FAQs: Max Planck Foundation Research Groups (MPFRG)

General remarks

1. What is a Max Planck Foundation Research Group?

MPFRG are smaller, independent research units, often supplementing departments at Max Planck Institutes. The groups offer early to mid-career researchers who hold a doctorate an exceptional opportunity to further qualify themselves on a very high level.

2. What is the difference between a Max Planck Foundation Research Group and a Max Planck Research Group?

MPFRG are essentially Max Planck Research Groups. However, MPFRG are funded by the Max Planck Foundation and relate to a specific field of research – in this case that of carbon capture technologies. As in the centrally-funded Max Planck Research Group programme, applicants propose their own individual research project (within the area of carbon capture technologies) and name the institute(s) at which they would like to work.

3. What does the funding package include?

MPFRG Leaders are offered internationally competitive packages for personnel, equipment, and yearly operating costs. The leader’s salary (German W2) is similar to that of an assistant or non-tenured associate professorship in the United States. The total funding corresponds to the level of top-tier, international career development programmes and amounts to 2.6 million Euros (for the initial six years). Furthermore, MPFRG Leaders are bestowed a great deal of individual flexibility and, if necessary, may employ the funds allocated to them according to need.

4. Who is the target group for this call?

The position of MPFRG Leader is particularly suitable for emerging scholars who have already held one or two postdoctoral positions and would now like to head an independent research group where they can pursue their own research agenda. Candidates should demonstrate exceptional academic credentials as well as promise as leaders, mentors, and collaborators. Please note that only researchers who hold a doctorate are eligible to apply.

5. I am a humanities scholar. Can I apply?

Yes. All scientists who focus their research on carbon capture technologies are welcome to apply.

6. Are Max Planck Foundation Research Group Leaders expected to teach?

Teaching is not formally required. However, MPFRG Leaders are free to become involved in the training of young scientists at a local university.


7. Why are not all Max Planck Institutes available as a host institute?

Not all institutes currently have the space to accommodate a MPFRG appropriately. Many institutes are already accommodating one or more research groups and are unable to host any other group in near future. In addition, not all institutes are able to provide the necessary research environment for a research group in the field of carbon capture technologies. Applicants can find a list of all available host institutes in the application portal.

8. Is there any age limit?

No. However, the call for proposals for the MPFRG Leader positions is aimed at talented young scientists. Ideally, applicants should have completed their PhD no more than seven years ago (PhD in medicine: no more than nine years ago). If the recommended academic age is exceeded, applicants should provide a detailed statement regarding their continuing suitability in their letter of motivation.

9. How do family breaks affect the calculation of the postdoctoral period?

The Max Planck Society expressly welcomes applications from young scientists who were awarded their doctorate more than seven years ago due to family related breaks. In order for this to be considered, please confirm your family break in the respective section in the application portal and state the time and duration of your leave in your letter of motivation.

10. Is a (completed) habilitation a reason for not considering to apply?

No. A habilitation is neither a requirement nor is it considered as a disadvantage. MPFRG Leaders often habilitate at a neighboring university. Please note that the Max Planck Society is not authorized to confer habilitations.

11. Should the applicant contact their preferred Max Planck Institute(s) prior to submitting an official application?

Yes. Although not obligatory, we encourage all prospective applicants to contact the MPI where they want their MPFRG to be located prior to the application. This is a good way for both parties do determine whether the respective MPI would be a suitable host for the candidate.

12. Is it possible to apply for a Max Planck Foundation Research Group Leader position at a Max Planck Institute where the applicant is/was already employed?

Yes. However, for career development, it is usually better to establish your independent research at a different institute. Yet there may occasionally be good reasons for choosing an MPI as the optimal location for future research projects where research has already been carried out. Applicants seeking placement at a current or former MPI will be reviewed and assessed on an individual basis. Before applying, please contact the most relevant department(s) of the selected MPI.

13. Is it possible to apply to other research organizations in parallel with an application to the Max Planck Society?


Application documents

14. Which publication status must the submitted publications have reached?

Committees in general only count published papers or papers that are in press (formally accepted). If a paper is accepted but not yet in print, please indicate this in your publication list. Papers in your publication list that to date carry the status of submitted or under review must be clearly marked as such.

15. Can the supervisor of the doctoral thesis or a Director of a preferred Max Planck Institute provide a letter of recommendation?

Yes. However, if a Max Planck Director provides a letter of recommendation, then the second letter must come from an external referee (who is not affiliated with any MPI). Alternatively, both letters of recommendation can be submitted by external referees.

16.  Must the application and the letters of recommendation be written in English?

Yes. Only applications and letters of recommendation written in English will be accepted.

17. How should letters of recommendation be submitted?

Please invite referees via the ‘invite a referee’-button in the application portal. You will then be asked to provide their names and e-mail addresses. The application portal will then send an email to your referee with further instructions on how to upload their letter of recommendation. You will be notified when your referee has uploaded their letter of recommendation. Only letters of recommendation in electronic form (as pdf), which have been submitted by the referees themselves, will be considered.

Selection process

18. Who is on the selection committee?

The President of the Max Planck Society has appointed a special selection committee comprising a panel of Max Planck Directors from different backgrounds. It is chaired by the Vice President of the Chemistry, Physics and Technology Section and co-chaired by a Max Planck Director, who is the leading expert in the field of Carbon Capture within the Max Planck Society.

19. How does the selection process work?

All submitted applications will be evaluated in accordance with First, the application will be checked for completeness and compliance with the guidelines. Then, the selection committee will make a pre-selection based on the application documents. The pre-selected candidates will be invited to a symposium in July, where they will give a presentation and be interviewed by the committee. After the symposium, the committee will rank the candidates according to their excellence, potential, and suitability. The final decision will be made by the President of the Max Planck Society.

20. What are the career prospects afterwards?

The positions of MPFRG Leader are limited in time. However, the further career prospects are exceptionally good. The Max Planck Society considers outstanding Max Planck Research Group Leaders when recruiting new Directors. In addition, the majority of researchers have been offered full professorships at German or international universities or comparable positions at non-university research institutions.

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