Profile area "Understanding Research"

With the profile area "Understanding Research – Evaluation and Science Practice", the Foundation aims to promote research on science and provide targeted impulses for the structural improvement of research as well as academic teaching. To this end, it focuses on three thematic areas: namely, science cultures, science careers and science discourses. The aim is to evaluate, initiate and facilitate necessary changes in important areas of the science system. Points of reference here are, for example, standards of research and ethics, review procedures, evaluation and publications, career and governance. 

The profile area "Understanding Research" aims to

  • promote the generation of knowledge about science as well as the evaluation, communication and strategic application of the findings;
  • open up scope for scientists and scholars to engage in original research at crucial junctures in their careers;
  • support the careers of researchers via joint cooperation in and with other social systems and through qualification at the interfaces;
  • strengthen academic freedom in teaching and research and promote constructive public discourse on the topic;
  • create experimental spaces for improving the structural parameters of research, teaching and transfer.

Activities and funding opportunities

The following funding initiatives are currently assigned to the profile area "Understanding Research":

With the "Lichtenberg Endowed Professorships”, the Stifterverband für die deutsche Wissenschaft and the Volkswagen Foundation seek to establish the endowment funding instrument for universities in Germany. 

The Volkswagen Foundation supports professors three to five years after taking up their first tenured professorship at a university in Germany.

The "Opus Magnum" initiative aims at providing outstanding professors from the humanities and social sciences more freedom for writing a larger scholarly treatise.

The Foundation aims to strengthen research on research in Germany in order to support the creation, reflection and strategic application of knowledge about the realm of science and thus positively influence the future research system. 

The Volkswagen Foundation wants to offer experimental spaces for fundamental innovations and significant improvements in all areas of the German research system. To this end, the Foundation will fund promising ideas for pioneer projects from the academic community.

Contact and further information

For more general information on the profile area, please contact Dr. Antje Tepperwien, who heads the funding team "Understanding Research". For information on individual funding opportunities, please contact the responsible funding manager (see the respective initiative).

Background: The new funding strategy

In the early months of 2021, the Volkswagen Foundation began implementing a realignment of its funding strategy. Central to this strategy are the three profile areas "Exploration", "Social Transformations" and "Understanding Research – Evaluation and Science Practice". In the contexts of all three areas, funding initiatives are newly created or further developed in an ongoing process. For more information on the strategy and the funding guidelines, see "The Volkswagen Foundations new funding strategy".