argued that certain provisions regarding the limit were too complex.

The DFG listened to these critical voices. When the Senate introduced the rules in March 2010, they also decided to monitor their impact. The rules were discussed repeatedly in and with the review boards, as well as in the Executive Board and Executive Committee of the DFG. As a result of these discussions and an in-depth internal deliberation, the Senate at its meeting in Bonn on 27 March 2014 has now modified the rules, without changing the overall approach and its underlying idea.

The modifications relate to two points in particular:

First, the requirements for the project-specific list of publications – concerning publications that relate directly to the project for which funding is being requested or whose results are being reported – have been unified and thus simplified. Under the rules adopted in 2010, between two and twelve publications could be listed, depending on the number of applicants and the duration of funding for the proposed project. Going forward, up to ten publications can be listed in all cases.

Second, the number of publications that may be listed in the academic CV has been increased. Instead of a maximum of five publications since 2010, it will now be possible to list up to ten.

“These pragmatic developments are the result of intense discussions within the research community and take into account its diversity. Incidentally, this type of self-critical discussion is an on-going task for the DFG as a self-governing organisation,” said DFG President Peter Strohschneider, commenting on the DFG Senate’s decision. A large portion of applicants and reviewers have been and will continue to be comfortable with the rules introduced in 2010, and specifically with the maximum of five publications per academic CV; however, the increase to ten publications will accommodate subject areas and subject cultures where the current maximums were considered to be limiting for the review of proposals and final reports, said the DFG President.

“But the important thing is: The DFG stands by clear rules and limits. And our decisions will continue to be made on the basis of a qualitative selection of publications,” said Strohschneider. “The principle of ‘quality over quantity’ remains unchanged.”