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Press Release No. 8 | 29 March 2021
DFG to Fund Nine New Research Units and a New Clinical Research Unit

Topics are wide-ranging, including kidney disease, an astronomical survey in the X-ray range and laser beam welding / A total of some €41 million for the first funding period

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is setting up six new Research Units and a new Clinical Research Unit. 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. The new Research Units will receive total funding of approximately €41 million, including a 22-percent programme allowance for indirect project-related costs.

The funding duration for these consortia 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 eight of the newly established Research Units and the Clinical Research Unit. One consortium is based on a draft proposal submitted prior to 1 October 2018; this will receive funding for two three-year periods.

In addition to the ten institutions, the decision was made to renew six Research Units for a second funding period, including one that is funded under the D-A-CH cooperation with the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF).

Research Units enable researchers to devote themselves to current, pressing issues in their subject areas and establish innovative new fields of research. With these new additions, the DFG is currently funding 189 Research Units, 15 Clinical Research Units and 17 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 consortia in detail
(in alphabetical order of the spokespersons’ HEIs)

Even though kidney disorders are highly complex, clinical trials have rarely been conducted in this field. The Clinical Research Unit “Integration of new methods to improve translational kidney research” aims to close this gap. It has set itself the goal of establishing new methods that make the pathophysiology of kidney disease easier to understand, taking this as a basis from which to develop new diagnostic approaches, new questions for clinical trials and ultimately new therapies. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Peter Boor, RWTH Aachen; Clinical Director: Professor Dr. Marcus Möller, University Hospital Aachen)

There are many pathogens in poultry farming that affect the health of the animals but which can also be relevant to human health, as poultry protein is widely consumed by human beings. This is why chickens are vaccinated more frequently than any other species in the world – even though the underlying immune and protective mechanisms are still largely unknown. For this reason, the Research Unit “ImmunoChick – Analysis of the avian immune response in the context of infections” seeks to gain a better understanding of the immune system of chickens by using new genetically modified chicken models. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Benedikt Bertold Kaufer, FU Berlin)

The lowland rainforest Chóco in northwest Ecuador is a natural area where a particularly large amount of forest has been lost and converted into agricultural land. The Research Unit “Reassembling interaction networks between species – Resistance, resilience and functional regeneration of a rainforest” is now investigating the regenerative capacity of former pasture and cacao plantations in a forest reserve. To this end, the researchers are looking at the interactive networks between various animal species and their functions in the rainforest ecosystem in secondary forests that have undergone different forms of regeneration. In cooperation with Ecuadorian partners, they aim to find out how disrupted ecosystems can recover. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Nico Blüthgen, TU Darmstadt)

In July 2019, the eROSITA telescope was launched into space on a satellite to conduct a high-resolution astronomical survey in the X-ray range. Members of the research consortium involved aim to study X-rays from the final stages of stellar evolution – such as neutron stars, black holes and supernova remnants – in the Research Unit “eROSITA studies of stellar end stages (eRO-STEP)”. In the long term, this will also provide a deeper understanding of large interstellar structures, interstellar shock waves and particle acceleration. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Manami Sasaki, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg)

In production technology, laser is a widely used tool that offers such benefits as the contactless and highly automated joining of workpieces. However, one of the difficulties here is that solidification cracks can form in the weld seam – the area where workpieces are joined together – and this impairs the joint. How and why these cracks occur is not yet fully understood. The Research Unit “Solidification cracks in laser beam welding: High-performance computing for high-performance processes” aims to use simulations to gain a better understanding of crack formation, thereby improving the quality of lasers as tools and ultimately the quality of the components. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Michael Schmidt, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg)

In the course of evolution, land plants have developed a whole range of important reproductive innovations. These include the formation of spores or pollen that transport immobile sperm cells, and multicellular embryos that are spread when embedded in semen. However, we still only have a rudimentary understanding of the molecular-biological mechanisms underlying these processes. Researchers in the fields of molecular, developmental, cellular and evolutionary biology as well as bioinformatics now aim to analyse the developments that have taken place in the evolution of plant reproduction in more detail in the Research Unit “Innovation and coevolution in plant sexual reproduction – ICIPS”. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Annette Becker, University of Gießen)

Persistent physical complaints – so-called Persistent Somatic Symptoms (PSS) – are widespread in medicine. They include pain, gastrointestinal complaints and neurological symptoms, for example. They often affect sufferers for longer than the actual underlying disease that gives rise to them, and they are also costly for the healthcare system. But how do somatic symptoms develop and how do they become chronic? The Research Unit “Persistent physical complaints in various diseases: from risk factor to modification” seeks to fundamentally expand understanding here in order to be able to detect persistent physical symptoms earlier on and treat them more effectively. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Bernd Löwe, University of Hamburg)

In the Standard Model of particle physics, the decay of a muon elementary particle (Mu) into three electrons (3e) is considered extremely improbable. Observing this decay would mean a new physics beyond the Standard Model. The so-called Mu3e experiment has set itself the task of detecting this rare decay with the help of a state-of-the-art particle detector. To achieve this, the Research Unit “Search for violation of lepton family number with the Mu3e experiment” brings together all those scientists from Heidelberg, Karlsruhe and Mainz who have been significantly involved in setting up this experiment. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. André Schöning, University of Heidelberg)

Using the overarching concepts of “optimisation” and “cyclicality”, theoretical linguistics attempts to describe which linguistic expressions in a single language are grammatical and which are not. The Research Unit “Cyclic optimisation” aims to address formal-theoretical issues in various core areas of linguistic grammar that can be considered based on the concepts of phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics as well as at the interfaces between them. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Jochen Trommer, University of Leipzig)

Self-regulation is a key psychological resource that allows people to react appropriately to a wide variety of situations and successfully pursue their own goals. How it develops in each individual depends on numerous different factors. Up to now, research on this topic has mainly examined children of (pre-)school age, but little is known about the development of self-regulation in adolescents and young adults. The Research Unit “Self-regulation as a resource in coping with developmental demands – a prospective analysis from middle child-hood to adolescence” examines the significance of self-regulation in this age group and its effects on the development of mental illness, for example. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Petra Warschburger, University of Potsdam)

The six consortia extended for a second funding period
(in alphabetical order of the spokespersons’ HEIs and with references to the project descriptions in GEPRIS – the DFG internet database for current funding):

Further Information

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