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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org by 15 March, 2020. An informal e-mail is sufficient for this purpose.
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.
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.
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.
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.