Press Release No. 21 | June 27, 2023

DFG to Fund Seven New Research Units, One New Clinical Research Unit and One New Centre for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences

Topics range from the influence of cities on the local environment to the use of digital media in tackling chronic diseases / Around €40 million in total for first fund-ing period

Topics range from the influence of cities on the local environment to the use of digital media in tackling chronic diseases / Around €40 million in total for first fund-ing period

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing seven new Research Units, one new Clinical Research Unit and one new Centre for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences. This was decided by the DFG Joint Committee on the recommendation of the Senate. The new Research Units will receive total funding of approximately €40 million, including a 22 percent programme allowance for indirect project costs. In addition to these nine newly created Research Units, a decision was made to extend funding for five other Research Units for a second funding period. One of the newly established Research Units and one that has been extended for an additional funding period receive funding under the framework of the D-A-CH cooperation together with the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) or the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF).

Research Units enable researchers to pursue current and pressing issues in their areas of research and take innovative directions in their work. They are funded for up to eight years. In total, the DFG is currently funding 185 Research Units, 13 Clinical Research Units and 18 Centres for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences. Clinical Research Units are also characterised by the close connection between research and clinical work, while Centres for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences are specifically tailored to work in the humanities and social sciences.

The new research networks in detail
(in alphabetical order of the spokespersons’ HEIs)

The realisation that the body’s own antibodies can be pathogenic in connection with brain diseases such as encephalitis, dementia, epilepsy and psychoses has fundamentally changed neurology. The Clinical Research Unit BECAUSE-Y Berlin Center for Diagnosing, Understanding and Treating Antibody(Y)-mediated Neurological Diseases seeks to develop new diagnostic tests and imaging methods in this field, decipher triggering and modifying disease mechanisms and initiate immunotherapies. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Matthias Endres, Charité – FU and HU Berlin, Director: Professor Dr. Harald Prüß, Charité – FU and HU Berlin and DZNE Berlin)

Mongolia today is home to the remains of two cities built from scratch under Genghis Khan’s heirs, embodying the dramatic transformation from a natural pastoral economy to an urban landscape: Karakorum – the capital of the Mongol Empire – and Khar Khul Khaany Balgas. These two cities are the starting point for the Research Unit Urban impacts on the Mongolian Plateau – Entanglements of Economy, City, and Environment. It aims to explore the two city complexes themselves and their influence on the regions surrounding them by adopting a diachronic perspective. The focus will be on urban “metabolism”, focusing on topics such as energy supply, food production and building materials. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Jan Bemmann, University of Bonn)

Ultra-high field strength (UHF) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) offers unique opportunities for tissue characterisation. In this field, rapid development is currently advancing of new and in some cases faster methods of contrast generation for the visualisation of metabolic processes. However, UHF MRI has so far been used primarily for the detection of anatomical changes, and it is still put to very little use in hospitals. The Research Unit Fast Mapping of Quantitative MR-biosignatures at Ultra-high Magnetic Field aims to optimise the new MR tissue contrasts and combine them in an accelerated measurement protocol that can be used in hospitals. The long-term objective is to establish MR biomarkers to detect early signs of neurodegeneration and tissue degeneration in connection with chronic diseases. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Armin Nagel, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg)

The ability to dynamically adapt one’s own imagination to external changes again and again is fundamental to mental health. If this no longer succeeds properly, it leads to a distorted perception of reality and, as a consequence, psyche-related illness. The Research Unit Contextual influences on dynamic belief updating in volatile environments: Basic mechanisms and clinical implications systematically attempts to uncover the underlying mechanisms behind the inability to engage in dynamic learning processes – not least in order to trace the development and context-dependency of mental illness. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Tania Lincoln, University of Hamburg)

Fine chemicals are indispensable in the production of active pharmaceutical ingredients, polymers, cosmetics and detergent additives. The Research Unit Multistep Catalytic Production Systems for Fine Chemistry by Integrated Molecular, Material and Process Design (IMPD4Cat) aims to develop the foundations for efficient and at the same time sustainable manufacturing processes according to the principles of green chemistry, i.e. almost waste-free. The objective is to enable stable production systems in which all process stages are optimally coordinated and in which decisions about catalysts, solvents, additives, separation materials, apparatus types and operating conditions can be integrated. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Kai Sundmacher, University of Magdeburg)

Chronic diseases are among the most common (and most costly) health problems facing industrialised countries. One key pillar in terms of coping measures is self-management, which could be effectively supported by digital media. Studies on this are promising, but so far inconsistent and methodologically limited in terms of their validity. The Research Unit Digital media in chronic disease self-management (DISELMA) is looking for new approaches here and also examining negative consequences such as data privacy problems, social isolation and impairment of the doctor-patient relationship in the context of interpersonal, organisational and social interaction. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Constanze Rossmann, LMU Munich)

The production of antibodies against pathogens by the B lymphocytes – the so-called humoral immune response – is part of the immune system of all higher organisms. B cells are key players here: only they are able to form plasma cells that secrete antibodies. Yet they can also play a pathological role in various autoimmune and cancer diseases. The Research Unit Crosstalk between B cell metabolism and signaling seeks to find out how metabolic processes and the response to external stimuli interact in B cells. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Julia Jellusova, TU Munich)

The proton motor force, or PMF, is at the heart of energy metabolism and drives most cellular functions; it is as universal as the genetic code. In plants, it has a central role in the functioning of oxygenic photosynthesis. Although the PMF has already been the subject of intense study, understanding of its regulation and integration in plant physiology is remarkably incomplete. The Research Unit Dynamic Regulation of the Proton Motive Force in Photosynthesis, jointly funded with the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), therefore aims to understand how the assembly and modulation of the PMF is regulated to optimise photosynthesis under variable conditions. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Michael Hippler, University of Münster)

Texts described as “magical” exist in the written traditions of all ancient cultures of Western Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean. They are a crucial source for the history of religion and ideas in antiquity. So far, however, research has hardly addressed cross-cultural correspondences and relationships. This is the point of departure for the Centre for Advanced Studies MagEIA: Magic between Entanglement, Interaction, and Analogy – Centre for the study of magical text traditions of West Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean in antiquity, which aims to establish links by promoting collaborative enquiry involving philology, religious studies and cultural anthropology. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Daniel Schwemer, University of Würzburg)

The research networks extended for a second funding period
(in alphabetical order of the spokespersons’ HEIs and with references to the project descriptions in the DFG’s online database GEPRIS):

Further information

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