DFG Career Support Principles 

DFG 10 Principles of Effective Career Support for Early-stage Researchers

(English translation of the German “Prinzipien”: DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft - Prinzipien wirksamer Karriereunterstützung in der Wissenschaft)

March 2021

As the largest research funding organization and central self-governing body for science in Germany, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) attaches great importance to the promotion of early scientific careers and has enshrined it as a statutory objective. With its activities and funding instruments, it provides impetus for research- and career-friendly structures, for predictable career paths, competitive remuneration and equipment, equal opportunities, and for the compatibility of career and family.

In its funding programs, the DFG always places great importance on selecting individuals and projects through a transparent and competitive review process that takes appropriate account of the applicants' respective research experience and career stage.

The DFG awards funding for the implementation of projects and for the qualification of scientists in early career phases. Since the DFG does not act as an employer itself, it considers the duty of care to lie with the supervisors and host institutions. The DFG therefore expects them to provide a framework that ensures effective career support.

Based on these considerations, the DFG has developed the following principles, which it encourages its member institutions as well as all institutions and individuals that receive funding from the DFG to support early-career researchers.

These principles are to be understood as supplements to the guidelines for ensuring good scientific practice. They summarize how the situation of scientists in early career phases - in particular of doctoral and postdoctoral researchers - should be structured.

(1) Universities and research institutions have defined principles for dealing with scientists in early career phases and act accordingly. Among other things, they are guided by good scientific practice. The rules of good scientific practice are also communicated to doctoral students and postdocs and practiced in everyday life.

(2) Scientists enjoy a balance of support and personal responsibility appropriate to their career stage. They are empowered to manage their careers independently through increasing autonomy. They enjoy a status commensurate with their role and responsibilities and have appropriate participation rights.

(3) The individual achievements of each scientist in early career stages, for example in teaching, writing project proposals or publications, are adequately reflected and recognized. Qualitative standards are applied first and foremost in the evaluation of scientific performance.

(4) Supervision varies according to career stage. Good supervision includes regular feedback meetings and advice on future careers. Especially in the doctoral phase, supervision is best provided on the basis of a supervision agreement with defined contact persons and a clear definition of roles, rights and duties. Multiple supervision is a suitable means of ensuring optimal supervision at all times - even in difficult and conflictual situations or if a supervisor drops out. In order to manage conflicts well, there is a code of conduct and an independent arbitration board that can be called in if necessary. In addition to supervision, there are mentoring offers for individual support in career development by more experienced persons from the academic environment or even from other fields.

(5) Supervising scientists in early career phases is a responsible and time-consuming task. Continuing education and leadership training can help supervisors perform this task well. The supervisors have a role model function. They deserve appreciation for their good and committed supervision.

(6) The institutions are aware of their responsibility for the quality of research. Therefore, they have implemented quality assurance measures that are an important part of the training and through which cross-disciplinary as well as subject-specific standards are ensured. This also includes the promotion of an open error culture.

(7) Scientists work under attractive conditions. This means, above all, predictable career prospects, adequate pay and equipment, equal opportunities, and the compatibility of career and family. They receive support for a successful new entry or exit. Scientists in early career phases are granted access to research infrastructures. In the case of temporary positions that serve the purpose of qualification, it is ensured that employment relationships are designed in such a way that at least the qualification goal can be achieved.

(8) The career development of scientists is supported by appropriate measures: Scientists are integrated into the scientific community at an early stage and receive support for the targeted development of networks, for example through participation in conferences or stays abroad. In addition, they are given the opportunity to gain teaching experience, which is essential for a university career, but also beneficial for other career paths.

(9) Universities and research institutions have personnel development concepts and offer suitable support and guidance for different career paths. The acquisition of professional and interdisciplinary competencies is made possible through appropriate offerings, regardless of whether a career in the academic sector or outside of it is being pursued. Career paths leading out of academia are equally worthy of recognition, and scientific qualification is also valuable outside the academic sector, where the majority of doctoral graduates continue their careers.

(10) Diversity, flexibility, and permeability are present. Accordingly, different career paths are possible with equal opportunities and enjoy the same recognition. Universities facilitate transitions between career stages and offer support in critical transition phases. Moreover, they also help in moving between sectors, as exchanges and practical experience are enriching. Switching between employers, various forms of mobility, and family-related sabbaticals are adequately accommodated so as not to impede career progression as much as possible. Internationality is encouraged.


This page last updated on: 30 November 2021