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Press Release No. 22 | 29 June 2022
“Promote, Access, Shape”: Position Paper on Role and Perspec-tives of the DFG in the German Research System

The Executive Board describes central tasks and operating principles / “Responsibility for ensuring knowledge-based research and further development of the system”

What does the largest research organisation and central self-governing body for science and the humanities in Germany see as its own role in the research system? What tasks does this give rise to, and what are the most important topics and challenges in the various fields of activity? And finally, what prospects does this involve for the future?

The DFG Executive Committee has now presented a position paper exploring these fundamen-tal issues. In it, the body responsible for strategic and conceptual orientation sets out central tasks and operating principles. After first being presented to the Senate and the Joint Committee, the paper was finally submitted to the General Assembly on Wednesday, 29 June which was held as part of the DFG Annual Meeting 2022 in Freiburg im Breisgau. This document builds on the previous position paper “On the Future of the German Research System” published by the DFG in 2013.

“Our aim in putting out this position paper is to provide an overview of our own positioning and the strategic orientation that the DFG will seek to pursue in the coming years. It is aimed at DFG members and all those involved with it, as well as all other actors in the German research system and the interested public,” says President Professor Dr. Katja Becker.

The paper starts by describing the most important characteristics of the German research sys-tem, whose strength and independence derive primarily from the work done by the researchers and academic institutions involved, as well as being able to rely on the sustainable science policy support provided for the system as a whole and its individual organisations, which is in turn based on the planning security of the globally unique Pact for Research and Innovation. Institutional differentiation according to the various functions of research – ranging from basic research and topic-specific investigation motivated by current societal concerns through to applied and experimental research – is a constitutional feature of the system, as is its across-the-board research strength and breadth based on a large network of efficient, regionally distributed institutions and centres in which the higher education institutions have a key role to play.

Within this functionally distributed system, the DFG regards itself as bearing particular responsibility for promoting knowledge-driven research, as President Becker is keen to emphasise: “The DFG is particularly active in those areas where research itself finds its own topics and follows the dynamic of scientific knowledge processes. Through its funding across the entire breadth of science in Germany, the DFG also has a particular responsibility for the further development of the research system.”

From the DFG’s point of view, this results in three operating principles in terms of its activities: these are set out in the paper as a three-pronged approach – namely “promote, access, shape”. The most important of these is “promote”, i.e. the task of supporting independent and non-prescriptive scientific knowledge processes by organising fair, scienceled competition in the selection and funding of incoming research proposals. There are a number of current and future challenges in this area, including the following: continuous adaptation of the funding portfolio to the changing needs of science, optimisation of the review process, issues of academic career support, reform of the publication system and implementation of the second phase of the Excellence Strategy.

The second operating principle “access” has somewhat lesser emphasis and involves providing support for strategic funding initiatives to respond to impulses from the academic community in tapping into or actively fostering specific research fields, to meet acute research needs or to take up suggestions for expanding collaborative ventures. Challenging examples of this type of “strategic funding action” include the DFG’s AI initiative, the Clinician Scientist Programme, the current measures for universities of applied sciences (HAW) and the expansion of funding for science communication, as well as targeted international activities and the commitment to a cross-disciplinary science diplomacy strategy.

The third operation principle, “shape”, involves the DFG developing and shaping the appropriate framework conditions and standards required to boost knowledge-driven research of the highest quality. Central topics and fields of action here include the freedom and independence of research, good research practice, equality and diversity, sustainability, and also the digital transformation and research infrastructures.

“Taken together, the operating principles ‘promote, access, shape’ map out a broad spectrum of possibilities for ensuring excellent research and the advancement of the research system,” says DFG President Katja Becker in conclusion: “Following these principles and with an awareness of its specific impact potential and systemic responsibility, the DFG will continue to fulfil its mandate to shape Germany as a research base and its overall science system.”

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For the full text of the position paper, see

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