In selecting its members, the Wissenschaftskolleg places no restrictions on country of origin, discipline, or academic position. With the help of an international Advisory Board, invitations to scholars and scientists, alone or clustered in thematic groups or emphases, are issued in a way calculated to promote exchange across disciplinary boundaries and among researchers from different cultures of knowledge. 

At the heart of the Wissenschaftskolleg is the idea that Fellows must have the freedom to choose their own distinctive research project. The Fellows' only obligations are to reside at the Wissenschaftskolleg, and to meet once a day for a meal and each Tuesday for the weekly colloquium. At each Tuesday Colloquium, one Fellow presents his or her work to the other Fellows followed by an hour of rigorous discussion. 

Such an intellectually heterogeneous atmosphere often creates a productive friction that leads Fellows to reconsider their approaches, and may lead to unexpected innovation.  Indeed, this special form of critical self-examination is possible only within a framework of wide intellectual variety, enhanced by the inclusion among the Fellows of composers, musicians, novelists, poets or visual artists. 

The administration of the Wissenschaftskolleg supports the Fellows in their research work and, beyond that, tries to be of assistance with any practical problems that arise to enable them to concentrate completely on their work.

Within certain limits, the Wissenschaftskolleg provides for the Fellows' material situation so that their stay in Berlin does not result in substantial financial disadvantage. To make this possible under conditions of limited means, all Fellows are requested to try to convince their home institutions to participate in funding their stay. If the home institution continues to pay the Fellow's salary, the Wissenschaftskolleg can assume the costs of his substitute. The Wissenschaftskolleg covers remaining Fellow needs according to the principle "no gain - no loss".