The criteria for Fellow selection are the quality of the researcher and the attractiveness of his or her research project. The Wissenschaftskolleg appoints Fellows from all fields and disciplines. Every year these include researchers from the humanities, the social sciences, and the life sciences, along with individual artists in the fields of music, visual art, and/or literature.
Each year there are two or three focus groups. Especially in the natural sciences and with younger researchers, it has proven useful to jointly invite small groups of three to five Fellows whose individual research plans relate to each other from the beginning. To preserve enough flexibility to accommodate the unexpected, the Wissenschaftskolleg has made it a rule that less than half of a year's Fellows are invited within the framework of focus groups.