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Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award

Scientists and scholars, internationally renowned in their field, who completed their doctorates less than 18 years ago and who in future are expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements which will have a seminal influence on their discipline beyond their immediate field of work, are eligible to be nominated for a Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award.

Award winners are honoured for their outstanding research record and invited to spend a period of up to one year cooperating on a long-term research project with specialist colleagues at a research institution in Germany. The stay may be divided up into blocks.

The Humboldt Foundation grants up to 25 Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Awards annually.

Nominations may be submitted by established academics in Germany. Nominations may also be initiated by award winners of the Humboldt Foundation working abroad, provided that the nomination is made jointly with a colleague working in Germany. Direct applications are not accepted. The award is valued at 45,000 EUR.

Other important details

Further information

  1. The nominee must be recognised internationally as an outstanding researcher in his/her field (e.g. awards, positive responses to publications, etc.).
  2. Expectation that the nominee will continue to produce cutting-edge achievements which will have a seminal influence on the discipline.
  3. Doctorate completed less than 18 years ago.
  4. Detailed expert opinion by an academic working at a research institution in Germany who would like to invite the nominee to spend time researching in Germany.
  5. Two expert reviews by important international and one from German collaborative partners and/or academics.
  6. The Humboldt Foundation assumes that candidates will abide by the Rules of Good Scientific Practice during the application and sponsorship periods.
 

Nominations may be sent via postal service to the following address at any time:

Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Selection Department,
Jean-Paul-Str. 12, 53173 Bonn, Germany

Selection Committee meetings are held twice a year – currently at the beginning of spring and in early autumn. Please bear in mind that processing the nomination normally takes up to six months. Therefore, nominations should be submitted well before the Selection Committee Meeting targeted.

It is the nominator's responsibility to ensure that he or she has submitted all the necessary documents. Nominations not submitted as a single entity will take longer to process. The documents required in addition to the nomination documents, i.e. the confidential statements by the expert reviewers, can be submitted to the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation directly, at the same time as the nomination. Subsequently, independent peer reviewers assess the nominations.

An independent Selection Committee composed of academics from all disciplines makes the final decision on the nominations received. The competition between nominations is international and there are no quotas for countries or disciplines. The Selection Committee makes its decision solely on the basis of the nominees' academic qualifications.

Nominees will be notified about the Selection Committee's decision immediately after the meeting.

To make a nomination, please only use the nomination documents which can be downloaded here.

 

Further information

One of our hallmarks is the degree of support we try to provide for every single guest researcher. This is why we offer you extra benefits in addition to the award amount: from invitations to events to language courses.

Further information

Once a Humboldtian, always a Humboldtian: Even after your initial research stay has come to an end, we shall still maintain close contact with you. Our alumni sponsorship is flexible and designed to support every Humboldtian’s particular path in life and development as well as collaborations between individuals.

Further information

This programme is financed by the:

Nomination requirements

For how many years after his or her doctorate can a candidate be nominated?

We cannot consider a nomination if the candidate completed his or her doctorate more than 18 years ago. An exception may be made in well-founded cases (e.g. recognition of parental leave). In this case, please contact the Humboldt Foundation so we can advise you (info(at)avh.de).

What determines the date of a doctorate?

The relevant date is the completion date of the final academic portion of the doctoral examination procedure (e.g., defence of thesis, doctoral viva). This date will usually be included on the doctoral diploma alongside the date of issue. The effective date for calculating the number of years since conferral of the doctorate is the date the Humboldt Foundation receives the nomination. If the nominee already held an academic position equivalent to or higher than an Associate Professor/ Senior Lecturer/ Reader before completing his or her Ph.D./C.Sc., the relevant date is the one on which the nominee assumed this position.

Which date is valid if the nominee has several doctorates?

If the nominee holds several doctorates, the doctorate that is closest to the requested research outline in terms of its subject matter is relevant. Please list both doctorate dates with the associated disciplines in the nominee's CV on the application form.

Will you take into consideration the time devoted to bringing up children?

If the nominee interrupted his or her academic career for child-rearing purposes, either partially or completely, please list all periods of leave on the nomination form so we can take these into account in our assessment of the nominee's academic achievements in relation to his or her career stage. The maximum period of time since the doctorate stipulated by the programme may be extended by a maximum of two years per child if the nominee did indeed interrupt his or her academic career after completing his or her doctorate for the stated periods, and if recognition of these periods is being claimed. If you have any further questions please contact info(at)avh.de.

Nominator

Who is entitled to nominate a candidate?

An established academic who is employed by a university or other research institution in Germany must take the initiative to nominate a candidate for the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award. Self-nomination is not possible.

Nominee

Is there an age limit for nominees?

No, but please take note of the section "For how many years after his or her doctorate can a candidate be nominated?".

Can academics from any academic discipline be nominated for a research award?

Yes, there are no quotas for specific subjects; nominations can be made in any academic discipline.

Is an academic eligible to be nominated for a research award if he or she has already received an award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation?

Academics who have already received a (research) fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation are eligible for nomination.

Academics who have already received a (research) award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation are not eligible for another nomination.

All Alexander von Humboldt Foundation alumni are eligible for alumni sponsorship measures. If you are unsure whether alumni sponsorship or a nomination would be more appropriate, please contact us at info(at)avh.de.

May I nominate a candidate who has already stayed or is currently staying in Germany?

At the time of nomination, the nominated candidate must have been predominantly living and working abroad for at least five years. Previous and short-term stays in Germany (such as visiting professorship) do not usually exclude a candidate from nomination. In cases of doubt, please contact us at info(at)avh.de so we can advise you.

Can a German national be nominated?

You may nominate academics with German citizenship if they have been working abroad in an academic position for at least five years. Please send us a CV and a list of publications before you nominate the candidate so we can advise you (info(at)avh.de).

Can I nominate an academic who does not hold a doctorate?

Nomination is possible if a doctorate is either not customary or not possible in the nominee's country of origin or discipline, and if the nominee can prove that his or her academic performance is equivalent to a Ph.D., e.g. by academic publications for internationally reviewed journals and publishing houses. Should this be the case, please send us a CV and a list of publications before you nominate the candidate so we can advise you (info(at)avh.de).

Are roughly the same number of awards granted to men and women? Is priority given to either a male or female nominee if both candidates are considered to be equally qualified and suitable?

No. Academic excellence is the sole criterion for selection. The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation does, however, explicitly welcome the nomination of qualified female academics because women are currently significantly under-represented in this programme.

Award amount

What is the sum of the award?

The award amount is 45,000 EUR.

How is the award amount paid? Does the nominee need a German bank account for this purpose?

The award money is paid in instalments. The first instalment is normally transferred to the cashier’s office of the host university at the beginning of the research stay in Germany and can be collected there by the award winner.

For the payment of further instalments, award winners are asked to open an account at a bank of their choice as soon as possible after arriving in Germany, and to provide the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation with their account number, bank address and bank code.

The research award is granted in recognition of the academic achievements and the personality of the award winner and may only be claimed by the award winner personally. Similarly, payment of the award amount may also only be made to the award winner personally and exclusively. Claims to the award may not be transferred.

Is the award amount subject to taxation?

Award winners are responsible for all matters pertaining to their taxation.

However, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation would like to point out that according to German tax law, awards are not usually subject to income tax in Germany if they are primarily granted in recognition of the award winner's lifetime achievement or entire academic work, personality, convictions, or function as a role-model. This is precisely the intention of the Humboldt Foundation in granting the research awards which honour the entire life's work of award winners in their capacity as internationally outstanding researchers.

Tax law in the award winners’ home countries or countries of residence may contain special regulations on the taxation of awards. If in doubt, a tax accountant in the award winner's own country should be consulted.

Nomination documents

Can nominations be submitted by email?

No. Please send your nomination by regular mail.

Will you confirm receipt of my nomination?

Yes, usually by email. We will also notify you if any important documents or information are missing from your nomination.

Who should provide expert reviews for my nomination and how many expert reviews are required?

Expert reviews should address the nominee's academic accomplishments to date, his or her development as a researcher and academic potential. Therefore it is important that expert reviewers are well acquainted with the nominee's academic development to date. A total of three expert reviews should be submitted, one by an academic working in Germany, and two by academics working abroad. Please note: the nominator's laudation does not count as an expert review!

Should expert reviews be sent directly to the Humboldt Foundation or enclosed with the nomination?

Expert reviewers should send their expert reviews directly to the Selection Department at the Humboldt Foundation. Please ask your expert reviewers to use the form for expert reviews. Expert reviews should be no older than 24 months at the time of application.

Can I submit more than three expert reviews?

No.

What happens if expert reviews are submitted before the Humboldt Foundation receives the nomination?

Expert reviews that cannot be immediately matched to an application will be kept on file for up to six months.

Is there a required format for the list of publications?

Yes. You must provide a complete, chronologically ordered list of the nominee’s academic publications over the past ten years (stating all authors, titles, publisher/journal, edition, first and last page number), including any relevant published conference presentations and patents. For patents, please indicate the current legal status; submitted, disclosed, patent granted, as well as the complete title, submission date and patent number.

What will happen to the nomination documents, e.g. the expert reviews, after the selection procedure has been completed? Will they be destroyed or archived, and will they be treated confidentially?

The documents submitted with your application will be archived for a period of seven years and then destroyed. All documents are, of course, treated with utmost confidentiality. It is a matter of course that peer reviewers and committee members are also obliged to observe strict confidentiality.

Preparation/Planning

Are there deadlines for submitting nominations?

No. Nominations may be submitted by regular mail at any time. An independent Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Selection Committee decides on the nominations submitted twice a year, in spring and in autumn. Reviewing a nomination takes approximately six months.

When does the Selection Committee meet?

Decisions are made twice a year in spring and in autumn. Reviewing a nomination takes approximately six months.

Will you sponsor participation in German language courses?

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation strongly encourages its award winners and their partners to learn German during their research stay so that they can participate in social and cultural life in Germany beyond their research work. Upon request, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation can pay the cost of a German language course.

Selection procedure

Who will review my nomination?

Your nomination will be reviewed by independent peer reviewers who are appointed by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for this purpose.

Who will decide on my nomination?

The final decision on all nominations is made by the Selection Committee that is appointed by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for this purpose.

Who is on the Selection Committee?

The Selection Committee consists of academics of all disciplines as well as a smaller number of members who are not subject specialists (such as members of the funding organisations). They decide on all applications by simple majority vote. The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation has no vote on the Selection Committee. All nominations compete for selection; there are no quotas for any specific countries or disciplines. The committee’s decision is based solely on the academic qualifications of the researchers nominated.
Please refer to the following link for a list of Selection Committee members for the conferral of Alexander von Humboldt Foundation research awards:
http://www.humboldt-foundation.de/web/selection-committee-awards.html

Will the nominee be notified about his or her nomination?

No. During the nomination process, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation will only be in contact with the nominator, and only the nominator will be notified of the result of the Selection Committee meeting. Only if the nominee is selected, will he or she receive the conferral documents approximately four weeks after the selection meeting.

Selection

How high is the success rate?

In the past few years, approximately 35% of all nominations in the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation research award programmes were approved.

What are the most important selection criteria?

The main selection criteria are the individual nominee's academic eligibility, which must hold promise of top academic performance in future, as well as his or her international reputation and overall personality.

Will the nominee be notified of the outcome of the selection procedure?

The nominee will not be informed of a rejection. Communication during the selection process takes place between the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the nominator in Germany only. In case an award is conferred, the winner will receive the award documents approximately four weeks after the selection meeting.

Can I re-nominate a researcher whose nomination was not successful?

Yes, if the nominee has shown significant academic development since the rejection of the first nomination.

Acceptance of the Award / Use and Provision of Award Funds

How soon after the selection decision can the research stay begin?

The research stay in Germany can normally begin as early as four to six weeks after the selection decision and should start within 12 months after conferral, if possible. The date must be agreed upon with the academic host in advance.

Does the nominee have to complete his or her stay in one go, or can it be divided up?

The duration of the research stay of up to one full year may be divided into segments. However, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation will only cover travel costs once. Please inform the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation about the time schedule for the research stay early so that all necessary preparations can be made in good time.

May the award winner teach at the host university during his or her stay, or is it strictly a research stay?

Should the award winner wish to teach during the research stay, he or she may do so.

Will travel costs be covered?

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation pays a lump sum to cover the award winner's travel costs (return tickets). The conferral documents contain a list of lump sums for travel. The relevant sum will be transferred to the award winner's German bank account (which the award winner will have to open) after the research stay in Germany has begun.
The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation can only cover the costs of one return journey, regardless of the number of trips to and from Germany.

A lump sum towards the travel costs of marital partners and children under the age of 18 accompanying the award winner may be granted if they stay with the award winner in Germany for at least six months. Fifty per cent of the lump sum will be paid for children between the ages of two and eleven, ten per cent for children under the age of two. The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation will not cover any additional expenses for the transportation of luggage.

Do I have to file a report after completion of the research stay?

Towards the end of the research stay, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation will ask award winners for a brief, informal report on their experiences, which should also contain information on the academic collaboration with the host institution and contacts with other research institutions in Germany and abroad. They will also be asked to comment on their own and their families’ personal impressions during their stay in Germany. We are particularly interested in comparisons with the situation in award winners’ own countries and welcome any suggestions regarding the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s sponsorship programmes.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation also asks academic hosts in Germany to report on their experiences in their cooperation with award winners. These reports are very important and revealing for the foundation, because foreign guests often observe with a keener eye and are able to make more balanced judgements due to their greater critical distance. The reports are analysed carefully and confidentially. In addition, they can help the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to continue improving its programmes and make them as effective as possible.