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Press Release No. 54 | 13 December 2021
“Clear Signal of Solidarity”: DFG Extends Support for Refugee Researchers

Walter Benjamin Programme to facilitate own research projects / Integration in ongoing projects still possible

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is extending its support for academics who have fled their home countries. This was decided by the Joint Committee of Germany’s largest research funding organisation at its virtual meeting on 9 December 2021. The DFG’s Walter Benjamin Programme will now also be open to refugee researchers at any stage of their career. The programme is designed to enable them to independently pursue their own research project at the location of their choice.

“As we see it, the continued funding of refugee academics and their integration in the German research system is about much more than just science policy,” said DFG President Professor Dr. Katja Becker. “Unfortunately, we’re not seeing any decrease in the number of countries where academics are restricted in their freedom to do research and where they’re subject to reprisals and persecution – something that has become particularly noticeable in the wake of the pandemic. For this reason, the DFG is once again sending a clear signal of solidarity by extending its support measures for refugee researchers.”

Funding under the Walter Benjamin Programme offers the opportunity to gain experience of independent project supervision – a requirement so as to be able to take the next steps in becoming established in the research system. At the same time, applicants can benefit from career support measures provided by the host institution; this forms part of the concept. The otherwise applicable restriction of the target group to the early postdoc phase does not apply to refugees.

The DFG first presented a package of measures for refugee researchers in December 2015. Since then, it has been possible to submit supplemental proposals under a range of DFG funding programmes such as research grants, Priority Programmes, Research Units, Clinical Research Units, Centres for Advanced Studies and Research Training Groups for the integration of qualified refugee researchers in DFG projects that already receive funding. Collaborative Research Centres are explicitly encouraged to use the approved “lump-sum funds” in particular for the incorporation of refugees, thereby enabling flexible, autonomous and direct action. This also applies to Clusters of Excellence. These measures will continue to be implemented in the future.

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