New DFG Application Templates to Strengthen Equal Opportunity Practices

New package of measures is intended to promote a shift in the culture of research assessment at one of Germany’s biggest research funders.

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG – German Research Foundation) is making changes to some key elements of its funding application process in a bid to shift the focus of its review process to the substance of the applicant’s research rather than quantitative measures. With the modifications, the DFG is responding to a set of challenges and fields of action that were highlighted in the DFG position paper on academic publishing earlier this year. The report demanded a cultural shift towards research assessment with a focus on equal opportunity practices. In particular, it recommended that funding organisations broaden the spectrum of accepted publication formats and attach greater value to content-based evidence of achievement. The DFG is now implementing these demands by focussing on two key areas: CVs and publication lists.

From 1 March 2023, the DFG will be introducing a curriculum vitae template that will take a holistic approach to a researcher’s accomplishments. The new template allows applicants to provide both narrative and tabular information. It will also provide space for details of special circumstances or additional services to scholarship such as committee activities or the establishment of research infrastructures. The DFG hopes that the new template can offer a qualitatively sound assessment of academic performance that takes greater account of the respective stage of the individual’s life and career.

Changes are also being made to the types of publications that may now be included in application documents to reflect for the entire spectrum of academic publication formats. In addition to a maximum of ten publications in the more common publication formats, the CV can now list up to ten further sets of research outcomes and findings that have been publicised in a variety of other ways, including articles on preprint servers, data sets or software packages.

In DFG proposal documents, the project-specific list of publications will now be included in the general bibliography. The intention is to shift the focus of the review and the evaluation of a proposal away from the list of publications and towards the substance of the applicant’s accomplishments. The new guidelines also allow researchers to typographically highlight some of their own publications in the bibliography to document their own published preliminary work.

The changes to the DFG guidelines also spell out a move away from quantitative metrics such as impact factors and h-indices as they are not required in CVs or proposals and will also not be considered in the review process.

Through the focus on quantitative indicators and the substance of the applicant’s research, the modifications are intended to strengthen equality of opportunity during the review process and promote a cultural shift in research assessment as a whole.

(This report was the subject of a RESEARCHconnect Newsflash.)