German Research Foundation

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German Research Foundation
legal form registered association
founding October 30, 1920
August 2, 1951 (re-establishment) in Berlin
founder Friedrich Schmidt-Ott
Seat Bonn , GermanyGermanyGermany 
precursor Notgemeinschaft der Deutschen Wissenschaft , German Research Council
purpose Research funding
Chair Katja Becker
The DFG Head Office in Bonn-Bad Godesberg (2006)

The German Research Foundation ( DFG ) is a registered association that acts as a self-governing body for the promotion of science and research in the Federal Republic of Germany . In 2019, the DFG had a funding budget of more than 3.3 billion euros, from which 31,150 projects were supported. It is tax money: a good two thirds of these funds are paid by the federal government, the rest is paid by the federal states. The members of the DFG are mostly universities and research institutions of "general importance" as well as the German academies of science .

Organization and tasks


In their statutes, § 1 defines their tasks:

“The German Research Foundation serves science in all its branches by providing financial support for research work and by promoting national and international collaboration among researchers. Special attention is paid to the promotion and training of young scientists. The German Research Foundation promotes gender equality in science. It advises parliaments and public interest institutions on scientific issues and maintains the links between research and society and the economy. "

- Statutes of the German Research Foundation

The DFG individual projects, collaborative projects (research networks, research groups , graduate college , collaborative research centers , research centers, clusters of excellence ) and infrastructure, and it maintains scientific relations worldwide. She pays particular attention to promoting young academics (e.g. research grant, own position program, Emmy Noether program , Heisenberg program ). In addition to institutions, individual scientists (from the doctorate onwards ) are also eligible to apply .

The DFG is by far the most important source of third-party funding in Germany . In 2019, a total of around 31,000 projects were funded. A successful application increases the prestige of the responsible scientists considerably.


According to § 4 of the statutes, the DFG has eight organs:

  • General Assembly,
  • President,
  • Presidium,
  • Board of Directors,
  • Secretary General,
  • Senate,
  • Main committee,
  • Review Boards.

The general assembly (§ 5 of the statutes) determines the operational guidelines of the German Research Foundation. It elects the President, the rest of the Presidium and the members of the Senate. It also confirms the appointment of the General Secretary by the Main Committee. The term of office is four years. The general assembly continues to perform tasks such as receiving the annual report and financial statements from the board of directors and discharging the board of directors.

The executive committee consists of the president Katja Becker (biochemistry and molecular biology) and eight vice-presidents. The vice-presidents are Axel A. Brakhage (molecular biology), Roland A. Fischer (chemistry), Julika Griem (literary studies), Hans Hasse (thermodynamics), Marlis Hochbruck (applied and numerical mathematics), Kerstin Schill (cognitive neuroinformatics), Wolfgang Schön ( Tax Law and Public Finance), Britta Siegmund (Medicine). According to the statutes of the DFG, the advisory member is the President of the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft, Andreas Barner .

The Presidium uses the management, headed by the Secretary General, to deal with the day-to-day business. Dorothee Dzwonnek was Secretary General of the DFG from September 1, 2007 to November 12, 2018 . In November 2018, Dorothee Dzwonnek announced her premature retirement from the service of the DFG at the request of the main committee of the DFG. On October 1, 2020, Heide Ahrens took over the position of General Secretary.

The office is located at the headquarters of the association in Bonn , Kennedyallee 40. The Berlin office is located in the WissenschaftsForum Berlin on Gendarmenmarkt.


The DFG, the largest national research funding institution in Europe is almost entirely by federal and countries (budget 2018: 99% ent Annual Report 2018.), Even if it formally is a state institution, but a non-profit, registered association is. The pact for research and innovation is intended to guarantee planning security through continuous budget increases . In this way, the DFG's budget has more than doubled since 2006.

Senate and Senate Commissions

A key steering committee of the DFG is the Senate, which consists of 39 scientific members. Of these members, 36 members are elected by the general assembly for three years, the President of the University Rectors ' Conference, the President of the Union of German Academies of Sciences and the President of the Max Planck Society belong to the Senate qua office. Permanent guests of the Senate are the presidents of the Hermann von Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers , the Fraunhofer Society and the chairman of the Science Council .

The Senate sets up commissions and committees.

Senate committees

The Senate Committees for the Collaborative Research Centers and the Graduate Schools prepare the funding decisions of the two corresponding Approval Committees as sub-committees of the Main Committee. They are also responsible for the further development of these funding programs and their assessment and decision-making processes.

The Senate Committee “Perspectives on Research” and the “Ad-Hoc Committee for Examining Membership Applications” are working bodies of the Senate that prepare the decisions of the Senate.

Senate commissions

The Senate Commissions of the DFG support the statutory task of providing political advice to the DFG by, among other things, preparing statements on socially relevant research-related issues according to purely scientific standards. In addition, they are an important part of scientific self-administration, as they deal, for example, with questions that require special coordination for certain areas of science.

In 2010, the Senate decided to divide its commissions into two categories: Standing Senate Commissions for important fields with a long-term perspective, in which new scientific findings must be continuously and interdisciplinary, or rapidly developing scientific topics in which it is foreseeable that there will be a need for recurring legal regulation can be expected to be of clear relevance for research. Senate commissions are set up for a certain period of time (usually 6 years). These have the task of developing cross-disciplinary approaches for the complex coordination, improvement of the research infrastructure and the establishment of structures conducive to research in areas with high research, coordination and multi-layered structuring needs.

List of Senate Commissions

Other committees

The task of the selection committee for the Heinz Maier Leibnitz Prize is to select the winners for the young talent award of the same name. It is not a committee of the Senate, as its members are jointly appointed by the Senate of the DFG and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

The members of the Excellence Initiative Commission (2005–2017) were appointed by the Senate of the DFG. Together with the Strategy Commission, which was set up by the Scientific Commission of the Science Council, the Expert Commission prepared the funding decisions of the Approval Committee for the Excellence Initiative .

Review and approval process

The DFG uses a multi-stage review process to decide on funding applications. The review process is based on the principles of peer review and academic self-administration. As a rule, the appraisers are not paid for their work.

For each incoming funding application, the DFG Head Office asks at least two academics who are considered to be technically competent and impartial to prepare formalized written reports . According to the company's own information, attempts are made to avoid conflicts of interest as far as possible. The reports contain a vote on the funding decision; the vote can also be for partial funding of an application. The peer-reviewed applications will be several times a year at meetings of content competent review board discussed (see p. U.). Two members of the college are responsible for an application, which they present together with the reports received. The opinions of the reviewers are then discussed in the review boards and either confirmed, modified or rejected. As a result of a meeting of a review board, a funding proposal for a certain number of applications is forwarded to the main committee (see below). The other applications are considered rejected.

Review board and members of the review boards

The review boards are formed in accordance with Section 15 of the DFG statutes. There are currently (2020) 48 review boards, each with an average of 13 members. Independent universities and scientific societies can submit proposals for the members of the review boards. The academics who have obtained a doctorate and who work at recognized academic institutions in Germany then elect the members of the review boards for a period of four years; usually they are university professors . A one-time re-election is possible.

Incoming funding applications for research projects are assigned to a thematically appropriate review board by the DFG head office. The review boards generally assess the applications on the basis of expert reports, which they can, however, disregard in justified cases. In accordance with the articles of association, they ensure that uniform standards are applied in the written assessment. Especially with regard to individual funding, the review boards actually have a great deal of influence.

Review boards also work on the design of the DFG funding programs.

In the review board elections in 2019 in October and November 2019, the DFG review boards were newly appointed.

Main committee

The actual and definitive funding decision lies with the main committee (§ 12 statutes). The main committee consists of 39 DFG senators as well as other representatives from the federal government (16), the federal states (16) and the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft (2).

In the main committee, all funding proposals from the review boards are brought together and approved, taking into account the available financial resources. An important task of the main committee is to ensure uniform assessment standards across the various individual committees.

International cooperation and national bodies

As a member of various international umbrella organizations and associations, the DFG also supports international research through annual contributions and by providing financial resources for the participation of scientists. Among other things, the DFG is a member of the International Council for Science (ICSU), which was founded in 1919 as a non-governmental international umbrella organization. Here the DFG supports the international exchange on important scientific questions and appoints z. For example, in the field of environment and global change, national committees such as SCOPE , the National Committee for Global Change Research (1997–2012) and the German Committee for Sustainability Research in Future Earth (since 2013).

Sister organizations abroad are, for example, the National Natural Science Foundation of China , with which it jointly maintains the Sino-German Center for Science Promotion. Other partner organizations are the Fund for the Promotion of Scientific Research (Austria), the National Science Foundation (USA), the Royal Academy (United Kingdom), the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (Mexico). An analog funding institution in Japan is the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS).

The association is a member of the Alliance of Science Organizations .


Until 1945

The origin goes back to the time of the Weimar Republic . It was founded on October 30, 1920 as an emergency community of German science on the initiative of the chemist Fritz Haber and Friedrich Schmidt-Ott , who became its first president. In 1929 the name was changed to German Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Research, or (German) Research Foundation for short. However, the old name "Notgemeinschaft" was used in funded publications.

Most of the leading DFG researchers welcomed the Nazi regime after 1933 and voluntarily worked towards its goals as part of a “radical nationalist basic consensus”. Research funding was largely free from political pressure. Funding for politically acceptable research areas such as “ racial hygiene ” and agricultural sciences has increased significantly. In the “folk research”, where scientists among other things during the war. concerned with the annihilation of the Polish intelligentsia and the Jews, 1.2 billion Reichsmarks were invested in 1934 .

The physicist Johannes Stark was president between 1934 and 1936 . He appointed the Nazi chief ideologist Alfred Rosenberg as patron and honorary president of the DFG. Stark lost his office because, in addition to Bernhard Rust and his ministerial officials, the SS and the Wehrmacht also opposed him. According to studies by historians, especially around Götz Aly and Ulrich Herbert , the DFG contributed significantly to the development of the “General Plan East” during the Nazi era , in which the death of millions of people in Eastern Europe was legitimized in terms of population, business and national economy . The “general plan” provided for the settlement of so-called ethnic Germans in Eastern European regions whose native populations had previously been murdered (“destroyed”) or expelled (“resettled”). Although the “General Plan” was only partially implemented, mainly due to the military defeat of the German Reich against the Soviet Union, historians estimate the number of deaths it caused in Eastern Europe to be around 33 million. Rudolf Mentzel was President of the DFG from 1936 and a member of the SS with the rank of SS Brigade Leader (1942). The research community funded almost every human experiment in National Socialist concentration camps .

Until 1944, the DFG financed projects such as the "Asocial and Forensic Biological Research" of the Racial Hygiene Research Center Robert Ritters.

Towards the end of the war, numerous DFG funding files were deliberately destroyed. But could z. B. Konrad Meyer , the coordinator of research on the General Plan East, successfully applied for DFG funds again after his appointment to the Technical University of Hanover in 1956, although the DFG knew his research career, after the war it was looking for the calculating machines that he had in the course of the war of the general plan project had been made available.

The “GEPRIS Historisch” information portal provides access to funding files and topics from the period from 1920 to 1945.

After 1949

After the Second World War , the Notgemeinschaft der Deutschen Wissenschaft was re-established in 1949 . On March 9, 1949, the German Research Council, which is oriented towards science policy , was constituted in Göttingen . On August 2, 1951, the Notgemeinschaft and the Research Council merged to form the German Research Foundation (DFG).

After reunification in 1990, the promotion work was extended to the area of ​​the unified Germany. In 1999, an ombudsman for science was also set up.

A book series with studies on the history of the DFG has been published by Franz Steiner Verlag in Stuttgart since 2007 .

In July 2019, the general assembly of the DFG decided on an amendment to its statutes at its meeting at the annual meeting at the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main.

Controversy and criticism

  • According to a contribution by Roland Reuss and Volker Rieble in the FAZ , the DFG represents a “monopoly without control” and is nothing less than “free self-administration of science”. It is characterized in particular by an almost complete lack of transparency in the allocation of funds.
  • In a satirical style, Bernhard Horsthemke, who himself worked as a reviewer for the DFG in the bioscientific field, denounced some questionable practices of the DFG reviewers. Above all, it aims at what he believes to be unobjective arguments from reviewers who, for various reasons, did not write a genuine scientific report, but often only used vague phrases, especially in the case of rejections. He sees the reasons for this in uncertainty, a lack of accuracy and the fear of being considered uncritical. Typical examples of an innovative application for new scientific territory are the objection that the applicant is not an expert in this field. In the case of proposed methods, it is often criticized that this is not the appropriate method without naming an alternative. A typical conclusion in a negative report is that the application is a project with too high a risk and that the expected results are presumably of little importance. According to Horsthemke, one of the problems facing the DFG is that many reviewers and members of the relevant specialist committees are themselves applicants in the same or a related field. The rejection of other applications therefore increases the chances of submitting your own application.
  • According to Stefanie Salaw-Hanslmaier and Daniel Lübbert, the practice of reviewing funding applications does not meet the rule of law , as decisions are not adequately justified and there are no possibilities of objection.
  • Even in the case of gross scientific misconduct, the DFG often issued relatively mild reprimands or penalties in the past, for example in the case of years of “gross neglect of the duty to supervise” by the head of an immunological working group who was allowed to work again as a reviewer after three years. Your colleague, who was mainly responsible for a data manipulation, due to which several publications had to be withdrawn, was not allowed to apply for DFG funding for five years.
  • In the summer of 2020, after a few days, the DFG deleted a contribution from the cabaret artist Dieter Nuhr , in which he had stated that there are no absolute truths in science. Activists then put the DFG under increasing pressure on Twitter until the deletion took place. Felix Hutten commented in the Süddeutsche Zeitung that it seemed grotesque that someone who was delivering ammunition to climate and corona harmers should emphasize the value of cutting-edge research as an ambassador for the DFG. Nuhr himself saw himself denounced . On August 6, 2020, the DFG put Nuhrs Statement online again and published a statement on it.

Previous presidents

Research awards

The DFG awards the following research prizes, among others:

Funding programs

The association offers the following funding programs, among others:

Proof of funded projects

The GEPRIS information portal provides information on DFG-funded projects, people and institutions.

DFG funding in the field of electronic media

In order to sustainably improve the supply of electronic specialist information at German universities, research institutions and academic libraries, the German Research Foundation (DFG) has financed the acquisition of national licenses for electronic media as part of its funding program "Supraregional literature supply and national licenses" since 2004. The aim is to give scientists, students and private individuals interested in science access to databases, digital text collections, electronic journals and e-books. With the NatHosting project , the DFG is also promoting the development of a national infrastructure for long-term archiving and permanent availability of electronic media.


According to § 3 of the DFG statutes, "Universities that are institutions of research of general importance, other institutions of research of general importance, the academies united in the Union of Academies of Sciences in the Federal Republic of Germany" and important scientific associations can become members of the DFG .

Participating universities

Other research institutions

Academies of Science

Scientific associations


  • Anne Cottebrune: The plannable person. The DFG and human heredity, 1920–1970 (= studies on the history of the German Research Foundation 2). Franz Steiner, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-515-09099-5 .
  • Perspectives on research and its funding. 2007-2011. German Research Foundation (Ed.); Wiley-VCH, Weinheim 2008, ISBN 978-3-527-32064-6 .
  • Noyan Dinçkal, Christof Dipper , Detlev Mares: Self- mobilization of science. Technical universities in the "Third Reich". Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2009, ISBN 978-3-534-23285-7 .
  • Hellmut Flashar , Nikolaus Lobkowicz , Otto Pöggeler (eds.): Spiritual science as a task. Cultural-political perspectives and aspects. de Gruyter, Berlin et al. 1978, ISBN 3-11-007456-7 (17 articles. Across all humanities and cultural sciences, partly well-known, partly less well-known authors from " orchid subjects ". Appendix list of members of the working group "Geisteswissenschaften und Research Policy "in the DFG with short vitae.)
  • Notker Hammerstein : The German Research Foundation in the Weimar Republic and in the Third Reich. Science policy in the republic and dictatorship 1920–1945. Beck, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-406-44826-7 . ( Ernst Klee accuses Hammerstein of whites of the Nazi activities of the DFG using the example of Robert Ritters and others of racial hygienists.)
  • Lothar Mertens : "Only those who are politically worthy". DFG research funding in the Third Reich 1933–1937. Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-05-003877-2 .
  • Thomas Nipperdey , Ludwig Schmugge: 50 years of research funding in Germany: An outline of the history of the German Research Foundation. 1920-1970. [Occasion. of their 50th anniversary], German Research Foundation, Bad Godesberg 1970.
  • Karin Orth / Willi Oberkrome (eds.): The German Research Foundation 1920–1970. Research funding in the field of tension between science and politics , Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 2010, ISBN 978-3-515-09652-2 .
  • Patrick Wagner : Emergency communities of science. The German Research Foundation (DFG) in three political systems, 1920 to 1973 (= studies on the history of the German Research Foundation 12). Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 2021, ISBN 978-3-515-12857-5 .

Web links

Commons : Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft  - collection of images, videos and audio files
 Wikinews: Category: DFG  - in the news


Individual evidence

  1. German Research Foundation: History
  2. Michael Hönscheid: The annual report 2019. In: July 1, 2020, accessed August 29, 2020 .
  3. a b c d e f Statutes of the German Research Foundation, in the version of the resolution of the General Assembly of July 3, 2019, entered in the register of associations under No. VR 2030 at the Bonn District Court on September 20, 2019 *. Retrieved August 2, 2020 .
  4. Press release "Katja Becker becomes President of the DFG , July 3, 2019.
  5. DFG - German Research Foundation - Two new vice presidents for the DFG. Retrieved August 2, 2020 .
  6. ^ DFG - German Research Foundation - Board of Directors, Vice Presidents and other members. Retrieved August 2, 2020 .
  7. Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Press Release No. 52 | November 12, 2018: General Secretary Dorothee Dzwonnek is leaving office , accessed on November 12, 2018.
  8. DFG - German Research Foundation - Heide Ahrens becomes the new Secretary General of the DFG. Retrieved August 2, 2020 .
  9. Berlin office. In: . Retrieved July 7, 2016 .
  10. DFG Annual Report 2018 *. In: . Retrieved July 12, 2019 .
  11. Senate. In: . Retrieved July 7, 2016 .
  12. Senate Committee for the Collaborative Research Centers. Accessed April 14, 2021 (German).
  13. Senate Committee for the Research Training Groups. Accessed April 14, 2021 (German).
  14. DFG (2016) Notes for reviewers. Update date: March 8, 2016 ( online )
  15. Voting portal for the 2019 review board election of the DFG
  16. ^ Information from the DFG on the final election results, January 17, 2020
  17. ^ Website of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. Retrieved April 23, 2015 .
  18. See, for example, Gottfried Haberler, Stephan Verosta: Liberal and planned economy trade policy (= interstate economy. Volume 8). Junker & Dünnhaupt, Berlin 1934. Funded by the Notgemeinschaft der Dt. Wiss.
  19. Ernst Klee : German Medicine in the Third Reich. Careers before and after 1945. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2001, ISBN 3-10-039310-4 , p. 179.
  20. ^ The DFG: willing and adaptable ( Memento of August 20, 2007 in the Internet Archive ).
  21. Ernst Klee: German Medicine in the Third Reich. Careers before and after 1945. 2001, p. 175.
  22. ^ Ernst Piper : Alfred Rosenberg. Hitler's chief ideologist. Blessing, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-89667-148-0 , p. 355 (also: Potsdam, University, habilitation paper, 2005)
  23. Götz Aly and Susanne Heim : Pioneers of Destruction. Auschwitz and the German plans for a new European order , first edition 1991, revised new edition 2013, Fischer Taschenbuch 19510, Frankfurt (Main) 2013, ISBN 978-3-596-19510-7 , pp. 379, 410 ff.
  24. Isabel Heinemann, Willi Oberkrome , Sabine Schleiermacher, Patrick Wagner : DFG exhibition Science Planning Displacement , accessed on July 3, 2015.
  25. Ernst Klee: German consumption of human time, November 28, 1997, accessed on January 30, 2015.
  26. ^ The persecution of the Sinti and Roma under National Socialism , pp. 9-10. Scientific Services of the German Bundestag, 2009.
  27. Ernst Klee: German Medicine in the Third Reich. Careers before and after 1945. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2001, ISBN 3-10-039310-4 , p. 185.
  28. ^ Rüdiger Hachtmann : The science landscape between 1930 and 1949. In: Michael Grüttner , Rüdiger Hachtmann and others. (Ed.): Broken Scientific Cultures: University and Politics in the 20th Century , Göttingen 2010, p. 192.
  29. DFG: GEPRIS Historisch. In: GEPRIS Historically. DFG, February 11, 2021, accessed on February 11, 2021 .
  30. Thomas Stamm-Kuhlmann : Between the state and self-administration. German research in reconstruction 1945–1965. Verlag Wissenschaft und Politik, Cologne 1981, ISBN 3-8046-8597-8 (At the same time: Bonn, University, dissertation, 1980).
  31. ^ Studies on the history of the DFG in the catalog of the German National Library
  32. "Since only the very best scientists are gathered in the committees of the DFG, it is not surprising that they too receive research funding themselves. The honorable commitment to science must not fail to block funding. Otherwise you won't win the best or demand a special monastic sacrifice from them. Nothing is learned about the funding of the reviewers - because reviewers and reports are secret. [...] The ministerial agents can develop research concepts for the entire Federal Republic at their own discretion - within a private-law association that is not responsible to anyone. "Roland Reuss, Volker Rieble: Free science is threatened . In: FAZ , October 18, 2011.
  33. Horsthemke's gloss in the German university newspaper
  34. Horsthemke's text at SPIEGEL
  35. Stefanie Salaw-Hanslmaier: The legal nature of the German Research Foundation. Effects on the applicant's legal protection (= studies on jurisprudence. Volume 129). Kovač, Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-8300-1194-6 (also: Augsburg, University, dissertation, 2003).
  36. ^ Daniel Lübbert: The German Research Foundation (DFG). Structures, procedures, need for reform . Info letter from the scientific service of the German Bundestag (PDF; 574 kB) Scientific services - WD 8, Berlin 2006.
  37. Julia Merlot: Manipulated Studies: Mild punishment for top researcher. Spiegel Online, December 12, 2012, accessed on August 3, 2015.
  38. ^ A b Curd Wunderlich: Point against Thunberg - German Research Foundation deletes Nuhr contribution. from July 31, 2020.
  39. Felix Hutten: “Just kidding?” Sü from August 1, 2020.
  40. Article by Dieter Nuhr online again. In: German Research Foundation, August 6, 2020, accessed on November 9, 2020 .
  41. ^ German Research Foundation: Katja Becker becomes President of the DFG . Press release of July 3, 2019, accessed on July 3, 2019.
  42. ^ Philipps University of Marburg, press office: Gauß lecture in Marburg
  43. All funding programs at a glance DFG
  44. DFG: GEPRIS. In: GEPRIS. DFG, February 11, 2021, accessed on February 11, 2021 .
  46. Hildegard Schäffler, Michael Seadle, Karl-Heinz Weber: Permanent access to digital publications - the DFG project NatHosting . In: o-bib. The open library journal / published by the VDB . tape 2 , December 18, 2015, p. 279–284 pages , doi : 10.5282 / O-BIB / 2015H4S279-284 ( [accessed on March 25, 2020]).
  47. ^ Martin Steinberger: Members of the German Research Foundation. German Research Foundation (DFG), February 7, 2020, accessed on September 1, 2020 .
  48. ^ Members of the German Research Foundation. (PDF) German Research Foundation (DFG), July 4, 2019, accessed on September 1, 2020 .

Coordinates: 50 ° 41 ′ 58 ″  N , 7 ° 8 ′ 52 ″  E