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Press Release No. 66 | 29 November 2010
DFG Establishes Ten New Research Training Groups

Topics Range from Research on Autoimmunity to Market Regulation / High Number of Proposals Demonstrates Universities’ Strong Interest in Structured Doctoral Training

In order to further strengthen the position of early career researchers in Germany, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing ten new Research Training Groups (RTGs). This decision has just been taken by the relevant DFG Grants Committee in Bonn. The new Research Training Groups will also provide doctoral researchers with the opportunity to achieve their doctorates within a structured research and qualification programme at a high level of subject-specific expertise.

During the first four-and-a-half-year funding period, the new doctoral programmes will receive a total of almost 30 million euros in DFG funding. In addition to the ten new groups, the Grants Committee also approved the renewal of 25 Research Training Groups for an additional period. The DFG is currently funding 215 Research Training Groups, 54 of which are International Research Training Groups involving close collaboration of the participants with universities abroad.

At its second session this year, the Grants Committee had a particularly large number of funding proposals upon which to make decisions. Following the previous review processes, the Committee received 15 proposals for the establishment of new Research Training Groups and 33 RTG renewal proposals. “This demonstrates the extraordinarily high level of interest expressed by universities in Research Training Groups and the success of this model of structured doctoral training, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year,” emphasised DFG President Professor Matthias Kleiner following the Committee meeting. Funding early career researchers, he said, is one of the DFG’s “core objectives”. For this reason, the organisation has further increased the funding available for Research Training Groups. The money comes originally from the German federal government and states via the Pact for Research and Innovation. “Having said that, however, we have had to apply even more stringent criteria than usual with regard to scientific quality and amounts awarded to take into account the unusually high number of new and renewal proposals we received,” Kleiner explained.

Research topics covered by the new Research Training Groups include, for example, cellular responses to ionising radiation or interactions occurring during market regulation processes. Other topics include the further development of high-temperature superconductors, translational approaches in autoimmunity research, psychological development risks in children and adolescents, and the concept of “religious knowledge”.

The new Research Training Groups
(listed in alphabetical order of coordinating university):

RTG 1659 “Interdependencies in the Regulation of Markets”, an economics-based Research Training Group, investigates the extent to which regulatory measures, both within and between the three traditional types of market – product markets, financial markets and job markets – display interdependencies. In particular, the group aims to identify cross-market and cross-organisational feedback mechanisms. How the market can be more effectively regulated using these feedback mechanisms and interactions is a further question. The members of the RTG intend to take a holistic approach to their work.
(Coordinating university: Humboldt University of Berlin; Coordinator: Professor Dr. Roland Strausz)

RTG 1772 “Computational Systems Biology” aims to explore patterns in the relationships between the structure, dynamics and function of biological systems. The scientists will focus on developing new theoretical concepts and applying them to current problems in cell biology. Their research aims to advance our understanding of biological phenomena and processes and to further the interpretation of biological data and the development of new experimental and applied research strategies. In order to do so, the researchers involved will combine system biology, molecular cell biology and mathematics, as well as working with concepts and methods from information theory, computer science, as well as from physics and chemistry.
(Coordinating university: Humboldt University of Berlin; Coordinator: Professor Dr. Edda Klipp)

Ionising radiation can be life-threatening to humans. It can, however, also help to save lives – in tumour therapy, for example. The use of heavy ions, in particular, is very successful in this respect. These ions cause genetic changes, thus preventing tumour cells from continuing to grow while the surrounding tissue remains, to a large extent, untouched. It is not entirely understood precisely how ionising radiation, and in particular, heavy ions, function. The main aim of RTG1657 “Molecular and Cellular Responses to Ionising Radiation”, therefore, is to investigate and clarify the mechanisms of action of ionising radiation from the molecular level to that of cellular reaction, as well as of the radiation response on the organism as a whole. To this end, the RTG will combine new research approaches in cell and molecular biology as well as in bioinformatics.
(Coordinating university: Darmstadt University of Technology; Coordinator: Professor Dr. Markus Löbrich)

The discovery of iron-arsenic compounds as a new class of high-temperature superconductors in 2008 has led to a renewed enthusiasm for superconductivity research, one resembling the activity accompanying the initial research into high-temperature superconductors 20 years ago. The aim of RTG 1621 “Itinerant Magnetism and Superconductivity in Intermetallic Compounds” is to investigate what are known as iron pnictides and related intermetallic superconductors. The RTG’s main goal is to pinpoint the previously unexplained mechanism of superconductivity in these compounds as well as clarify the relationship between magnetism and superconductivity, which resembles that between cuprates and heavy fermion systems. Other goals include the systematic search for new intermetallic systems with an even higher critical transition temperature and the investigation of the application potential of this class of materials.
(Coordinating university: Technical University of Dresden; Coordinator: Professor Dr. Hans-Henning Klauß)

Global agricultural and food markets are currently undergoing rapid change. The developments tend towards higher-quality products and stricter standards for production and products, occasioned by new consumer habits and the agribusiness sector, also rapidly developing in turn. The new RTG 1666 “Transformation of Global Agri-Food Systems: Trends, Driving Forces and Implications for Developing Countries” aims to analyse the effects of these developments on market structure, competiveness and general prosperity. The reshaping of global value chains, consumer preferences and nutrition effects are of particular interest, as are problems faced by small farmers in accessing markets and consequences for rural development. This Research Training Group also aims to combine basic approaches used in business administration and economics as well as in experimental economics in an innovative manner.
(Coordinating university: Georg August University of Göttingen; Coordinator: Professor Dr. Matin Qaim)

The interaction between mathematical physics and physics-inspired mathematics is to be promoted through the research of RTG 1670 “Mathematics Inspired by String Theory and QFT.” This RTG’s innovative concept is to train an urgently needed new generation of early career researchers within an association of representatives from mathematics and mathematical physics. These early career researchers are to focus on current mathematical and mathematical physics topics based on string and quantum field theory – and are therefore also familiar with the language of physics. As the doctoral researchers in mathematics will systematically acquire the language and culture of theoretical physics parallel to working on their individual doctoral projects, this process represents an important step towards achieving an active interdisciplinarity between these two subjects.
(Coordinating university: University of Hamburg; Coordinator: Professor Dr. Bernd Siebert)

RTG 1694, entitled “Elementary Particle Physics at Highest Energy and Precision”, will perform research into experimental and theoretical particle physics. This RTG’s research profile is based on the latest developments in this field. Planned experiments will involve the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which has been generating highest levels of energy since March 2010, as well as other large-scale international experiments, and will mean exploring uncharted physics territory. The experiments involving the LHC are aimed at discovering new particles like the Higgs boson, as well as potential supersymmetric particles. This RTG will also focus on rare beta disintegrations and determining the absolute neutrino mass. Further important aspects include the development of improved methods of analysis and detectors in LHC and flavour physics.
(Coordinating institution: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT): Coordinator: Professor Dr. Dieter Zeppenfeld)

Linking basic research into autoimmunity with targeted clinical applications is the focus of RTG 1727 “Modulating Autoimmunity.” Autoimmune diseases are becoming more and more frequent – but despite recent findings clarifying their causes, therapy usually still involves an unspecified suppression of the immune system. The successful translation of these findings into innovative therapeutic strategies, therefore, is one of the key challenges facing clinically relevant autoimmune research. The new RTG’s research programme involves the development of strategies for treating known autoimmune diseases, as well as the identification of new therapeutic targets in autoimmunity. By linking pre-clinical research and clinical development, this RTG embodies the spirit of translational thinking.
(Coordinating university: University of Lübeck; Coordinator: Professor Dr. Detlef Zillikens)

The projects carried out by RTG 1668 “Intrapersonal Developmental Risks in Childhood and Adolescence – A Longitudinal Perspective” combine differing psychological approaches to explore ways basic information is processed as well as specific emotions and cognitions in children and adolescents. A dynamic development model illustrates the complex interaction of risk factors and development problems observed relatively often in childhood and adolescence. These factors and problems include learning difficulties and performance problems, as well as eating disturbances and weight issues. The researchers will, for example, work on questions relating to the specificity of risk factors or to the stability of risk factors and development problems. Environmental influences will also be taken into account.
(Coordinating university: University of Potsdam; Coordinator: Professor Dr. Birgit Elsner)

Under the slogan, “Transfers and Transformations – Ways to a Modern Knowledge Society”, the new RTG 1662 will focus on the topic of “Religious Knowledge in Pre-Modern Europe (800–1800)”. The RTG’s aims are twofold. Firstly, it aims to establish the concept of religious knowledge as an interdisciplinary research concept. It will then use this concept to come up with a new interpretation of how what is known as the Western knowledge society, which ascribes to itself tolerance, secularity, rationality and differentiation between science and education, law and politics, religion, art and literature, was able to develop in Europe. The concept of religious knowledge itself refers to the time- and culture-specific adaptation of the written holy texts of the three monotheistic religions which have shaped the history of Europe. This RTG will base its research on the assumption that the transformation and transfer of religious knowledge has contributed considerably to the differentiation of different fields of knowledge.
(Coordinating university: University of Tübingen; Coordinator: Professor Dr. Andreas Holzem)

Further Information

Further information is available from the coordinators of the individual Research Training Groups.

More information on Research Training Groups is available at:

Contact Person at the DFG Head Office:

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