Press Release No. 11 | March 25, 2024

DFG to Fund Ten New Research Units, One Clinical Research Unit and Two Centres for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences

Topics range from applied humanities to the evolution of early land vertebrates / A total of approximately €56 million approved for the first funding period

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing ten Research Units, one Clinical Research Unit and two Centres 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 a total of approximately €56 million, including a programme allowance of 22 percent to cover indirect project costs. In addition to establishing the 13 new Research Units, it was decided to extend five existing Research Units and one Clinical Research Unit for an additional funding period. Two of the newly established Research Units are being funded under the framework of the D-A-CH cooperation together with the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF).

Research Units enable researchers to investigate current issues of urgent relevance within their research areas and pursue innovative pathways in their work. They are funded for a period of up to eight years. In total, the DFG is currently funding 192 Research Units, 13 Clinical Research Units and 15 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 the approaches used in the relevant disciplines.

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

The Centre for Advanced Studies Applied Humanities – Genealogy and Politics is concerned with the role, task and self-perception of the humanities in the modern era and in today’s world. The knowledge gained is to contribute to a globally oriented history of the humanities with a focus on their application. The researchers’ aim is to broaden the history of scholarship and science as it currently stands, since this has mainly focussed on the natural sciences up to now. In order to do this, they will explore the question of what applied humanities were in the past, what they are now, and what they could potentially be or ought to be in the future. The Centre for Advanced Studies will specifically focus on such diverse fields of application as provenance research and digital humanities. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Viktoria Tkaczyk, HU Berlin)

Whether in nature or in the laboratory, it is virtually impossible to investigate quantum systems that are completely isolated from their environment. For this reason, effects resulting from the exchange of information, energy and particles with the environment always have to be taken into account when researching quantum systems. Funded jointly with the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), the Research Unit Driven-dissipative many-body systems of ultracold atoms is concerned with so-called driven-dissipative systems, since these offer numerous opportunities to specifically observe the state and properties of a quantum system bound to controlled environments. The researchers will seek to describe these precisely and investigate them in greater depth in order to develop a deeper understanding of such multi-particle systems. To this end they will use ultracold atoms, which are particularly easy to manipulate and measure. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. André Eckardt, TU Berlin) 

Immune cells are found everywhere in the body, including in the testicles and epididymis. There are indications that they are a key factor in the development of the latter at the foetal stage, as well as in their function in the adult male. Yet the precise role of immune cells in this process is as poorly understood as it is in the development of male reproductive disorders and testicular cancer. Finding answers to these questions is the aim of the Research Unit The role of immune cells in the function of the normal and diseased testis and epididymis (‘INFINITE’). (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Andreas Meinhardt, University of Giessen)

The focus of the Clinical Research Unit Precision Medicine for Early-Onset Low Bone Mineral Density Disorders is on diseases where patients suffer bone fractures before the age of 50 due to low bone mineral density. This results in a high level of suffering and a significantly reduced quality of life. For this reason, the researchers will seek to investigate the cellular and molecular basis of these diseases. The long-term goal is to identify clear genetic or non-genetic causes of the diseases and develop targeted treatment strategies. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Michael Amling, University of Hamburg; director: Professor Dr. Ralf Oheim, University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf)

Myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN) are malignant diseases of the bone marrow in which the stem cells responsible for the formation of blood cells mutate. There is currently no therapy that can prevent the progression of these diseases, so the only option is a stem cell transplant – a treatment that is highly stressful for patients. In order to bring about a change here, personalised therapies are needed that are capable of preventing the progression of the disease, ultimately eliminating the remaining MPN cells. Funded jointly with the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), the Research Unit TARGET-MPN:

TARgetinG disease pErsisTence and progression of MyeloProliferative Neoplasms (MPN) seeks to make a contribution to this by investigating the underlying molecular mechanisms. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Florian Heidel, Hannover Medical School)

Over the course of history, an understanding of science has become established in Europe and the Anglo-American world whose epistemological standards, methods and canon formations are of an exclusive nature. Philosophy, too, has a self-perception that has primarily been formed by the Western tradition. The Centre for Advanced Studies Philosophizing in a Globalized World – Historical and Systematic Perspectives aims to break this perception down by carrying out a comprehensive comparative examination of philosophical traditions in a transcultural context. It will seek to reconceptualise philosophy from a global perspective against the background of existing regional research approaches, placing the various discourses on the global history of philosophy in a comparative research framework. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Rolf Elberfeld, Foundation University of Hildesheim) 

Due to the increasing impact of global change on the world’s ecosystems, plants are exposed to multiple combinations of stress factors. These include biotic factors such as fungi and pests but also abiotic factors such as heat and drought. The Research Unit Physiological and Evolutionary Adaptation of Plants to Co-occurring Abiotic and Biotic Challenges aims to gain a more precise understanding of how plants react to different combinations of stress. The novel approach here is to base the observations not only on model plants – i.e. plants that have already been extensively studied and can therefore serve as a model for research – but also on crop plants and plants in freshwater and marine ecosystems. What is more, the latter are to be investigated not just in the laboratory and greenhouse but also in their natural environment. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Eva Holtgrewe-Stukenbrock, University of Kiel)

Clouds are geometrically complex. This is why it was only possible to capture their three-dimensional image in a very simplified form in early research studies. The Research Unit Cloud Structure & Climate – Closing the 3D Gap now seeks to correct the resulting errors in climate modelling and cloud remote sensing for the first time by comprehensively combining 3D modelling with an observation of clouds and their radiation effects. In this way, the network also aims to make a contribution to more reliable predictions of the future climate. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Andreas Macke, Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research (TROPOS), Leipzig)

Elastomers are elastically mouldable plastics that return to their original shape after being subjected to tensile or compressive stress. Magnetic elastomers are a specific variety – a class of materials that has not been investigated much to date. For this reason, the Research Unit From production processes of structured magnetic elastomers to their macroscopic material behavior will take a comprehensive approach to examining the production of the materials, their physical properties and the theoretical modelling of the material, and go on to conduct research into its macroscopic behaviour. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Andreas Menzel, University of Magdeburg)

Robots are now helping in many areas, also on construction sites. The aim of the Research Unit The information backbone of robotized construction based on multi-scale interlaced product-process modeling methods is to develop a digital framework for the planning and simulation of robotic construction sites. In the long term, the aim is to be able to coordinate different types of robots in interaction with human skilled workers, collaborating in unpredictable and constantly changing construction site conditions. What is new about the network’s research approach is that it combines data-supported construction planning with robotic production, and also analyses the process chain as a whole, including the supply chains. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. André Borrmann, TU Munich)

Key processes such as geomagnetically induced currents and density fluctuations which have a direct influence on human activities take place in the upper regions of the Earth’s atmosphere between the Earth system and space. The Research Unit Magnetosphere, Ionosphere, Plasmasphere and Thermosphere as a coupled system (MIPT) seeks to investigate the previously insufficiently researched interactions between the upper layers of the Earth’s atmosphere. The aim is to contribute to an overarching understanding of the interlinked processes between these spheres, which have so far largely been researched separately. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Yuri Shprits, Helmholtz Centre Potsdam – GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences) 

The Research Unit Collaborations: Assemblages, Articulations, Alliances involves researchers from the fields of literature and cultural studies, social anthropology, cultural anthropology and sociology. They are concerned with the epistemological challenges arising from global social and political inequalities and planetary problems such as the climate crisis. Their work starts on the fundamental assumption that new alternative social, political and academic practices are needed to meet the complex challenges. For this reason, they seek to reinterpret historical alliances and temporary collective associations between various social and political actors so as to arrive at an understanding of these new collaborations. The network aims to overcome the dominance of Eurocentric knowledge formation and its practices. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Dirk Wiemann, University of Potsdam)

The transition of living organisms from water to land was a key developmental step in evolution. The Research Unit The evolution of life histories in early tetrapods is dedicated to investigating the biology of early land vertebrates. In doing so, it draws on both fossil finds and knowledge of species living today. The aim is to analyse the data collectively in a comprehensive evolutionary scenario. In order to describe the life histories of the animals and reconstruct the factors driving them, the researchers involved will look at aspects such as growth, reproduction, locomotion and food intake. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Rainer Schoch, State Museum of Natural History Stuttgart – Centre for Biodiversity Research, Stuttgart)

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

RU Diffusion Chronometry of magmatic systems (spokesperson: Professor Dr. Sumit Chakraborty, University of Bochum) 

RU Affective and cognitive mechanisms of specific Internet-use disorders (ACSID) (spokesperson: Professor Dr. Matthias Brand, University of Duisburg-Essen)

RU The eROSITA View of Stellar Endpoints (eRO-STEP) (spokesperson: Professor Dr. Manami Sasaki, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg) 

CRU Deciphering genome dynamics for subtype-specific therapy in pancreatic cancer (spokesperson: Professor Dr. Volker Ellenrieder, University of Göttingen; director: Professor Dr. Elisabeth Heßmann, University Medical Center Göttingen)

RU Multiple Competition in Higher Education. Internationalization and International Comparisons (spokesperson: Professor Dr. Guido Bünstorf, University of Kassel)

RU The microbiome as a therapeutic target in inflammatory bowel diseases (spokesperson: Professor Dr. Andre Franke, University of Kiel)

Further information

Further information is also available from the network spokespersons.

Links to DFG Research Units:

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Contact at DFG Head Office

Julie Martin
Telephone: +49 (228) 885-2577