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The main call is the principal mechanism for inviting proposals for the Berlin University Alliance’s Grand Challenge Initiatives funding program. The aim is to establish and strengthen research associations to address the grand social challenges referred to in the call. Building on their findings, successful research associations may be able to continue their work within the Einstein Research Units funding program.

Exploration Projects aim to establish interdisciplinary research associations in Berlin dedicated to issues of social relevance, coordinating and linking the research undertaken by members of the Berlin University Alliance. By doing so, they contribute to the development of the Grand Challenge Initiatives of the Alliance and strengthen Berlin as a center of research.

At the heart of the funding program are areas of thematic focus which represent new departures from established research and which examine new issues, possibly by adopting innovative methodologies, in interdisciplinary teams. The interdisciplinary makeup of the teams should differ to that of well-established and tried and tested interdisciplinary partnerships. The Alliance explicitly supports high-risk projects. At the same time it should be possible to establish longterm research projects and financing structures through the funded Exploration Project.

Consortia of applicants are not expected to be linked to those of other project proposals. Nevertheless, this can be beneficial if such cooperation makes clear that the proposals contribute to the development of a Berlin approach to social cohesion.

Ideally, an approach to social cohesion unique to Berlin should be developed within the Berlin University Alliance’s Grand Challenge Initiative Social Cohesion. A possible starting point for this could be the thesis that heterogeneity plays a decisive role in the success of social cohesion.

All postdoctoral researchers who are members of the Berlin University Alliance (cf. DFG guidelines). Applying postdoctoral researchers are required to provide proof of academic independence according to relevant programs (e.g. Junior research group leader, Emmy Noether groups, etc.) or the criteria of their discipline (e.g. junior research group leader, Emmy Noether Groups, etc.). Suitable evidence and explanations must be submitted.

Visiting professors are not eligible to apply. Joint appointments and professors on fixed-term contracts, however, are eligible. A valid employment contract of at least 50% with a partner institution is decisive for eligibility.

Financing of an applicant’s position must be guaranteed for the entire duration of the project (by means of a contract). If the employment contract is not guaranteed until the expected end of the project, a letter from the head of the institute or the dean's office can be enclosed regarding the effort to enable this person to be employed until the end of the project. As the goal is to develop longterm perspectives, the majority of applicants should be employed on a permanent basis.

Consortia must consist of at least 6 and a maximum of 12 researchers. These figures should be understood as fixed upper and lower limits. Consortia must include applicants from at least two Berlin University Alliance institutions.

No. Each person eligible to apply may only participate in one project for the Exploration Projects Social Cohesion main call regardless of his or her function in the project. I.e. this also applies if a PI would like to act as an additional cooperation partner in another project.

Coordination tasks should be carried out by scientific staff. For this purpose, no separate positions for office staff can be created and also no partial amounts can be applied for within the framework of a scientific position.

Affiliated institutes are not eligible to apply. Individual persons, e.g. professors at an An-Institute affiliated with an Alliance institution are, however, eligible to apply via this Alliance institution.

The Berlin University Alliance expressly supports measures to advance the careers of early career scientists through the cross-cutting topic of “Promoting Talents”. In the interests of advancing the careers of early career scientists, it is, therefore, expected that at least one early career scientist, i.e. in the early stages of their career, either a postdoc or a researcher who has recently completed their habilitation, is included in a consortium. This could also be a junior professor or a W2 professor at the start of their professorship.

Doctoral candidates can be employed as part of an Exploration Project on the condition that their contract can be guaranteed for the entire duration of the project. In this case, the doctoral candidate must also provide proof of financial security for the three project years beyond the end of the standard period of study. This proof, in the sense of a commitment of the head of the institution or department of the applying scientist, must be individually prepared and agreed upon.

Doctoral candidates and individuals who have completed their doctorates but are still awaiting doctoral certificates (Dr. Designatus) are not eligible to apply.

Third parties, in other words persons who are not members of one of the Berlin University Alliance institutions, can be included in applications, but are not eligible to receive funding. External applicants must provide proof of their funding contribution when submitting their application (this can include funding for their own position), unlike any possible additional cooperation partners who are not listed as co-applicants in the proposal. Anyone who has an employment contract with an institution of the Alliance is considered a member of an institution of the Alliance.

It is also possible to nominate additional external cooperation partners. These partners are not required to present proof of their funding contribution. Depending on the procurement laws for budgets at the individual Alliance institutions, it may also be possible to commission work from external sources. These are to be invoiced as full costs.

Names can be included, but it is not necessary to do so. A description of new target groups can be included in the proposal instead.

Yes. However, if they do so, they may not take part in the evaluation procedure.

No. Cost-neutral extensions of the projects due to illness or family-related absences (pregnancy, parental leave, etc.) are however possible.

Up to 450,000 euros per annum (a maximum of 1.35 million euros for the duration of a project) can be applied for within the Exploration Projects funding program for the Grand Challenge Initiative Social Cohesion call.

Funding for equipment and personnel (including student staff) is provided for application consortia consisting of members from more than one partner institution on the basis of budget regulations. Funding is also available for investment resources (excluding construction costs).

Funding is classified as budget resources. This means that the state budget regulations and guidelines of the Alliance institutions apply. The funds must be used economically and sparingly.

Approved funding is generally tied to the budget year in accordance with the funded project duration. Applications for the carryover of funds to the following year must be submitted to the Alliance administrative office by 1 September of the year and should not exceed 20%. Similarly, funds not required must be reported to the office by 1 September of the year.

Knowledge exchange and teaching and learning are integral elements of the Excellence proposal and as such constitute key activities of the Berlin University Alliance. It is an explicit aim to link the Alliance’s various objectives. As such, initiatives for innovative teaching within the framework of the call for Grand Challenge Initiatives are not mandatory, but welcome.

No, as the funding is classified as budget funding, teaching duties must continue to be honored.

All projects are required to demonstrate a longterm perspective within the Alliance or beyond. Within the Alliance, there will be the Einstein Research Units funding option. Concrete formats are currently being developed for this. The relevant calls will be published on the website of the Berlin University Alliance.

Social cohesion is the first topic to be addressed by the Berlin University Alliance Grand Challenges. Issues of social cohesion and its absence are to be addressed from the broadest possible perspective. Within the Alliance, the term is deliberately not defined in a narrow sense to enable a wide spectrum to be addressed. Proposals should also explain which conception of social cohesion the proposal is based upon and how the project will contribute to social cohesion.

Transdisciplinary here means an integrative approach to research which seeks to include non-academic partners and, most importantly, partners from society. Transdisciplinarity assumes that in addition to scientific knowledge, other knowledge resources (e.g. from professional practice) are relevant to the research process.

No. Transdisciplinary approaches are desirable but not mandatory. However, we do encourage all applicants to integrate transdisciplinary perspectives into their projects.

Yes, mono-disciplinary proposals cannot be considered.

In keeping with goals of the Alliance, it is required of applicants that consortia are put together so as to create balanced groups in terms of gender and diversity and that, when necessary, gender and diversity dimensions are taken into consideration when devising research questions and research design.

Yes, a letter of intent providing details of the topic for the envisages research proposal as well as a tentative list of participating PIs should be submitted to the coordinators of the Grand Challenge Initiative via grand-challenges@berlin-university-alliance.de by 15 March, 2020. An informal e-mail is sufficient for this purpose.

Proposals may only be submitted via the following online portal: https://portal.bihealth.de. The deadline for submission is Monday, 4 May, 2 pm.

Details regarding the application process can be found on the Alliance website.

The various components of the proposal are listed in the application text on the Alliance website. For more details, please see the online portal for the submission of proposals, which is also linked on the Alliance website.

Yes, the four main focuses are intended to indicate the breadth of the topic of social cohesion; they do not, however, represent conclusive criteria. Proposals with topics not listed under the main focuses are equally welcome as long as they meet the goals and other funding criteria for Exploration Projects.

The selection process is two-stage. Firstly, the proposals are assessed by a committee of international experts. Selected proposals will then be invited to present their project (pitch). It is planned to fund five projects.

No. It makes no difference whether the proposal is submitted via Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin or Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin.

A final report is mandatory, but interim reports are not.

In order to be able to make a significant contribution to a project, an employment contract of at least 50% with an alliance institution is required.

Each Alliance institution decides for itself whether the performance-oriented allocation of funds (LOM) is applicable based on the acquisition of funds from the Berlin University Alliance. In principle, however, the funds are not to be regarded as project funds, but as budget funds.

Yes, all relevant deaneries, i.e. those that would be affected by the implementation of the application by providing rooms or other resources, must be informed and a signature must be obtained. A template for the signatures is available on the alliance website.

Cooperation with international partners is generally welcomed. However, there are no preferences with regard to the selection of cooperation partners.

There is a section in the online portal where you should assign your application to one of the four funding priorities if possible (drop-down menu). However, you can also click on "others" here.

The Main Call Social Cohesion explicitly supports high-risk projects with novel approaches. At the same time, the funded Exploration Project should enable the development of long-term research projects or financing structures. Therefore, the potential of the novel approach of the project for a permanent anchoring in the research landscape should be explained in each case. The focus should initially be on the three years of project funding plus follow-up financing options.

For the calculation of personnel costs, please refer to the DFG's personnel cost rates for the year 2020, which can be found on the DFG's website: www.dfg.de/formulare/60_12/60_12_en.pdf 

The approved funds are budget funds and are generally tied to the budget year in accordance with the funded project duration. They are earmarked and are to be used exclusively for personnel, material and investment funds in accordance with the funded financing plan and the submitted application. Personnel, material and investment resources are in principle eligible for cover; however, the balance between the types of expenditure should not exceed 20%. Should a corresponding reallocation between the funds eligible for cover exceed 20%, please contact the administrative office.