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Information for Researchers No. 49 | 3 September 2014
Priority Programme „Building a Habitable Earth“ (SPP 1833)

The Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has established a new Priority Programme entitled “Building a Habitable Earth” (SPP 1833). The programme is designed to run for six years; the present call invites proposals for the first three-year funding period.

The Priority Programme is an “Earth Science”-based coordinated research programme that addresses the still open question how Earth became the only known habitable rocky planet covered by oceans and an oxygenated atmosphere. Most likely, a unique combination of processes during Earth’s early evolution was necessary to make Earth habitable, but these processes and their interplay are still poorly constrained. This programme focusses on the crucial time-span when Earth became habitable, but before life itself blossomed. The core approach is to use the terrestrial and extraterrestrial rock record to reconstruct key parameters and processes that set the stage on which life subsequently formed and evolved. New research avenues recently emerged from the increased availability of pristine old terrestrial and extraterrestrial sample materials, the development of novel analytical techniques and of experimental and computational approaches that all allow investigating early planetary and geological processes in unprecedented detail.

Central to the programme will be the chemical inventory and evolution of the different reservoirs in the Earth and its asteroidal building blocks, the chemical differentiation of Earth into a metal core, silicate mantle, differentiated crust, hydrosphere and atmosphere, as well as the complex interactions and feedback loops of these reservoirs with the evolving biosphere that successfully made Earth a life sustaining environment.

The three key topics central to the Priority Programme are:

  • the compositions and sources of Earth’s building materials and the growth of the Earth,
  • the Earth’s early internal processing into crust, mantle, and core, and the early evolution of these reservoirs,
  • the early evolution of Earth’s ocean-atmosphere-biosphere system from the first atmosphere until the great oxidation event.

Proposals are welcome that employ “Earth Science”-based approaches to study the early geological history of the Earth, using observations from geological samples of Archean to Early Proterozoic age and from extraterrestrial samples related to Earth’s formation. These two groups of samples provide the only vestige of Earth’s early evolution. In addition, we invite complementary proposals involving experimental studies and computational approaches that address key problems of Earth’s early evolution. This particularly concerns important processes during the Hadean eon (e.g., magma ocean formation, core formation or late veneer addition), where no direct geological vestige is preserved. The Priority Programme explicitly invites contributions from Earth Science disciplines such as geology, geodynamics, geochemistry, petrology, planetology, cosmochemistry, geobiology and geophysics. Proposals need to cover approaches, where direct observations from the geological record or from extraterrestrial samples are made or where models or experiments directly simulate key processes occurring in the early Earth.

Hence, the focus of this programme does not include astrobiological studies, early Earth analogues such as exoplanets, comparative planetary studies, theoretical models unrelated to the geological record, or astronomical observations.

Research proposals for the first three-year funding period, written in English, are now invited. All proposals should follow the guidelines in DFG form 50.05 (Priority Programmes) and 54.01 (Project Proposals). Please include a title page with your name, your address, and the title of your project in your application. Deadline for proposal submission is 1 December 2014. The anticipated start date of projects should be fall 2015.

Proposals must be submitted via the DFG’s electronic submission system “elan”, selecting “SPP 1833”. If you are using the “elan”-system for the first time, please note that you need to register yourself and your institutional address 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 the latest two weeks before the submission deadline. The registration requests are handled manually by DFG staff.

In addition to submitting your proposal to the DFG, please send an electronic version (pdf format) to the Priority Programme coordination office, SPP-1833@uni-koeln.de. Researchers considering to submit proposals should contact the coordinator (Professor Carsten Münker, c.muenker@uni-koeln.de) prior to submission to ascertain that proposals fit the scientific scope of the programme.

Further Information

For details about the Priority Programme’s scientific goals please refer to the website:

DFG’s “elan”-portal:

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

For further scientific information, please contact the Priority Programme’s coordinator:

For administrative and formal inquiries please contact: