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Press Release No. 63 | 9 November 2009
DFG Establishes Eleven New Research Training Groups

Topics Range from Muscular Atrophy to Sustainable Chemistry to the Meaning of "Real" and "Virtual" in Modern Cultures / High-Level Doctoral Research

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has intensified its efforts to strengthen its support of young researchers. At its fall session in Bonn, the responsible Grants Committee of Germany's central research funding organisation approved the establishment of eleven new Research Training Groups. In these groups, doctoral researchers can earn their doctorates in a structured research and qualification programme.

The new Research Training Groups focus on topics such as the neuronal information processing that occurs during perception, diseases of the skeletal muscles, and graphical probabilistic models and their complex applications. Service-oriented software systems in medicine and health care and the relationship between international law and the economy are the goals of two further institutions. The groups' future doctoral researchers and supervising researchers will also examine "sustainable chemistry", microstructures in technical applications, and the meaning of "real" and "virtual" in modern cultures.

Two of the new institutions are International Research Training Groups in which the funded researchers will work closely with universities in Japan and France.

In the first funding period of four-and-a-half years, the new Research Training Groups will be funded with a total of 36.8 million euros. In addition to the 11 institutions, the Grants Committee also extended funding for 16 Research Training Groups for another four-and-a-half years.

The DFG currently funds a total of 226 Research Training Groups, 61 of which are International Research Training Groups.

The new Research Training Groups in detail
(following in alphabetic order of the host university)

Due to declining global resources, the development of fundamentally improved catalysts is an urgent research goal. In the International Research Training Group "Selectivity in Chemical and Biocatalysts for the Utilization of Renewable Feedstocks", scientists from the RWTH Aachen and Osaka University will lay the groundwork for modern transformation processes at the interface between chemical and biocatalysts. The German and Japanese researchers plan to take an interdisciplinary approach to combining aspects of efficient chemical- and biocatalysts and of integrated methods with the goal of ensuring the sustainable production of chemical intermediate stages and products. (Host university: RWTH Aachen; spokesperson: Professor Dr. Jun Okuda; cooperative partner: Osaka University, Japan)

Little is understood about the pathological mechanisms of many skeletal muscle diseases. Changing this is the goal of "MyoGrad - International Research Training Group for Myology". The Charité Medical Faculty in Berlin, the Free University in Berlin and the Humboldt University in Berlin, together with researchers from the Université de Paris VI, plan to study the various causes of muscular atrophy and muscular weakness in greater detail and to make the results of the research available for use in clinical applications. The already successful cooperation between Berlin and Paris in skeletal muscle research is to be further expanded as well. (Host universities: Free University in Berlin, Humboldt University in Berlin/Charité Medical Faculty in Berlin; spokesperson: Professor Dr. Simone Spuler; cooperative partner: Université de Paris VI, France)

"Service-Oriented Architectures for the Integration of Software-Based Processes Exemplified by Health Care Systems and Medical Technology" (SOAMED) is the name of the new Research Training Group with scientists from the Humboldt University in Berlin and the Technical University of Berlin. Researchers from computer science and medicine hope to improve the mastery of complex software systems. The principles of service orientation are to be studied here on a practical level and applied to processes in medicine and health care. (Host university: Humboldt University in Berlin; spokesperson: Professor Dr. Wolfgang Reisig)

The Research Training Group "Sensory Computation in Neuronal Systems" plans to combine concepts and methods from the research areas of machine learning, theoretical neurobiology and system neurobiology to examine the neuronal information processing that occurs during perception. Researchers from the three universities in Berlin also plan to include the interactions between the processing of sensory stimuli and cognitive processes in their work and to develop a theoretical structure for exploring neuronal information processing. (Host university: Technical University of Berlin; spokesperson: Professor Dr. Klaus Obermayer)

"Value" and "equivalence" are fundamental concepts in all societies. The goal of the new Research Training Group at the University of Frankfurt am Main is to study these concepts. Under the title "Value and Equivalence - On the Formation and Transformation of Values from an Archaeological and Ethnological Perspective", participating researchers from the areas of archaeology, ethnology and other fields in the humanities plan to study the two concepts with respect to their social connections to religion, politics, economy and culture from an interdisciplinary perspective. (Host university: Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main; spokesperson: Professor Dr. Hans-Markus von Kaenel)

The work of the new Research Training Group "Posttranscriptional Control of Gene Expression - Mechanisms and Roles in Pathogenesis" at the University of Halle-Wittenberg combines clinical research questions with basic research in the area of control of gene expression. Researchers hope to characterise regulatory mechanisms of the posttranscriptional control of gene expression. In their work, they will combine natural science-oriented basic research and medical questions, focusing their attention on mechanisms that cause disease to form. This work aims to facilitate a more detailed analysis of the role of various ribonucleic acids in the formation and development of diseases. (Host university: Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg; spokesperson: Dr. Stefan Hüttelmaier)

Researchers from the University of Hamburg plan to combine the relatively young legal phenomenon of the internationalisation of law and economics. The goal of the Research Training Group "Economics of the Internationalisation of Law" is to apply the instruments of economic analysis of law to European and international law and its interdependence on national legal norms. Among the topics to be studied are pressing issues for the optimum allocation of usage rights to internationally used resources as well as the motives and implications of the use and sanctioning of international law. The interfaces between economics and law are to be strengthened and a legally oriented, continued development of economic methods achieved. (Host university: University of Hamburg; spokesperson: Professor Dr. Thomas Eger)

Graphical probabilistic models and their complex applications continue to raise numerous unanswered research questions. The goal of Research Training Group "Spatio/Temporal Probabilistic Graphical Models and Applications in Image Analysis" is, therefore, to expand spatial and temporal probabilistic models, thereby encouraging new research approaches. To accomplish this, researchers at the University of Heidelberg plan to combine applied mathematics, computer science and physics. Among the issues to be examined are application problems in image processing in the environmental sciences, in the biosciences and in industry. (Host university: Ruprecht-Karls University Heidelberg; spokesperson: Professor Dr. Christoph Schnörr)

With theory debates in the humanities and cultural sciences having long been determined by the language-, symbol- and media-centricity of our relationship with reality and influenced by the self-referentiality of texts and other cultural objects, discontent in the self-referencing of cultural-scientific discourse - and a new direction with regard to the question of the real or virtual - can now be observed. The question that this collaboration of literary scholars, media scientists, philosophers, sociologists and science historians aspires to answer in this group is how and where such distinctions became productive in the modern era, enabling cultures to organise and reflect on their relationship with that which is real. This is to be pursued in debates and concepts using examples from science history, cognition theory, cultural sociology, the history of photography and narrative studies. (Host university: University of Constance; spokesperson: Professor Dr. Albrecht Koschorke)

To better simulate the mechanical behaviour of materials with microstructure in technical applications, researchers at the University of Magdeburg hope to acquire a greater understanding of the physical processes of metallic solids and in systems of solid particles through which fluids flow. In the Research Training Group "Micro-Macro Interactions of Structured Media and Particle Systems", couplings between the micro-level and macro-level are to be studied in detail. (Host university: Otto-von-Guericke-Universität Magdeburg; spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Albrecht Bertram)

The goal of Research Training Group "Chemical Photocatalysis" is to facilitate the broad use of solar energy for chemical reactions. To accomplish this, special chemical photocatalysts are to be developed at the University of Regensburg. In doing so, researchers aim to make an important contribution with respect to "sustainable" chemistry and to allow for better possibilities for energy conservation beyond the methods of photosynthesis or photovoltaic systems. (Host university: University of Regensburg; spokesperson: Professor Dr. Burkhard König)

Further Information

More information on the Research Training Groups is available at:

Contact at the DFG Head Office:

  • Dr. Annette Schmidtmann
    Director of the Research Careers Division
    Tel. +49 228 885-2424