Sofja Kovalevskaja Award
It is currently not possible to submit applications for this programme.
Next call expected: Spring 2016.
Submit an application if you are a successful top-rank junior researcher from abroad, only completed your doctorate with distinction in the last six years, and have published work in prestigious international journals or publishing houses. The Sofja Kovalevskaja Award allows you to spend five years building up a working group and working on a high-profile, innovative research project of your own choice at a research institution of your own choice in Germany.
Scientists and scholars from all disciplines may apply directly to the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. The Humboldt Foundation plans to grant up to eight Sofja Kovalevskaja Awards. The award is valued at up to €1.65 million.
Other important details
- Doctorate or comparable academic degree (Ph.D., C.Sc. or equivalent), completed with distinction less than six years prior to the application submission deadline. Should it not be possible or customary to take a Ph.D. in your subject or country of origin, you may apply up to ten years after completing your Master's or Diploma Degree provided that your publication record is commensurate with a Ph.D. and your current career stage.
- Career level: the award would enable the successful applicant to take on a leadership position (e.g. head of a junior research group) in Germany for the first time. Moreover, the applicant must not have held or accepted an offer of permanent employment in Germany. The relevant date is the date of the selection.
- Cutting-edge academic achievements documented particularly by a comprehensive list of independent academic publications reviewed according to international standards and printed in journals and/or by publishing houses.
- Support of the German host institution, evidenced by a detailed expert's report from the academic host as well as the host's agreement and the confirmation from the administration at the host institution.
- Three supporting expert reviews from academics (at the applicant's own institute or other institutes, where possible including some outside the applicant's country of origin).
- Language skills: scholars in the humanities or social sciences and physicians must have a good knowledge of German if it is necessary to carry out the project successfully; otherwise a good knowledge of English; scientists and engineers must have a good knowledge of German or English.
- No previous Sofja Kovalevskaja Award.
- Origin: Foreign academics staying in Germany are eligible to apply if they been in Germany for less than six months at the application submission deadline. Educational residents are subject to the regulations governing Germans. German academics are eligible to apply if they have been working in an academic capacity abroad for a longer time. For more details please check with the FAQ.
- The Humboldt Foundation assumes that candidates will abide by the Rules of Good Scientific Practice and the legally-binding principles of scientific ethics during the application and sponsorship periods.
Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung, Selection Department,
Jean-Paul-Str. 12, 53173 Bonn, Germany
The Humboldt Foundation will confirm receipt of the application by email. It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that he or she has submitted all the necessary documents. In the event of a late or incomplete submission it may not be possible to process and assess the application in the time available. Grossly incomplete applications will be returned to applicants unprocessed.
After providing all the documents and receipt of the host’s statement and the expert reviews, the application documents will usually be forwarded to three independent reviewers for written review. On the basis of these independent peer reviews a selection committee composed of about 25 academics from all disciplines reaches a decision on approving Sofja Kovalevskaja Awards. If an application has been approved the award winners and their host institutions agree jointly on the commencement of the planned research work in Germany in the course of the calendar year of the award conferment at the latest.
When submitting applications candidates may also apply to be informed about the reasons for a rejection should their applications be turned down by the selection committee. In this case, applicants and their hosts will receive separate notification on this issue in addition to the selection decision approx. four to six weeks after the selection committee meeting. It is not possible to appeal. However, applicants who have been rejected may submit a revised application response to a future call for applications provided that fundamental aspects of the original application have been manifestly improved and the then applicable submission requirements are met.
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.
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.
This programme is financed by the:
What determines the date of a doctorate?
Which date is valid if I have several doctorates?
I obtained my doctorate more than six years ago. Can I still apply?
It is either not customary or not possible to take a doctorate in my country of origin / in my discipline. Can I apply?
I'm a physician (M.D. / Dr. med.). Are there any special admission requirements?
In addition, please read our Admission Questionnaire for Physicians (MD / Dr. med.) for detailed information.
If you have several research doctorates, the above-mentioned FAQ on the subject of "several doctorates" applies.
To what extent will parental leave be taken into account?
I already am or recently have been in Germany. Are there any formal grounds militating against my application?
- you have been in Germany for less than six months by the submission deadline.
- following a stay of more than six months you have been abroad for more than twelve months by the submission deadline.
Candidates who have completed their school education and a university degree or a university degree and doctorate in Germany are subject to the regulations governing German citizens (see following FAQ).
In all other cases we regret that we cannot consider your application.
I'm German / educational resident*. Can I apply if I'm working abroad?
- for more than 10 years or
- for more than 5 years, and your strong connections to your current country of residence can be deduced indubitably from one of the following criteria:
- You have a tenured position in your current country of residence abroad.
- You are in possession of a permanent residence permit issued by your current country of residence. Please note that a permanent residence permit which is based solely on your citizenship (e.g. EU-States) is no sufficient proof.
- You and/or your marital partner are a national of your current country of residence.
* Educational residents are candidates who have completed their school education and a university degree or a university degree and doctorate in Germany.
Can I apply for a Sofja Kovalevskaja Award if I am already a Humboldt Fellow?
Can I apply for the Sofja Kovalevskaja Award and a Humboldt Fellowship at the same time if I fulfil the formal requirements?
Do I need to know German in order to apply?
- Natural scientists and engineers: good knowledge of German or English is sufficient (language certificate required).
- Scholars in the humanities and social sciences: should have knowledge of German if it is necessary to carry out the project successfully. In this case, a German language certificate confirming proficiency must be submitted. Otherwise, a good knowledge of English is sufficient (language certificate required).
- Physicians: If the research project involves work with patients, the candidate must have a good knowledge of German (language certificate required). Otherwise, a good knowledge of English is sufficient (language certificate required).
English or German is my native language. Do I have to submit a language certificate proving my proficiency?
I have lived and worked in an English-speaking or German-speaking country for a long time. Do I have to submit a language certificate proving my proficiency?
How can I find an academic host?
However, we would like to draw your attention to the following search engines for hosts and research institutes:
We would also like to draw your attention to the open access part of the Network Online. This database features a large proportion of the Foundation's more than 25,000 academics sponsored worldwide. Here you can search for names, disciplines and keywords.
When selecting an academic host, please remember that you are choosing not only your academic, but also your personal living environment for the next five years.
Who is eligible to be my academic host?
Can I conduct my research project with two academic hosts?
Can my doctoral supervisor also be my host?
What is the final date for submitting my application?
Can I apply for parallel funding to another institution?
Can I apply for a Sofja Kovalevskaja Award for more or less than the five-year period?
What is the earliest date on which sponsorship can begin?
What determines the award amount?
Will there be any support for taking German language courses?
My partner would like to accompany me to Germany but s/he does not work in the same field. What opportunities are there?
Where should I send my application?
Can I submit my application via e-mail?
What form should my application take?
- a filing fastener with all documents (apart from expert reviews and publications);
- another filing fastener with a copy of the application form, the commented list of key publications and the complete publication list;
- four envelopes each containing a copy of the key publications, including dissertation (CD-ROM).
You can find more information on the form of the application in the Guidelines for completing the application.
Should my expert reviews be sent directly to the Humboldt Foundation or enclosed with the application?
What happens if expert reviews are submitted before the application is received?
Who is supposed to provide an expert review for my application and how many reviews are required?
Can more than three expert reviews be submitted?
Which publications should I enclose in my application?
If you wish to cite your dissertation as a key publication but have not yet submitted it for print, please enclose the original manuscript of your doctoral thesis (four copies on CD-ROM).
You will find detailed information in our Guidelines for completing the application.
May I include works that have not yet been submitted for publication in the list of key publications and the complete list of publications?
Exception: Your dissertation may be cited as a key publication even if you have not yet submitted it to a publisher. If you wish to cite your dissertation as a key publication but have not yet submitted it for print, please enclose the original manuscript of your doctoral thesis on CD-ROM.
What are key publications?
Please note that you cannot amend your selection of key publications once the selection process has begun.
How should I explain why I have chosen a key publication?
Should my key publications also be cited in the complete list of publications?
Please note that it is not possible to amend the list of publications submitted to the Humboldt Foundation once the selection process has begun.
How do I draw up a financial plan?
Your financial plan will be assessed for its appropriateness and plausibility in the specialist review.
What position are Sofja Kovalevskaja Research Award winners expected to hold at the host institution?
Models for shaping the future position and salary or the personal income of Sofja Kovalevskaja Research Award winners may therefore also vary. They may include e.g. contracts outside the regular pay scale, fixed-term professorships (W1 and/or W2 salary brackets, sometimes ad personam) or tenure track offers.
In order to ensure that in the event of a positive notification your transfer takes place in a manner that meets your expectations as far as possible, we therefore recommend discussing which options regarding your position and personal income your intended host institution can offer you and at what conditions when preparing your application. Please note, this aspect has no effect on the selection.
Is it necessary to state the names of future staff?
What happens to any equipment purchased?
Will you confirm receipt of my application, as well as other documents, expert reviews and the host's statement?
Who will review my application?
Who will decide on my application?
When will I know whether my application has been successful?
May I accept a leadership position in Germany (e.g. head of a junior research group) prior to the selection meeting?
May I accept a permanent employment contract in Germany while the selection procedure is underway?
Will I be notified of the reasons for a rejection?
Will my application documents be returned to me after selection has taken place?
How much time do I have to submit further documents or update my application?
What is the probability of success?
What are the most important selection criteria?
In the context of my proposed research, working in a group is unusual or unnecessary. Can I still apply even if I work alone?
Appropriation, use and provision of funds
Can award funds be transferred from one budgetary year to the next?
How precise should the details on the "fund request" form be?
By when should the entire amount of award funds be spent?
How should travel expenses be claimed?
Is it possible to use award funds to finance the costs of an official mobile phone?
Is it possible to take a lump-sum from the award funds to cover certain very small expenses (mobile phone, meals on journeys, public transport)?
Does the Humboldt Foundation subsidise moving expenses or may award funds be used to finance domestic moving expenses?
Which sections of the host institution are entitled to the administrative flat-rate? Is it paid directly to the department in which the administrative costs are actually incurred or could the central administration/rectorate also make claims?
Is the amount of the administrative flat-rate based on the original amount of award funds or may accrued interest also be taken into account in calculating the amount?
Is it possible to use award funds to finance invitations to national and foreign academics to hold guest lectures etc. at the award winner's host institution? (Travel expenses, accommodation, meals, remuneration)?
I would like to take my group on a cultural/scientific outing, e.g. to Hamburg. May I use award funds for the travel expenses?
May expenses incurred in connection with interviewing applicants for potential membership of the working group be financed from the award funds?
May award funds be used to finance the cost of German language courses attended by members of the working group?
May the costs of entertaining (academic) guests be taken from the administrative flat-rate?
We should like to set up a small kitchen with a coffee machine, fridge etc. for the staff and invited guests. May we finance these purchases from the award funds?
May research funding from other sources (e.g. third-party funding from the DFG, EU etc.) be applied for in addition to the award funds?
Human and material resources
How may or should I employ my staff?
Are there rules/guidelines on advertising positions?
In which geographical locations should positions be advertised? Only in Germany, or in Europe, or should they address academics all over the world?
We would like to draw your attention to the site: EURAXESS Jobs on the EURAXESS - Researchers in Motion portal. EURAXESS Jobs is a Europe-wide job exchange for researchers, where universities, research organisations and industry can post their vacancies.
Members of the working group not employed by the host institution do not have professional indemnity insurance. How can this problem be solved?
What are the regulations applying to the granting of fellowships to PhD students by comparison with postdocs?
How flexible am I with regard to the amount granted for monthly fellowship payments and additional benefits? Can I deviate from the rates foreseen for Humboldt Fellows and DAAD Scholars?
Does the Humboldt Foundation provide forms for managing fellowships (e.g. sample grant letters, sample declarations of acceptance)?
Are representatives of the host institution signatories to the procedures involved in granting fellowships?
I am a doctoral student in the working group of an awardee and receive a fellowship from the Australian National University which will continue during the period of time I spend in Germany. As the cost of living in Australia is lower than in Germany I have been told that my fellowship will be raised to the level of the German doctoral tariff TVöD EG 13/2 (BAT IIa/2). Is it possible to use award funds to pay partial fellowships?
Are there any special procedures required by the university in order to pay fellowships or can I simply choose those who should be sponsored by a fellowship?
Is a fellowship granted in the framework of the Sofja Kovalevskaja Award free of tax? A German tax office would like to be provided with proof and is also asking for the Humboldt Foundation's tax number.
Are Kovalevskaja award winners themselves entitled to receive a fellowship from the award funds?
Can equipment / scientific supplies be purchased for the project abroad and then brought to Germany?
At my host institution procurement of scientific equipment takes up to six months due to the complicated call for tenders. This would delay the progress of my research project. Is it, therefore, possible to procure equipment in a less "bureaucratic" fashion or would this kind of procedure conflict with the Regulations on the Use of Funds which state that the award funds must be used economically and prudently?
Are the award funds taxable?
When conferring fellowships funded out of award funds, particular attention needs to be drawn to applicable special tax regulations.
Exploiting research results - publications, patents and licences
In the acknowledgements included in publications ensuing from projects sponsored by the Sofja Kovalevskaja Award the Humboldt Foundation and the BMBF are supposed to be mentioned explicitly. Are there any standard formulations?
If it is planned to use the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation logo, the following needs to be observed:
- The use of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation logo in any kind of communication is subject to strict rules. The logo and its constituent parts are a trademarked name and may not be reproduced without obtaining the express written authorisation of the Foundation in advance. The logo comprises three parts: the head of Alexander von Humboldt, the script nameplate and the bilingual addition "Stiftung/Foundation". These elements jointly comprise the inseparable word/image trademark. The logo and its constituent parts may not be copied, altered or truncated or integrated in other logos.
- Use of the logo is authorised in publications and other, in particular public, presentations (e.g. conference presentations) of research results that were produced in direct connection with sponsorship by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. For this purpose, the logo with the label "Unterstützt von/Supported by" may be downloaded from the password-protected section of Network Online in an electronic file format that conforms to the specific requirements for print: http://www.humboldt-foundation.de/web/service-portal.html
- Any other use of the logo requires prior written permission from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and must be requested in writing, stating the intended use of the logo.