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Fellowship Programme

FAQ – Leopoldina Postdoc Scholarship

Application requirements

Can I apply before I have completed my doctoral degree?

You can apply once you have been officially admitted as a doctoral candidate (as proved by written confirmation from the examination office). It is advisable, however, to additionally submit a statement from the reviewers of your thesis or a copy of their appraisal to help us assess your academic performance. We also need a copy of your thesis manuscript (pdf file) or of publications containing the findings from your thesis. If your application is successful, you must complete your degree (and receive your PhD certificate) before you can take up the scholarship.

When is a doctoral qualification considered to be completed?

The relevant date is that when the last academic requirement for the doctoral degree (e.g. defence of the doctoral thesis, final oral examination) is met. This date is generally noted on the certificate next to the date when the certificate was issued. The reference date for calculating the period elapsed since the doctoral degree was awarded is the date when the application was received by the Leopoldina’s office.

More than seven years have passed since I was awarded my doctoral degree. Can I still apply for a postdoctoral scholarship?

If your degree was awarded more than seven years ago, you are no longer entitled to apply for a postdoctoral scholarship. If the seven-year time limit is exceeded only slightly, exceptions may be made in special cases (e.g. in cases of taking time off for parental leave). If you think such an exception may apply to you, we would ask you to consult with us first and then send us your CV and list of publications so that we can advise you further.

Is parental leave taken into account when evaluating scientific achievement?

Please state – in your CV, for example – any periods when your career was wholly or partially interrupted so that you could care for your children. We will then take these into consideration when evaluating your achievements in relation to the length of your career. The interval allowed between the completion of a doctoral degree and applying for a scholarship under this programme can be extended by a maximum of two years per child if potential candidates furnish proof that they interrupted their academic career for the specified length of time after having completed their degree. If you have any further questions, please get in touch with the coordinator of the Fellowship Programme directly.

I am currently or was recently in the envisaged host country. Are there any formal reasons why I can’t apply?

You can apply if:

  • You are in Germany at the time the Leopoldina receives your application.
  • You do not spend more than two months in the host country after the Leopoldina receives your application and do not work on the proposed project.
  • You have pursued your scientific career in Germany for more than six months after a longer stay (twelve months or more) in the host country at the time the Leopoldina receives your application.
  • You completed your doctoral degree in the host country and have received your doctoral certificate at the time the Leopoldina receives your application.
  • A change of academic environment (place of work, working group) is a prerequisite for applications to be considered.

Can I apply if I’m not a German citizen?

You are entitled to apply if you have lived in Germany continuously for at least five years prior to submitting your application and if you can prove that you intend Germany to be your main place of work and residence in the long term. Applicants from Switzerland and Austria may only apply for funding grants in Germany.

I’m a German citizen but have been living abroad for several years. Can I apply?

Applicants must have their main place of residence in Germany. Therefore you are not entitled to apply if you have been living in a foreign country continuously for five years or more or if you studied and earned your doctoral degree abroad.

I have an MD / Dr med. degree. Do special admission requirements apply for me?

You are entitled to apply if you earned your doctorate with a research thesis or if you have a comparable academic degree. You cannot apply if you have simply been engaged in clinical practice and have no research experience.

Host institute

Who can be my scientific host?

Possible hosts are scientists abroad working for outstanding universities and institutes in the specialist area in question.

Can two scientific hosts accompany my research project?

Yes. If the hosts work for different research institutes, you will need two separate reviews and two written invitations.

What is expected from the host?

To ensure research fellows maintain a large degree of independence, the scholarship is funded entirely by the Leopoldina. However, the host is expected to provide the workspace, the basis for carrying out the project and anything else you need to perform your work. In cases where a scholarship is extended, the Leopoldina would ask hosts to make a financial contribution.


Are there deadlines for the submission of applications?

No, applications are processed in an ongoing process and presented to the committee at the subsequent selection meeting. Complete applications should be submitted in good time before each meeting since processing an application takes between three and six months.

When and how often do selection meetings take place?

Four selection meetings are scheduled each year at intervals of roughly three months.

Can I apply for a scholarship for less than six months?

No, the programme is designed to support projects than run for at least one year and possibly up to three.

Can I divide my stay at the host research institute into separate chunks?

No, the research period must be continuous.

When is the earliest moment that I can take up the scholarship?

Scholarships usually begin on the first day of the month after the allocation committee makes its decision and you receive a letter of approval. Exceptions apply to applicants who have not yet completed their doctoral degree or if a visa needs to be arranged.

When do I have to take up the scholarship at the latest?

You should take up your scholarship no later than six months after your application has been accepted. Exceptions may be made to this regulation in individual cases if you make a specific request stating the reasons why this is necessary.

How much is the scholarship for?

You will be informed of the scholarship amount once your application has been approved. In general, the same rules apply as for the research scholarships at the German Research Foundation. You can find model calculations on the DFG’s website.

Will the scholarship money be paid retroactively if I am already working at the host institute at the time of the decision?

No, the scholarship money is not paid retroactively. The first payment is made during the first month.

Can I apply for another scholarship from a different institution?

Yes, generally it is possible to file an application with another institution. You must mention any such applications and the dates you applied in your Leopoldina application, and during the application process you must update us on any developments in this regard. If another funding body grants you a scholarship for the same period and the same project, you may not apply for a Leopoldina scholarship. If you have already made an application when the other application is approved, you must withdraw your application with the Leopoldina.

I have received a scholarship from another institution, but not for the whole project. Can I apply for supplementary funding from the Leopoldina so that I can continue my project?

No, we do not grant supplementary funding. Please consider that if you arrive at the host institute before the beginning of your scholarship period, this may lead the Leopoldina to reject your application for a scholarship as it will be regarded as follow-up funding. If you arrive at the host institution more than two months before the beginning of your Leopoldina scholarship period, this can no longer be considered as a work familiarisation period.

Application formalities

Where should I send my application?

Please send your application directly to the President of the Leopoldina in Halle, at the following address:

Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina
- Nationale Akademie der Wissenschaften -
Der Präsident
Postfach 110543
06019 Halle (Saale)

Can I send my application via e-mail only?

No, applying only via e-mail is not possible at present. Please always send a hard copy of your application by regular post.

How should I present my application?

Please present single copies of all documents as loose sheets, but held together by e.g. spring binders or paper clips. Only attach hard copies of your publications if an electronic copy is not available. For easier processing of your application please send us as much as you can electronically (in *.pdf or *.doc format), preferably via e-mail or as a CD-ROM.

Should reference letters be sent directly to the Leopoldina or should they be attached to the application?

Both is possible. You can either submit reference letters together with your application or they will be sent by the referees directly to the President of the Academy under the code “Förderprogramm” (Fellowship Programme). References must be of recent date if they are to be considered.

What happens if reference letters are submitted before the application?

Reference letters not immediately attributable to an application are kept for up to six months and then destroyed without notification.

Is one reference letter by a Leopoldina member or head of institute etc. enough?

This fulfils the formal requirements. Usually though, this only makes sense if the referee knows, and is in a position to assess, your scientific career and work. If the referee is not familiar with your previous scientific achievements then it certainly makes sense to submit at least one further letter of reference.

Who should write a reference letter for my application and how many do I need?

Possible referees are recognised scientists capable of assessing your scientific career and potential as well as your scientific achievements so far. It is therefore important that referees be familiar with your scientific activities. You should attach at least two letters of reference. Please note: The statement by the host is not a letter of reference!

Which publications should I attach to my application?

Attach copies of about three publications, of which at least one should date from the last two years. Please choose your most important and recent publications and those where you did a large share of the work. Applicants without this number of publications may attach their thesis (only in an electronic format!).

My work has not been published yet. Can I still apply?

No, generally not. Your publications are intended to prove that you have achieved important scientific work in your field. Without publications this is hardly possible. A submitted application can in some cases be put on hold until at least one first-author publication has been released. The quality of the journals in question is a further possible criterion.

What should be included in the list of publications?

Include all the publications you have authored or co-authored. Also include lectures and poster presentations and, if applicable, their publication as abstracts.

Should I include articles currently under review or planned publications in my publications list?

Please only list publications already submitted for review (please include the name of the journal!). You should notify us as soon as the publication has been accepted by sending us a copy of the confirmation letter, as publications that have been rejected cannot be considered in the assessment of your publication achievements.

I have not yet completed my doctoral degree. Do I hand in my doctoral certificate later?

Yes. As soon as you finish your doctoral degree we need at least a (preliminary) official confirmation by the university. You may not begin the scholarship without a copy of this document.

Selection procedure

Will you confirm receipt of my application and of further documents and references?

You will be notified (usually by e-mail) as soon as we receive your application. Due to the large numbers of applications we receive, we cannot always separately confirm receipt of further documents and letters of reference. We will, however, get in touch if we require further documents for your application.

How much time do I have to send further documents or to update what I have already sent?

Submitted applications should be complete. Letters of reference should either be handed in together with the application or shortly afterwards in order to avoid unnecessary application processing delays. If any of your publications that were under review at the time of application are subsequently accepted, please immediately send us a copy of the letter of confirmation. Updates to your list of publications can be considered up to the day of the selection meeting. Please send us any updates via e-mail as a separate attachment to your list of publications.

Will I be informed of the date when my application will be decided on?

Once we have made sure that your application meets all the formal requirements, the scientific evaluation can begin. You will be notified if the pre-selection committee decides that certain aspects require clarification or if your application is rejected. In the interim, you can e-mail or telephone to request information on the processing status of the application and the date by which a decision will presumably be reached. Should the scientific evaluation take longer than expected, you will also be notified if the date of the final decision needs to be postponed. We will e-mail you shortly after the selection meeting to inform you of the decision the committee has reached. In most cases, you will receive the official letter of notification a few days later by post.

Who will be evaluating my application?

Applications are evaluated by independent experts in the respective field.

Who makes the decision on my application?

The final decision on all applications is made by the allocation committee. The allocation committee is comprised of Leopoldina members representing all fields in which applications have been submitted.

If my application is rejected, will I be informed of the reasons?

In each selection round, the best 20 to 25 percent of applicants are chosen for direct allocation of a research grant. Whether an application is accepted or rejected always depends on the merits of the competing applicants. This means it is often not possible to give specific reasons why a certain application has been rejected. If the selection committee basically rates a particular applicant’s qualifications as being among the top 25 percent, but there are other specific reasons for rejecting the application, the decision can be a “rejection with advice”. In such cases, the letter of rejection will point out which aspects, in the committee’s opinion, are in need of further improvement (e.g., publication achievements or the research proposal). A renewed application at a later date may be possible in such cases.

Will my application documents be returned to me after the selection process has been completed?

No. The documents you submit will be kept in our archives (as required) and the rest will be destroyed. So please do not submit any originals, but only regular (not certified) copies. Please do not submit any books or monographs or your doctoral thesis unless specifically requested to do so. These would be returned to you afterwards. If you send a self-addressed, stamped envelope along with your application, we will return your documents to you if your application is rejected.


What percentage of applications are successful?

On average, about 25 percent of applications are accepted.

What are the most important criteria for selection?

Applications are primarily selected on the basis of the applicants’ individual merits and scientific qualifications. Please refer to the programme information for further information on the selection criteria and general requirements.

May I apply again if my application is rejected?

You may apply again, but the new application must differ significantly from the one that was rejected. Generally, rejected applicants should only apply again after they have made scientific progress, e.g. new scientific publications have been accepted by journals or publishing houses that are reviewed according to international standards. In our experience, it usually makes sense to wait at least one year, better two, before applying again. If the second application does not significantly differ from the initial one that was rejected, this may lead to its being rejected on formal grounds. Exceptions are cases where the allocation committee has advised an applicant to make certain additions to a project proposal and then submit the same proposal for renewed consideration.



PD Dr. Andreas Clausing

Coordinator of the Fellowship Programme

Phone 0345 - 47 239 - 150
Fax 0345 - 47 239 - 139
E-Mail andreas.clausing @leopoldina.org