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Information for Researchers No. 01 | 2 January 2014
Priority Programme "Physics of the Interstellar Medium" (SPP 1573)

The Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has established the Priority Programme "Physics of the Interstellar Medium" (SPP 1573). The programme is designed to run for six years; the present call invites proposals for the second three-year funding period.

The Interstellar space is filled with a dilute mixture of charged particles, atoms, molecules and dust grains, called the interstellar medium (ISM). It represents a laboratory to study the physics of highly attenuated gases, chemical processes and atomic, molecular and solid state physics under extreme conditions and numerous other questions of natural sciences. The physics of the ISM plays a crucial role in many areas of astronomy from galaxy formation to star and planet formation. Recent observations have revealed that the ISM is a turbulent, multiphase gas, filled with structures on all resolvable spatial scales. This has led to a paradigm shift in the understanding of the ISM, where the previous equilibrium model is being replaced by a highly dynamical picture of strongly coupled, interacting and turbulently mixed gas phases that are far from equilibrium and that are continuously stirred by processes that are not well understood. The goal of this Priority Programme is to combine observations with our knowledge about the various fundamental key processes that affect the ISM on different scales and to gain a comprehensive understanding and construct a new model of the dynamical, non-linear, multi-phase ISM.

The activities in this Priority Programme are based on three complementary pillars of research:

  • Laboratory studies related to the evolution of the ISM: Research in this area will provide basic data of molecular and ionic reactions as well as transition frequencies and data on dust physics, required for the physical and chemical description of the ISM.
  • Observations are the key to constrain theoretical models and give insight into the structure of the ISM and its dependence on galactic environment.
  • Theory and numerical simulations of the ISM: Various physical ISM processes and especially their coupling are poorly understood and need to be investigated in greater detail. Numerical simulations will determine the spatial density structure and the dynamics of the multi-phase ISM, allowing a detailed comparison with observations.

During the first funding period, the Priority Programme was dedicated to the investigation of the physics and interplay of different processes in the ISM. This includes detailed models of the formation, interaction and mixing of multiple gas phases, heating and cooling processes in the ISM, ISM chemistry and dust physics, the origin of ISM turbulence and its effect on structure formation in the ISM, as well as hydrodynamical and magneto-hydrodynamical simulations of the ISM dynamics in different galactic environments. It also required the development of new integrated and versatile software tools. Specific focus in the first three years of the programme also lied on designing analysis tools that connect to the next generation of telescopes and instruments. The aim is to provide a direct link between the simulations and the observations. The focus will shift in the second phase of the programme to the execution of high-resolution multi-scale and multi-physics numerical simulations and their interpretation in the light of these new ground-based and space-borne observatories. Numerical simulations will be applied to different galactic environments, focussing especially on galactic centres, the interaction between halo and disk and to high-redshift galaxies where the structure of the ISM appears to be very different compared to local galaxies.

Interdisciplinary research and interactions between different groups within this Priority Programme are encouraged. Therefore, projects that request personal funding equivalent to one postdoctoral position or more should if possible be supported by at least two PIs from complementary research fields. The exception are dedicated laboratory experiments.

Proposals for the second three-year funding period can be submitted via the DFG's electronic submission system elan by 17 March 2014. All proposals must be written in English. Additional information and a proposal template will be available on the website of the Priority Programme.

If you are using the elan system for the first time, please note that you need to register yourself and your institutional addresses before being able to submit a proposal. Also, if you are planning to move to a different institution (e.g. with a Temporary Position for Principal Investigators) you need to register the new institutional address beforehand. Please make sure that all applicants of your project (in case there is more than one) start their registration at latest two weeks before the submission deadline. The registration requests are handled manually by DFG staff.

If submitting a new proposal please select in the online form the appropriate call "SPP 1573/2 – Physics of the Interstellar Medium". If your project has already been funded in the first phase of SPP 1573, you will be able to submit a renewal proposal via elan. When selecting "Proposal Overview/Renewal Proposal" in the elan system, you will see a list of your current projects and their processing status. To submit a renewal proposal please click on the title of your current SPP 1573 project and continue from there.

A colloquium and a review panel meeting are planned for June 2014.

Further information

For further information on the Priority Programme and for a proposal template please refer to:

The DFG's electronic proposal processing system elan with proposal instructions and guidelines can be found at:

Proposal guidelines and preparation instructions are outlined in the DFG forms 54.01en and 50.05en, part B, which can be found on the DFG's website at:

For scientific inquiries concerning the scope of the Priority Programme, please contact the programme's coordinator:

For funding enquiries please contact:

For administrative enquiries please contact: