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The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), which funds most basic research in Germany, has a grant program that funds a temporary position ("Eigene Stelle") for novice principal investigators (PIs) who have completed their PhD. I have several questions about how the logistics would work if I win such a grant:

  • How does the salary work? Is the salary negotiated with the host university or with the DFG directly?
  • Who is the additional funding (travel, workshops, etc) given to? The PI directly or the host university?
  • Is it possible to leave the position months before the scheduled end of the project? For example, in case of an employment offer elsewhere or are there any penalties?
  • Are there any publicly available (successful) project proposals?
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    Concerning the first bullet point: There is nothing to negotiate: Salaries are determined by a collective wage agreement (Tarifvertrag) for public servants. Sep 5 at 23:58
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    @JochenGlueck Isn't there wiggle room betwen E13 and E14 in this context?
    – user934318
    Sep 6 at 1:30
  • @user934318: Ah ok, that might be right. According to the first paragraph in this DFG document the decision whether you get E13 or E14 is done by our employer (i.e., the university). Now I'm not sure how much room for negotation there is with respect to this decision. Sep 6 at 3:29
  • "Is it possible to leave the position months before the scheduled end of the project?" Yes, of course that's possible. Slavery is not legal in Germany. If you quit, DFG will withhold the funds. You university will then need to negotiate a solution but that's not your concern. There might even be a possibility that you take your funds with you to your new (academic) position. It depends on the details.
    – Roland
    Sep 6 at 8:39
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    @user934318 No, there isn't. They will only require refunds if funding is misappropriated or if funding can't be spent anymore (e.g., because your employement has ended). All of that isn't your concern anyway. Formally, the funds always go to the university.
    – Roland
    Sep 6 at 8:54
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Even if it sounds so, DFG "Eigene Stelle" does not fund you personally. You wouldn't even be considered a viable PI without being associated to a university with support from an institute. In Germany, if you do not have full support of at least one full professors, any grant application is almost impossible.

So, you don't negotiate with DFG. The money is given to your university/institute and you negotiate with them. In Germany this is the well known "öffentlicher Dienst" with all its standard tables. No exceptions.

Also all additional money goes to the institution. If they manage this properly, you will get your own "Kostenstelle" where you book your expenses in a self organized way. This is the typical way to access grant money. However, if the institute would get in significant financial trouble -- your grant will be affect together with it (not a very likely scenario, but illustrating where the money actually sits).

You can always leave. But you can't take the grant with you. There are other (much more personal) grants like Helhmoltz Young Investigator, DFG Emmy Noether, ERC starting grant, where you can well negotiate and move around to different places. But certainly not with DFG "Eigene Stelle".

There is no public database with proposals. Proposals are always confidential and are not going to made public. Often there are new ideas in them, right... This is somehow the entire idea of it. You have to know someone who trusts you and shows you his proposal.

Additional details

  1. How does the TV-L 13 vs TV-L 14 negotiation with the university work?

The actual table is here: https://oeffentlicher-dienst.info/tv-l/allg/ You will have to negotiate the "group/level" 13/14 with your supervisor, most likely this is the institute leader. It depends on the institute structure and your own future plans if this will be successful. The "group/level" negotiation is a strategic one.

But besides the "group/level" there is also the "step" which only depends on time/experience. The "step" you have to negotiate with the human resources department, you will have to prove them "experience in years" so they will put you in a higher "step". If you are young, this is difficult and you may just end up in "step" 1. The "step" negotiation is very technical and super-bureaucratic.

  1. Could you elaborate on how the "Kostenstelle" works in this context?

That's just bookkeeping. "Kostenstelle" is a dedicated (bank) account for your project. It is very good to have your own account, it gives you a lot of freedom. But also responsibility.

  1. If I already have a postdoctoral contract with the target university for the DFG project, what should the "employer authorization/availability" for the DFG application say?

You still need official support from the institute granting you office space and working material, computing, lab-space, as well as integration into the institute. Without an institute to support you, you can't get an "Eigene Stelle". It is not enough to point to an existing contract since times may differ, and also the project may change, etc.

  1. Is it 100% sure that there is no money-back policy if I don't stay for a certain percentage of the scheduled contract duration? For some European funds, I know that if you quit before 80% of the contract duration is completed, you have to give back all the money you received.

This is not 100% sure. But I would be extremely surprised. Maybe someone else knows? But why not just write a mail to DFG. They will tell you. There is a dedicated person responsible for you at DFG (depending on your research topic)...

  1. If not the fille in proposal, are at least the proposal modules available online (without actually starting an online application)?

I guess you mean this: https://www.dfg.de/foerderung/programme/einzelfoerderung/sachbeihilfe/formulare_merkblaetter/index.jsp

  1. Is it possible to apply for other types of funds (e.g. ERC, DAAD, etc.) while holding an Eigene Stelle?

Absolutely. I think this is within one of the core ideas to apply for larger grants as follow-up. Of course, with any new application you have to make sure it is not an already existing project, but a new one (follow-up)... Also, avoid "double funding". DFG will not "double fund", thus, if there is already money from a different agency, DFG will not give more to the same research.

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    True. I mentioned Emmy Noether later, too. I will try to improve this. Sep 8 at 12:49
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    "However, if the institute would get in significant financial trouble -- your grant will be affect together with it" I don't think this is the case. AFAIK, DFG doesn't transfer the whole grant at once. I'm not really involved in stuff like that but I believe funding is transferred annually contingent on some conditions (reports submitted, project positions actually being filled, ...). The money can't be used to solve "financial troubles".
    – Roland
    Sep 8 at 14:54
  • Thank you so much for your answer. It's very helpful. (1) Ok, I see. Do you have any information about the TV-L 13 vs TV-L 14 negotiation? Also, is it possible to negotiate additional "perks" with the university? E.g., set up of the office material, vacations, additional bonus, teaching duties, etc? (2) Can you tell me a bit more about what is a "Kostenstelle" and how it works (in general and also specifically in the context of the DFG)?
    – user934318
    Sep 9 at 23:17
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    @cbeleitesunhappywithSX Concerning TV-L, each employee gets the same amount of holidays since 2012 (30 days, when working 5 days a week) (s. oeffentlichen-dienst.de/tv-l/urlaub.html).
    – erc
    Sep 14 at 12:28
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    @erc: thanks for correcting me - I remember that from back then, but did a quick search last week - and apparently ended up in a table for TVL-alt contracts (i.e. old contracts that started before 2012). (I'm not TV-L any more :-) ) Sep 14 at 12:59

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