Strategic workshop seals cooperation between DFG and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

(04.04.2018) The German Research Foundation (DFG) has held an initial strategic workshop in cooperation with the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, UNAM), thus taking a further step on the path to closer cooperation between researchers from Germany and from the Mexican university. As part of the event, German and Mexican researchers were given the opportunity to present ideas for joint research projects and to get advice about suitable funding instruments.

Martha Zapatha, professor at FU Berlin, during the closing round of questions with the speakers

Martha Zapatha, professor at FU Berlin, during the closing round of questions with the speakers


The event took place on 21 and 22 March in Mexico City, where UNAM – Latin America’s largest university – is also based. A total of 12 initiatives for joint research projects in various areas, requiring cooperation between Mexican researchers and various German research institutions, were presented.

“UNAM has signed cooperation agreements with 41 German universities,” said Dr. Francisco Trigo, Head of the Department of International Relations, at the opening of the workshop. DFG Secretary General Prof. Dorothee Dzwonnek, during her visit to UNAM back in May 2017, also recognised the considerable cooperation potential for projects between German researchers and the Mexican university.

One result of the talks between Dzwonnek and UNAM representatives was the identification of suitable projects of high scientific quality for possible bilateral funding, in particular in the area of coordinated programmes. In addition, it was recognised that the two institutions’ usual funding lines would have to be aligned with each other in order to guarantee both complementary funding and an appropriate time frame for the proposal and review process on both sides. Organised ten months after Prof. Dzwonnek’s visit, the workshop therefore offered a suitable forum for getting a little closer to these goals.

A total of 17 joint projects were identified as having the potential for a proposal submission, with 12 of them being represented at the event. The project leads explained their planned projects, which they had designed jointly during two days of scientific discussion. From UNAM and the DFG, they received information about suitable funding options.

Frederico Christlieb (UNAM), Francisco Trigo Tavera (UNAM), Javier Nieto Gutiérrez (UNAM), Kathrin Winkler (DFG) and William Lee Alardin (UNAM) at the opening of the workshop


Dr. Kathrin Winkler, Head of the DFG Latin America Office, gave comprehensive information on the DFG financing options for coordinated programmes, in particular regarding Research Units and International Research Training Groups. An example of the success of International Research Training Groups is the German-Mexican group “Entre Espacios” (“Between Spaces”), which is now in its final funding period and will be completed this year. Winkler feels that some of the projects presented were less complex and could be covered by some of the other funding instruments introduced in her presentation.

From the UNAM side, Dr. Carlos Arámburo, Vice-Rector for Scientific Development, explained the PAPIIT funding programme and in particular two instruments that are compatible with the DFG’s coordinated programmes. These are also aimed at Research Units, supporting interdisciplinary approaches and integrating researchers at different stages in their academic careers, including early-career researchers. Since 2015, UNAM has been funding 16 projects of this type via this programme, including in the areas of social sciences, biodiversity, ecology, health, geology and agricultural science.

In addition, the workshop allowed the representatives of the two institutions to find out more about the details of the various funding programmes and to identify the similarities and differences between them. “The majority of the projects presented have the potential to become larger cooperative projects. The task of the DFG and UNAM now is to align the proposal and funding procedures for jointly coordinated research projects in order to move the collaboration forward,” affirmed Winkler. One of the next steps will be a discussion of adjustments that may need to be made to processes on both sides in order to make joint and bilateral funding a reality.

Both institutions declared their desire to continue and expand on the cooperation that began with Prof. Dzwonnek’s visit in 2017 and was consolidated by this workshop. “We are very open to the idea of a second meeting of this type in Mexico or in Germany,” concluded Dr. Alejandro Velázquez, Head of Scientific Cooperation at UNAM.

Also present were representatives of the Mexican funding organisation for science and technology, CONACYT, with which the DFG has had a cooperation agreement since 1991. Dr. Alejandro Castillo, Scientific Director at CONACYT, explained the regular funding programmes, emphasising the fact that Germany is among the most important international cooperation partners. During her stay in the Mexican capital, Winkler also met with Dr. Júlia Tagüeña, Acting Scientific Director at CONACYT, in order to discuss the next steps of the joint activities. Among other things they discussed strategies for continuing calls for proposals for bilateral individual projects as well as for funding future International Research Training Groups.

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