Press Release No. 53 | 14 December 2017
DFG to Fund Eight New Research Units, One Clinical Research Unit and Two Humanities Centres for Advanced Studies
Topics range from fossils and fruit flies to kidney disease and 1960s pop culture / Approximately €32 million awarded for first funding period
The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has approved the establishment of eight new Research Units, one new Clinical Research Unit and two new Humanities Centres for Advanced Studies. This was decided by the DFG Senate during its winter session in Bonn. The research collaborations will enable researchers to pursue pressing issues in their research areas and take innovative directions in their work. Clinical Research Units are also characterised by the close connection between research and clinical work. Humanities Centres for Advanced Studies are specifically tailored to the working methods used in the humanities.
The maximum funding duration for Research Units and Clinical Research Units is two periods of three years; Humanities Centres for Advanced Studies can be funded for two periods of four years. In the initial funding period, the 11 new groups will receive a total of approximately €32 million. As a result, the DFG will be funding a total of 223 Research Units, including Clinical Research Units and Humanities Centres for Advanced Studies.
The New Research Units
(in alphabetical order by spokesperson’s university)
Fossils are the main source of information that enable scientists to reconstruct the history of life on earth. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the material nature of fossils and thus the process of fossil formation is not fully understood. Using the latest imaging and analytical technologies, the Research Unit The Limits of the Fossil Record: Analytical and Experimental Approaches to Fossilization therefore aims to study fossils of plants, arthropods and vertebrates to understand the process by which they formed.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Paul Martin Sande, University of Bonn)
The Research Unit Seasonal Temperature Acclimation in Drosophila will investigate the molecular mechanisms that enable fruit flies to adapt to different temperatures. The researchers will study the temperature-dependent development and survival ability of the insects using biochemical, genetic and imaging techniques and investigate the influence of diet on the flies’ temperature resistance. In this way, the participating biologists and zoologists aim to produce a detailed picture of adaptive behaviour in fruit flies; they hope to transfer their findings to spotted wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii) and use them to draw generally valid conclusions about insects.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Suzanne Eaton, Technical University of Dresden)
The Research Unit Understanding the Global Freshwater System by Combining Geodetic and Remote Sensing Information with Modelling Using a Calibration/Data Assimilation Approach (GlobalCDA) intends to use satellite data to develop an improved hydrological model and an improved understanding of global water cycles. This is a new approach, as previous hydrological modelling has only used optical and multispectral image data. Ultimately, the aim is to enable better predictions and management strategies for drought and floods.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Petra Döll, University of Frankfurt/Main)
A Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies entitled Foundations of Law and Finance aims to investigate the influence of institutional and regulatory frameworks on financial market decisions and results. The participating researchers will examine more closely the interconnections between law, economics and political science within this topic: They will measure and thus indirectly evaluate market price reactions to proposed and amended legislation and seek to understand how financial market regulation could be influenced by the structure of the decision-making and legislative process.
Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Tobias Tröger, University of Frankfurt/Main)
More than 200 million people worldwide suffer from chronic kidney disease, which often leads to kidney failure. Disorders of the kidney’s filters, the glomeruli, especially what are known as podocytes, which allow the kidneys to perform their filtration function, play an important role in this. Various factors can affect podocyte function and thus lead to kidney disease. This is the starting point for the Clinical Research Unit Disease Pathways in Podocyte Injury – From Molecular Mechanisms to Individualized Treatment Options, which aims firstly to study podocytes in detail and later to develop and trial personalised treatments for patients.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Thomas Benzing, University of Cologne)
Biodiversity and ecosystems in the Andean mountain rainforests and dry forests of southern Ecuador are threatened by climate and land use change. The Research Unit Environmental Changes in Biodiversity Hotspot Ecosystems of South Ecuador: RESPonse and feedback effECTs (RESPECT) therefore intends to find out to what extent two central ecosystem functions – biomass production and water flows – are affected by changes in the response and feedback characteristics of various plant and animal species. In the long term, the bioscientists and geoscientists hope to contribute to improved resilience of ecosystem functions compared with current use through optimised land use systems.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Jörg Bendix, University of Marburg)
The concept of ‘adventure’ enjoys a special position among basic literary concepts because it is both genuinely narrative and, in key aspects, medieval in its origins. The schema of narration, perception and experience it refers to has proven highly adaptable and has continually permeated new areas of culture, such as film, computer games, advertising and tourism. In forms like these, little thought is usually given to the originally narrative character of adventure. Because this character is conveyed textually, the Research Unit aims to develop a Philology of Adventure to place adventure within its deserved place in the anthropology of storytelling.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Martin von Koppenfels, University of Munich, LMU)
The question of whether and how a physical system achieves a state of equilibrium is a key problem in many areas of modern many-body physics. Although numerous new theoretical and experimental insights have been generated over the past ten years, little research has yet been conducted into how the equilibrium state actually arises. The Research Unit Fundamental Aspects of Statistical Mechanics and the Emergence of Thermodynamics in Non-Equilibrium Systems therefore intends to investigate fundamental thermalisation processes at the microscopic level, concentrating on generic and complex systems in non-equilibrium conditions. The researchers aim to analyse the path from initialisation to achievement of equilibrium.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Robin Steinigeweg, University of Osnabrück)
The Research Unit Emerging Grammars in Language Contact Situations: A Comparative Approach aims to analyse the language usage of bilingual speakers with a migration background – in both of their languages, heritage and the majority language. By analysing the usage of ‘heritage speakers’, in formal and informal, written and spoken communication situations, the researchers plan to contribute to theories of language contact and language variation. The participating linguists intend to study the language usage of Russian, Turkish and Greek heritage speakers in Germany and the US. They will consider linguistic phenomena observed in heritage speakers as new grammatical options for the majority language.
Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Heike Wiese, Host University of Potsdam)
In Christianity, the Biblical writings of the Old and New Testaments are considered the canon of fundamental authority. However, other texts exist which either counter or continue canonical texts – and thus also claim authority. The Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies Beyond the Canon: Heterotopias of Religious Authority in Late Antique Christianity will investigate these texts and their functions in a wide range of contexts in religious life. By studying extracanonical Christian traditions, the researchers aim to achieve fresh insights into sociocultural, religious and theological-historical phenomena of Late Antiquity and late antique Christianity.
(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Tobias Nicklas, University of Regensburg)
The Research Unit Transnational Popular Culture – Europe in the Long 1960s intends to study music, radio, youth culture, youth media, comics, amateur films, quiz shows and children’s series from the 1960s and thus document a broad spectrum of pop-culture phenomena in western Europe. Previous studies have concentrated on individual countries, but the participating researchers will cover multiple countries, cultures and societies and relate them to one another. Through their work, they also aim to refute prevalent notions of a one-sided Americanisation of western European societies.
Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Dietmar Hüser, Saarland University)
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Further information will be provided by the spokespersons of the established units.
For information on the DFG Research Units, Clinical Research Units and Humanities Centres for Advanced Studies, visit: