Fellowships at WiKo Berlin

The Wissenschaftskolleg invites outstanding researchers from all disciplines and all parts of the world to spend a research year in Berlin. For each “class”, the Wissenschaftskolleg aims to bring together the most diverse and stimulating group possible of about 40 Fellows. Each candidate is first and foremost evaluated on the basis of individual accomplishments in his or her field of endeavor.

Nominations and applications for Fellowships can be submitted at any time. It should be noted that the selection is made about two years in advance.


Intellectual curiosity, openness to other disciplines, and willingness to engage with topics beyond one’s own research specialty are decisive prerequisites for a fruitful Fellow residency.

The ideal candidates for Fellowships are able to articulate, reflect upon, and explore the basic assumptions of their disciplines on the basis of detailed, well-grounded research that meets the highest standards of those disciplines. The Wissenschaftskolleg seeks originality without eccentricity and solidity without stolidity.

Applications from early career researchers are welcome. We expect that they will have published at least one monograph (in the case of researchers in the humanities) or several articles in renowned periodicals (natural and social sciences).

There are special opportunities for early career researchers in the life sciences within the framework of the College for Life Sciences. 

A doctorate is generally required from Fellows conducting scholarly and scientific research.

The Fellows live and work on the small campus of the Wissenschaftskolleg in the Grunewald district of Berlin. A premium is placed upon intellectual sociability, including participation in the weekly colloquium and meals with the other Fellows. Research that requires long-term absence (in laboratories, archives, or other external institutions) is thus not suited for a Fellowship.

The Wissenschaftskolleg is an international institution and at least passive knowledge of English is required. However, Fellowships are regularly awarded to scholars working and publishing in other languages.

Applications should include the following documents:

  • a current curriculum vitae with a list of publications;
  • one or two recent articles (in German, English, or French if at all possible) that are characteristic of the applicant’s most significant research work and/or related to the proposed research topic;
  • a description of the project planned for the applicant’s stay in Berlin (3-5 pages); an introductory section (max. 200 words) should explain the project’s significance to readers from other disciplines. The description should also briefly summarize extant work in this area of research (state of the art) and how the project would advance the current state of knowledge.

Themes and Plans

All applicants must submit a sketch of the research project they intend to pursue in Berlin. This description and the applicant’s prior research accomplishments are of central importance for the selection decision.

Fellows are free in their choice of plans for their stay at the Wissenschaftskolleg; the institute makes no restrictions in the form of annual themes or the like. The research proposals submitted with the application do not need to have any relation to Berlin, but it must be possible to carry them out in residence here.

Interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary research is widespread today – indeed, it is the new normal in most fields. An interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary approach can therefore no longer be regarded as a value in itself; it is a value only if it leads to a fruitful examination of a disciplinary (or multidisciplinary) question that will inspire further research along new lines.

Intellectual quality is the primary criterion in the evaluation of applications. In cases of roughly equivalent quality, preference is given to the research project that is still in its early  stages and can thus still profit from a phase of open-ended research. However, the proposal should still provide indications of how and in accordance with what criteria the research will proceed.

If applicants wish to work jointly on a project, proposals to form small teams may also be submitted .The Wissenschaftskolleg welcomes small Focus Groups of three to five Fellows that undertake a fresh exploration of complex issues or socially relevant themes neglected in other contexts. Both the individual members and the proposed Focus Group topic are evaluated in these joint applications.

Selection Criteria

The decisive factor in the evaluation of candidates is intellectual quality, as judged by the individual members of the Academic Advisory Board and by the Board as a group. The members of the Board are scholars and scientists of international renown and broad academic experience who take a panoramic view of the individual application, taking into account prior research accomplishments, the promise of the proposed project, and the expectation that the candidate will contribute to and profit from the specific milieu of the Wissenschaftskolleg.

Discipline-specific criteria will be applied to judge the applicant’s prior research career (including first-authored articles, publication in leading journals, citations, scientific prizes, etc.). In the humanities, and in all disciplines in which monographs play an important role, the quality and influence of major publications will be weighted most heavily. In all cases, the applicant’s work will actually be read, not just counted.

The criteria of evaluation are adjusted to the applicant’s career stage: for early career researchers from the humanities and legal sciences, the quality of the first major publications plays an important role; with established researchers, emphasis shifts to how formative their influence in the respective field is or has been – including the international reception of prior research.

Independent of the applicant’s career stage, the project is judged in terms of the degree to which it distinguishes itself from existing research work, its potential to open up new research directions, and its narrowness or breadth of focus within the research specialty. There is no preference given to interdisciplinary project proposals, but narrow specialization within a discipline is disadvantageous.

The Wissenschaftskolleg aims to bring together an intellectually diverse group of researchers with representatives from a variety of scholarly and scientific disciplines, cultures, and traditions. With this goal in mind, researchers are also invited from countries and universities that do not have the same international visibility as the leading "Western" research institutions and systems. The criteria for selection in these cases emphasize the applicant’s position within her or his national research landscape and potential to benefit from a Wissenschaftskolleg Fellowship. 

Selection Procedure

Candidacies are evaluated in several steps. The Rector discusses all candidacies with the Permanent Fellows and the Academic Advisory Board. 

Reading, judgment, and collective opinion formation through comparison of cases are the core components of the procedure. The process is essentially dialogical and comparative, involving perspectives from the multiple disciplines represented on the Board. There are no quotas for either disciplines or other categories of candidacy. The process does not award points for individual areas of evaluation (project proposal, CV, publications); the judgment is deliberately holistic.

Confidential external evaluations are also solicited from experts in order to assess candidates’ disciplinary standing and form part of the dossiers submitted for the Board’s deliberations.

Additional Information

The Wissenschaftskolleg also invites a few artists (musicians, authors, filmmakers, etc.) who are chosen by experts delegated by the Rector. Prominent public personalities (politicians, journalists, managers) are also occasionally invited as Fellows; the initiative for these invitations lies with the leadership of the Wissenschaftskolleg.

Because the success of a Wissenschaftskolleg Fellowship year depends on extracting researchers from their routines and accustomed surroundings and exposing them to new experiences, researchers from Berlin institutions of higher education are not eligible for Fellowships.

Researchers whose applications are declined but who wish to apply again will not be reconsidered for a Fellowship for at least three years after the initial decision.

The decision of the Wissenschaftskolleg with respect to Fellowships is final.

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