Press Release No. 30 | July 3, 2014

Amendment of the DFG Statutes: More Systematic, More Transparent, More in Step with Current Practice

General Assembly Passes Revised Regulations / "Not a Constitutional Change"

General Assembly Passes Revised Regulations / "Not a Constitutional Change"

On Wednesday 2 July 2014, the General Assembly of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) passed an amendment to the statutes of the largest research funding organisation and central self-governing organisation of the research community in Germany at its session at the DFG's annual meeting at Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main. The amendment was drafted over the past months by a working group made up of the Executive Board, members of the Executive Committee and Senate, and member organisations, chaired by jurist and former DFG Vice-President Professor Dr. Klaus J. Hopt (emeritus scientific member and former director of the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law, Hamburg), and discussed in a widely defined process in the statutory bodies of the DFG.

The main outline and key provisions of the revised statutes were presented at the DFG's annual press conference on 3 July 2014 in Berlin.

"These changes do not represent a constitutional change for the DFG," said Secretary General Dorothee Dzwonnek. Instead, she explained, the main aim of the amendment is to adapt the statutes to reflect the tasks of the DFG and its organs and also funding activities, which have developed and changed in myriad ways since the organisation was re-established after the Second World War in 1951. "In their new form, the statutes are more in step with the current reality and current practice. They are also more systematic, more transparent and more modern in their formulation than the previous statutes," Dzwonnek said.

The main tasks and activities of the DFG – which is legally defined as an association – are described at the start of the amended statutes under 'Purpose of the association' (§1): "The German Research Foundation serves all branches of science and the humanities through the financial support of research and the promotion of national and international cooperation between researchers." According to the statutes, the DFG gives "special attention" to the support and training of early career researchers. Other tasks defined in the statutes include the promotion of gender equality in research, advising parliaments and organisations working in the public interest on scientific issues, and nurturing links between the research community, the public and industry.

Although this introductory paragraph remains largely unchanged with just a few minor alterations, the amended statutes also contain various new provisions and updated or entirely new paragraphs. For example, in § 5 the terms of office for members of DFG statutory bodies are redefined as a standard four years, which was previously only the case for review boards. The new provision also applies to the office of president, which was previously held for a term of three years. Under the new statutes a third term of office will be possible instead of the current two, but this must be put to the vote and a two-thirds majority is required. The new regulations will not apply to the current terms of the DFG President or the members of the Executive Committee and Senate, but will come into force when new incumbents are elected or the current incumbents are confirmed in office.

In a new paragraph (§4), all organs of the DFG – the General Assembly, the President, the Executive Committee, the Executive Board, the Secretary General, the Senate, the Joint Committee and the review boards – are listed together for the first time. In the description of tasks it is now stipulated that the Executive Board is responsible for ongoing business. The main duties of the President will include representing the DFG and developing strategic-conceptual issues together with the Executive Committee.

Another new paragraph (§12) describes systematically for the first time the core philosophy of the funding activities with which the DFG carries out its primary task of financially supporting research projects. In addition to the principles of proposal-writing, it stipulates the separation of the review, assessment and decision-making processes. It is also now codified that proposals are either reviewed in writing or by a review group on site and all funding decisions are made through or on the basis of a decision by the Joint Committee or one of its subcommittees. Finally, the supporting role of Head Office in the review, assessment and decision-making processes is clarified. "These few sentences sum up and transparently formulate the work and quality of the DFG," said Dzwonnek.

The location of the DFG's headquarters is also clarified. Since the DFG was re-established in 1951, the wording of the statutes (§2) has read: "For the time being the association […] has its headquarters in Bonn." "After 60 years, this wording is no longer appropriate," explains Dzwonnek. In the amended statutes the words 'for the time being' are omitted.

The new version of the statutes will be entered in the register of associations in the coming weeks, after which it will be published on the DFG's website.