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Research Funding for Postdoctoral Researchers

By Julia Becker

Immediately after being awarded their doctorates, many researchers want to focus on pure research for a few years. But even researchers at this stage of their careers will find a wide range of funding opportunities on offer from German sponsors.

Research Funding for Postdoctoral Researchers© Amanda Rohde - iStockphoto.com

Support for general research: DFG research grants

Scientists in all disciplines who have already obtained their doctorate can apply for a research grant from the German Research Foundation (DFG). These funds can be used for concrete research projects with a high level of scientific merit. Researchers can apply for money to fund their own position, for staff, scientific equipment, resources, travel costs and other expenses. The duration of funding depends on the length of the project being supported.

Support for projects and young scientists: The Fritz Thyssen Foundation

The Fritz Thyssen Foundation also sponsors research projects, primarily those in Germany but also international projects. Researchers with outstanding academic records who have obtained doctorates are eligible to apply for scholarships. Applications will only be accepted from researchers who are affiliated with a university or a non-profit research institution. In addition to extensive evidence of previous work, applicants must also submit a cost analysis for their research projects which details how much money is required and what it will be used for.

In addition to this project-specific support, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation also offers a scholarship for young researchers who have completed their doctorate within the past two years. There are no age limits for these scholarships, and the monthly amount paid to recipients is €1,700 gross. Scholarships are generally awarded for a period of one year.

Supporting research between the USA and Germany: The NIH/DFG Research Career Transition Awards Program

The NIH/DFG Research Career Transition Awards Program organised by the German Research Foundation (DFG) is aimed at highly-qualified scientists who want to carry out research in the USA and Germany after completing their doctorate. The programme is designed to run for five to six years and is divided into two phases: The first two to three years will see researchers visit one of 13 NIH institutes in the USA. During the remainder of the project, participants will attend a research institution in Germany. Researchers will receive a monthly stipend and will also receive support for travel expenses and materials up to a predetermined maximum amount. Applicants to this programme will need an outstanding research background and an original, international research project.

Support for research networks

An important part of the research landscape is broadening horizons and developing cooperation with other research institutions. This is what the German Research Foundation (DFG) seeks to do with its "Scientific Networks" programme which is aimed at young scientists who have already completed their doctorates. This programme is also aimed at researchers outside Germany who will have the opportunity to help establish international networks. The support provided consists of funding for travel, material and publication expenses incurred as a result of carrying out joint research between two locations and is provided for a maximum of three years. Anyone interested in establishing a scientific network must present a concept which has a clear collaborative research goal.

Funding for foreign scientists in Germany: Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation provides support which will be of interest to foreign scientists looking to carry out research in Germany. The Foundation provides, among other things, a monthly research stipend of €2,450 for postdoctoral researchers. In addition, recipients also receive financial support for travel and language courses. The requirements for applicants include a doctorate completed within the previous four years and scientific publications in internationally recognized scientific journals. The Foundation uses this general scholarship to provide funding programmes for scientists from specific countries and with specific specialisms.

Funding for foreign researchers in Germany: Opportunities from the DAAD

The DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) offers a wide range of scholarships for foreign scientists who want to carry out research in Germany. To help researchers find the most appropriate programme, the DAAD has created a search engine which allows scientists to enter details about their scientific status, their country of origin and their subject area.

Support from the European Union: Marie Curie Individual Fellowships

The European Commission provides support in the form of Mari Curie Individual Fellowships for scientists from the EU who want to carry out research outside their home country. The fellowships are also available to international researchers who want to carry out research in the EU. The Marie Curie Fellowships comprise a number of different programmes: The Intra-European Fellowships (IEF) are aimed at researchers from within the EU who want to carry out research outside their home country (in another European country). The International Outgoing Fellowships (IOF) support European scientists working on research projects outside the EU. The International Incoming Fellowships are scholarships for non-EU citizens looking to set up research projects in the EU. The Marie Curie Fellowships offer a number of other programmes in addition to the three programmes mentioned above. Applicants for all programmes must have completed their doctorates or have completed a comparable amount of research over a period of at least four years.

Support for the humanities: The "Pro Geisteswissenschaften" funding initiative

Academics involved in the humanities who have recently completed their doctorates can apply for funding from a special cooperation programme run by the Volkswagen Foundation, the Fritz-Thyssen Foundation and the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft (the organisation representing donors for German science). These institutions have created the "Pro Geisteswissenschaften" funding initiative for the humanities which is aimed at providing financial support for highly-qualified researchers in the humanities.

The initiative comprises several components of which the Dilthey Fellowship is particularly relevant for postdoctoral researchers. The support provided under this initiative is initially limited to a period of five years but can be extended for an additional five years subject to a successful evaluation. The annual funding amounts to €80,000 and can be used to pay for a researcher's salary, materials and travel expenses. The funding period can also be used to write publications which will form part of the researcher's habilitation.

Scholarships for the historians: Research scholarships from the Gerda Henkel Foundation

Postdoctoral researchers who are active in the area of historical research and are planning large, fixed-period research or projects can obtain support in the form of research scholarships or funding from the Gerda Henkel Foundation. Of particular interest to individuals are the research scholarships which are granted for a maximum of two years. Recipients, who can be from Germany or abroad, receive a monthly stipend of €2,000 as well as supplements for childcare, materials and travel expenses. Applicants are expected to demonstrate outstanding grades and a doctorate.

academics :: July 2009