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Press Release No. 19 | 28 June 2022
DFG to Fund Seven New Research Units and Two New Centres for Advanced Studies

Topics ranging from forest biodiversity to digitalisation of cities and sustainable learning / A total of around €38.4 million euros approved for the first funding period

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing seven new Research Units and two new Centres for Advanced Studies. This was approved by the DFG Joint Committee at the DFG Annual General Meeting on 28 June 2022 on the recommendation of the Senate. The new Research Units will receive total funding of approximately €38.4 million, including a 22-percent programme allowance for indirect project-related costs. The new consortia will be funded for a maximum of two four-year periods.

In addition to the nine newly created consortia, the extension of six Research Units and one Centre for Advanced Studies was approved for a second funding period. The extended Research Units will be funded for another three years, while the Centre for Advanced Studies will continue to receive funding for another four years. Two of the newly established Research Units and one of the extended consortia are jointly funded with the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) under the D-A-CH cooperation.

Research Units enable scholars to pursue current and pressing issues in their areas of research and take innovative directions in their work. With these new additions, the DFG is currently funding 174 Research Units, 14 Clinical Research Units and 16 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 new consortia in detail
(in alphabetical order of the spokespersons’ HEIs)

In addition to conventional processes, so-called high-speed shearing (HGSS) is a method available for cutting steel and light alloys which is an interesting alternative from an economic and ecological perspective. However, there is still a lack of any fundamental understanding of the mechanisms that would be necessary for the targeted application of the exceptional cutting surface attributes involved. The Research Unit Functional surfaces through adiabatic high-speed processes: Microstructure, Mechanisms and Model Development – FUNDAM⊃3;ENT is dedicated to these factors relating to material and process. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Thomas Lampke, TU Chemnitz)

The connection between tree diversity and ecosystem function relationships in complex food webs is the topic of the Research Unit Multi-Trophic Interactions in a Forest Biodiversity Experiment in China, in which a project funded by the Austrian FWF is integrated. The world’s largest forest biodiversity experiment initiated by the DFG in subtropical China 14 years ago (BEF-China research platform) now offers unique conditions for investigating central ecological mechanisms involved in complex interactions such as “functional redundancy” and “complementarity”. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Alexandra-Maria Klein, University of Freiburg)

Whether for pain or depression: transcranial direct current stimulation makes it possible to influence human brain functions largely without side effects. It has already been successfully applied in experimental and clinical research. Success varies considerably in the groups studied, however. The aim of the Research Unit Modulation of brain networks for memory and learning by transcranial electrical brain stimulation: A systematic, lifespan approach is to undertake the first ever systematic, comprehensive and coordinated analysis of this phenomenon. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Agnes Flöel, University of Greifswald)

The starting hypothesis of the Centre for Advanced Studies Universalism and Particularism in European Contemporary History is that since 1989, Europe has been subject to complex tensions between aspirations of a universally valid and group-specific nature. Taking the example of religious and economic orders and the field of human rights, the aim is to look into the overlap between particularist and universalist ideas. The intention is to condense, differentiate and expand contemporary historiography in order to contribute to a better understanding of contemporary challenges. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Martin Schulze Wessel, LMU Munich)

The Research Unit The future smart town will look into how medium-sized cities are meeting the challenges of digitalisation and developing digital tools to boost quality of life. It will look at four central structural areas: “civil society and social services”, “administration and politics”, “economy and energy” and “education and culture”. The focus is on medium-sized towns, especially outside metropolitan regions in rural areas, often with specific characteristics and a powerful sense of identity among their 20,000 to 100,000 inhabitants. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Dr. Jörg Becker, University of Münster)

Cultural participation is a human right, and access to cultural goods such as art is a prerequisite for this. Digitalisation opens up new possibilities here. The Centre for Advanced Studies Access to cultural goods in digital change: art historical, curatorial, and ethical aspects takes a look at the opportunities and perspectives involved, as well as the problems and conflicts that arise from this – and also the significance of access to digital technologies in connection with art production and reception. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Reinold Schmücker, University of Münster)

The “marine surface film” (SML) is the boundary layer between the atmosphere and the ocean enriched with organic material and microbial cells; all material and energy exchange between water and air takes place through this. Our knowledge of the dynamic effects acting on these processes of interchange is still limited. The Research Unit Biogeochemical processes and Air-sea exchange in the Sea-Surface microlayer (BASS), jointly funded with the Austrian FWF, aims to explore the importance of the SML as a biochemical and photochemical reactor and, among other things, show how it impacts on the interactions between ocean and atmosphere. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Oliver Wurl, University of Oldenburg)

Hunger and reproduction are among the most important factors influencing animal behaviour. From worms and insects to mammals: most species rely heavily on their sense of smell to ingest food and find reproductive partners. Conversely, metabolism and reproduction modulate olfactory perception. This is the starting point of the Research Unit Modulation of olfaction: how recurrent circuits govern state-dependent behaviour. Its focus is on the investigation of diverse and so far poorly understood mechanisms of feedback in networked circuits of the nervous system which control odour perception and processing as a function of behaviourally relevant states. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Veronica Egger, University of Regensburg)

Educational institutions such as schools are to provide learners with knowledge that is retained in the long term and can be accessed flexibly when needed. Yet empirical research in psychology, educational science and subject didactics has so far almost exclusively examined learning outcomes over relatively short periods of time. The overarching goal of the Research Unit Lasting Learning: Cognitive mechanisms and effective instructional implementation is therefore to close this knowledge gap and make a significant contribution to the development of a theory of sustainable learning in educational contexts. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Tobias Richter, University of Würzburg)

The research 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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All press releases on the 2022 Annual General Meeting are also to be found in a digital press kit at Interner Linkwww.dfg.de/service/presse/jahresversammlung_2022, which is supplemented on an ongoing basis.