Press Release No. 56 | December 11, 2020

DFG to Fund Seven New Research Units

Topics ranging from multiple competition in the higher education system to gender-specific differences in immune responses / A total of approximately €25 million for the first funding period

Topics ranging from multiple competition in the higher education system to gender-specific differences in immune responses / A total of approximately €25 million for the first funding period

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing seven new Research Units. The DFG Joint Committee decided this on the recommendation of the Senate. The meetings of the DFG's statutory bodies were conducted online due to the coronavirus pandemic. These new Research Units will receive a total of approximately €25 million, including a 22 percent programme allowance for indirect project-related costs.

The funding duration for these teams is based on the date on which the first draft of a funding proposal was submitted. Research Units which submitted their draft proposals after 1 October 2018 will be funded for a maximum of two four-year periods; this applies to five of the newly established Research Units. The two other teams who submitted their draft proposals before 1 October 2018 will be funded for a term of two three-year periods.

In addition to these seven institutions, a decision was made to extend the funding to five Research Units for a second period. Research Units enable researchers to devote themselves to current and pressing issues in their subject areas and to establish innovative new research areas. Altogether the DFG is currently funding 162 Research Units, 13 Clinical Research Units and 16 Centres for Advanced Studies. Clinical Research Units are additionally characterised by their close link between research and clinical work, while Centres for Advanced Studies are specifically tailored to work in the humanities and social sciences.

The seven new teams in detail
(in alphabetical order by the spokesperson's university)

To ensure that dentures made of artificial materials, such as fillings or crowns, remain firmly anchored in the long term even under daily stress, they must be in close contact with the remaining healthy tooth tissue. The medical-materials science Research Unit “The Materials Science of Teeth in Function: Principles of Durable, Dynamic Dental Interphases” is therefore conducting systematic research into the interfaces between tooth replacement material and tooth tissue. The aim is to pave the way to even more resistant dental prostheses. (Spokesperson: Dr. Paul Zaslansky, Charité – FU Berlin and HU Berlin)

During the coronavirus pandemic and also in the face of demographic change, many questions arise concerning the quality of life: What defines a good life? What standards should be applied to ensure or create a good life? What influence do new medical possibilities have on the temporality and planning of our lives? How can these be evaluated from an ethical point of view? The Research Unit “Medicine and the Temporal Structure of the Good Life” investigates these and other questions. Researchers from the areas of philosophy, medicine and medical ethics as well as the social and cultural sciences aim to develop an ethically reflected understanding of the temporal conditions of a good life. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Claudia Wiesemann, University of Göttingen)

Women and men are known to have different immune responses to pathogens and to experience different progressions of infectious, autoimmune and tumour diseases. However, the underlying biological mechanisms have not yet been systematically studied. The Research Unit “Sex Differences in Immunity” aims to identify the mechanisms by which gender hormones and genes on the X chromosome influence gender differences in the immune response. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Marcus Altfeld, University of Hamburg)

So-called cytochalasans are natural substances produced by fungi that cause different effects at the cellular level of other organisms. Hundreds of different cytochalasans have been identified, but systematic studies on their various effects are still lacking. With the help of synthetic chemistry and synthetic biology, the Research Unit “CytoLabs – Systematic Investigation and Exploitation of Cytochalasans” seeks to produce both known and new cytochalasans. In addition, chemical modifications will be incorporated in order to create molecular tools from the natural substances. These are to be compiled in a substance library. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Russell J. Cox, University of Hanover)

In the science system, protagonists are involved in diverse and interlinked competition. This results in a complex network of demands to which the various protagonists are subject. The Research Unit “Multiple Competition in the Higher Education System: Constitution of Protagonists, Coordination of Action and Consequences” seeks to investigate this multiple competition using approaches drawn from the fields of sociology and economics. For example, the aim is to clarify what dynamics this competition gives rise to at the various levels of the higher education system and what consequences this has. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Georg Krücken, University of Kassel)

The aim of the Research Unit “Energy Landscapes and Structure in Ion Conducting Solids (ELSICS)” is to elucidate the energy distributions of ion sites in solids with respect to their transport properties. The underlying questions – namely the link between the energy landscape of solid state materials, their structure on the atomic scale and the dynamics of ion transport – are of great importance in chemistry and physics. The network focuses its work on two classes of materials: alkali-ion-based materials, which are important for energy storage, for example, and perovskite materials, which are used in such technologies as fuel cells. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Karl-Michael Weitzel, University of Marburg)

On many of the world’s coasts, groundwater flows underground into the sea, mixing fresh water with circulating seawater. As a result of biogeochemical reactions, complex processes of conversion and binding of organic substances and metals by the microorganisms living there take place at these locations – especially on beaches with high tidal, wind and wave dynamics. It is still unclear as to how these processes take place and what role they have to play as bioreactors for global material cycles. The Research Unit “The Dynamic Deep Subsurface of High-Energy Beaches (DynaDeep)” aims to analyse the biogeochemical processes and assess their impact on coastal ecosystems and material cycles. This is to be achieved initially by setting up a field laboratory on the island of Spiekeroog as a model. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Gudrun Massmann, University of Oldenburg)

The five teams with funding extended for a second period
(in alphabetical order by the spokesperson's university and with references to the project descriptions in GEPRIS – the DFG internet database for current funding):

Further Information

Media contact:

  • DFG Press and Public Relations
    Tel. +49 228 885-2109

The team spokesperson can also provide detailed information.

Contact at the DFG Head Office:

Links to Research Units at DFG: