Headline: RIFS Fellowship: FAQ


Last Updated: 21 June 2018

The following is a list of questions which have been compiled regarding the Fellow Programme. In addition, if you have any questions left, you can contact the Fellow Unit at achim.maas@rifs-potsdam.de.

1. Admission
2. Expectations of RIFS
3. Finances and Legal Aspects
4. Proposal

1. Admission
1.1 Why should I become a Fellow?

RIFS is a young institute which is operating at the cross-section of research and societal transformation. It provides not only access to many disciplines from natural science to the humanities, but also engages in interdisciplinary dialogue and cooperation. Particularly with its combination of regular research and a dedicated Fellow Programme, allowing for international exchange, networking and in engaging societally-relevant transformation research.

RIFS is located in the Potsdam/Berlin area, where several major universities and research organisations of Germany and indeed Europe as a whole are located. It provides a rich academic field on all matters concerned with sustainability, while being at the heart of one of the major European and indeed global political actors. Aside from this, the Potsdam/Berlin is a culturally very rich and diverse area, where its international demographic, being a major hub for culture and arts in Europe, and being a constant center of innovation and creativity. Finally, the two cities are located within the beautiful landscape of Brandenburg.

1.2 How many Fellows are there at RIFS?

There are about 30 Fellows at RIFS every year. The number may from one year to the other, depending on available desk space, length of Fellow stays, and other aspects.
In addition, individuals with their own funding may join the institute and participate in the activities of the Fellowship program.

1.3 How do I become a Fellow?

There are two ways to become a Fellow at RIFS.

Firstly, through the annual public call. Fellows who successfully apply during the public call may become Fellows starting from the spring the following year, i.e.: A successful application in summer 2018 would mean you could become a Fellow in spring 2019.

Secondly, the Scientific Directors may invite individuals as Fellows to support activities in a specific area.

1.4 What are the selection criteria to become a Fellow?

RIFS looks for highly qualified individuals from around the world and different parts of society, and aims to have a high diversity in terms of nationality, gender and other aspects.

In case of the public call, the annual call for applications specifies whether there is any thematic or other focus. Accordingly, thematically-oriented selection criteria may vary from year to year. The coordinator of the Fellow-Programme and her/his team will be pre-screening all applications and based on the selection criteria will give recommendations to the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors will subsequently identify most promising Fellow candidates. Those applications will then be reviewed by external reviewers, normally recruited from former Senior Fellows. Based on the recommendations of the reviewers, the Board of Directors will then decide about the Fellows’ application.

In case of the Fellows invited by the Scientific Directors, the respective has to explain how the Fellow would be beneficial to the respective activities.A final approval will need to me made by the entire Board of Directors.

1.5 I am currently (temporarily/permanently) employed at an organisation. Can I still become a Fellow?


Depending on the rules of your home organisation, specific arrangements may need to be made. E.g., some organisations require that the salary of the Fellow working abroad may be covered. Accordingly, special arrangements need to be taken with the respective home organisation.

1.6 Can I become a Fellow again if I have been a Fellow before?

In principle yes: The public call for Fellow applications is open for everybody, irrespective whether they have been a Fellow before or not.

RIFS may also invite former Fellows as well as other cooperation partners to become “Affiliated Scholars”, who are long-term cooperation partners which may continuously work together with RIFS on certain areas and topics. Most Affiliated Scholars of RIFS have been former Fellows.

1.7 I applied successfully for a Fellowship, but can (for personal, professional, etc. reasons) not realise it – can I be moved to the following year, or do I lose the Fellowship?

In principle, a Fellowship can be moved. Please contact the institute at achim.maas@rifs-potsdam.de to discuss the issue.

1.8 Do I need a visa to become a Fellow?

You do not need a visa for your application. Depending on your home country and its diplomatic relations with Germany, you may need to acquire a visa.

Individuals from European countries which are part of the “Schengen Area” (the European Union, plus additional countries such as Switzerland, Norway, and others)do not need a visa, even in case of an extended stay.

For many countries, you will be allowed to stay in Germany for up to 90 days without a special visa and can even apply for a visa when you are already in Germany, in case you intend to stay for more than 90 days.

In some cases, you need a valid visa even before entering Germany.

In case you are coming from outside the European Union, please check the website of the German Federal Foreign Office, https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/en/einreiseundaufenthalt/visabestimmung…, on visa requirements.

2. Expectations of RIFS
2.1 What duties do I have as Fellow of RIFS

Principally, RIFS Fellows will be relatively free in their work and may choose to associate themselves with various projects.

However, in general, the Fellows are expected to be ready to provide the following:

  • A seminar, talk or other presentation of their work and ideas within RIFS.
  • Participating in the regular “Fellow Meetings” of all Fellows of RIFS.
  • Be ready and open to engage in discussions and interactions with other Fellows and staff members of RIFS.
  • Acknowledge in case a publication or other activity benefited from the work done at RIFS.
  • Actively contributing to the further development of the Fellow programme.
  • A final report on the findings of their work.

In addition, some special formats may take place at RIFS every year, such as retreats with the Scientific Directors, to which Fellows may be invited.

2.2 Do I have to publish while I am a Fellow?

It would be highly desirable if your stay at RIFS would result in an output. This could be a publication, such as a peer-reviewed article or a piece in the RIFS publication series, but other formats, such as blog posts, videos, presentations and other approaches are also possible.

In case your time at RIFS contributed to publications and other issues which are completed after your stay at RIFS, we would appreciate if you acknowledge the support of RIFS.

3. Finances and Legal Aspects
3.1 Are fellowships paid at RIFS?

RIFS provides financial compensation to the Fellows to cover their living costs. The compensation is oriented towards the academic payment schemes in Germany (which itself is part of the salary scheme for public civil servants in Germany) and is scaled according to the experience and seniority of the person.

3.2 Will my travel to and from RIFS as a Fellow be covered?

The immediate travel costs (plane or train, overnight stay in case of very long-distance travels, etc.) will be covered.

Costs like additional insurances, Visa-costs or the like will not be covered for.

All costs will be covered according to the German Federal Law for Travel Expenses (“Bundesreisekostengesetz”, BRKG).

Please contact the RIFS Fellow-Programme at achim.maas@rifs-potsdam.de for any questions.

3.3 Does RIFS cover moving costs?

In case a Fellow stays for a reasonable amount of time which justifies moving parts of the household – particular in case of longer stays when the respective family accompanies the family – RIFS provides financial support to the moving Fellow. The amount of funds provided depends on the distance moved.

Please contact the RIFS Fellow-Programme at achim.maas@rifs-potsdam.de for any questions.

3.4 Do I have to sign a contract when I become a Fellow?

Normally yes, though the type of contract may vary depending on your personal situation, length of stay, and other factors. It may also be the case, that the contract is signed between your current employer and RIFS directly, depending on the individual situation. The respective legal arrangement will be clarified once you have been selected for a Fellowship.

In case you want learn more of the options before, please contact the RIFS Fellow-Programme at achim.maas@rifs-potsdam.de.

3.5 Do I have to pay taxes when I am a Fellow?

This depends to a large degree on your home country, as well as whether there are any special agreements regarding taxation between your home country and Germany and/or the European Union.

3.6 Does RIFS pay for travel while I am a Fellow?

Yes but only for activities directly related to your Fellowship at RIFS and within reasonable limits.

Though it is also possible to re-arrange budgets to a limited degree during your stay at RIFS, the institute would appreciate being informed upfront of such ideas.

3.7 Do I have a budget while I am Fellow?

The RIFS Fellow-Programme does have a limited budget for each Fellow. This allows for small-scale purchases (e.g. books) and few short trips (i.e. within Europe).

However, it is possible for RIFS to provide also larger budgets. Among others, the RIFS Incubator has been created for this purpose, which allows to facilitate support for Fellows and other staff members to launch larger projects which fall outside the regular budgeting cycles and activities.

In case you already envision larger budget items, such as workshops, please clearly mention them in your application.

3.8 Can I organise a workshop while being at RIFS?


If you intend to do so, please inform us within your application.

In case the idea arises later, i.e. after you have joined the institute, this may still be possible. Please contact the coordinator of the Fellow-Programme in such circumstances.

4. Proposal
4.1 What purpose has the proposal?

The proposal should highlight the major topics and issues you would like to address during  your stay as Fellow at RIFS. It helps the institute to understand where your particular interests are and what you could contribute.

4.2 What should the structure of the proposal look like?

The proposal should have the following structure:

    A. Title
    B. Abstract (max 300 words)
    C. Key words (max 10)
    D. Description of activities
    E. Your contribution to the work of RIFS (either to one of the two questions above or other thematic areas of the institute)
    F. Time and resources needs (length of intended Fellowship, and other needs, e.g. travel, workshops, etc.)

4.3 Shall I reference topics or projects of RIFS?

There is no need to reference specific topics or projects of the institute. However, if you find some particular good matches or connections to ongoing thematic work of RIFS, you are encouraged to mention them in the text or footnotes.

4.4 How long should the proposal be?

The actual text of the proposal should not exceeding 5 pages. It certainly can be shorter.

4.5 How detailed should my proposal be?

The proposal does not need to be extremely detailed, and there is no need to particularly define work packages, milestones or similar issues.

4.6 Are references part of the 5-page limit?

No. The 5-page limit is entirely for the text. References are excluded from the limit.

4.7 Can there be annexes to the proposal?

Yes, but only in form of references or the like. Not further texts or explanations.

4.8 Who will receive the proposal?

The Fellow Unit, the Board of Directors and the External Reviewers.

4.9 Will the proposal be published?

No. But for the purpose of information sharing the proposals of successful applicants will be made available to other Fellows and staff members. in the intranet of RIFS. Proposals of unsuccessful applicants will not be filed, but deleted once the entire Fellow application and selection process is completed.

4.10 Am I bound to the proposal once I am a Fellow?

Should new topics emerge during the stay at RIFS, Fellows may of course deviate from their original ideas if the new ideas and avenues seem to be more promising.