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Information für die Wissenschaft Nr. 05 | 13. Januar 2015
Priority Programme “Probabilistic Structures in Evolution” (SPP 1590)

In April 2011 the Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) established the Priority Programme “Probabilistic Structures in Evolution” (SPP 1590). The programme is designed to run for six years. The first funding period will end in December 2015. The present call invites proposals for the second three-year funding period.

Biological evolution is a complex phenomenon driven by various underlying processes, such as mutation and recombination of genetic material, reproduction of individuals, competition, and selection of favourable types. Studying the interplay of these processes requires a substantial use of mathematical models and methods. Over the past decades, much of this modelling and analysis took place on a deterministic level, using dynamical systems and differential equations, and this has led to an elaborate theory. However, the processes of evolution have intrinsically random elements, such as random reproduction, which leads to stochastic fluctuations of gene frequencies and the emergence of random genealogies. The underlying stochastic processes are receiving increased attention, not least because they have shaped present-day genomes. Indeed, the study of these processes is crucial for understanding observations and interpreting data that arise in modern empirical evolutionary biology. From the point of view of mathematics, challenging new structures emerge, such as Fleming-Viot and ancestral processes with high offspring variation, coalescents with spatial and genetic structure, and individual-based models of adaptive dynamics.

The main objective of the Priority Programme is the in-depth theoretical study of

  • stochastic processes in population genetics (that is, describing the evolution of the genetic structure of populations under the action of the various evolutionary forces, in particular in the presence of selection and recombination),
  • stochastic models of adaptive dynamics (that is, individual-based models for the joint description of ecology and evolution), and probabilistic aspects of evolutionary game theory.

Retrospective genealogical aspects are an inherent part of population genetics theory, but should also be developed for game theory and adaptive dynamics. Therefore, random genealogies and trees form a conceptual anchor to all themes in the Priority Programme. In this context, structures such as evolving genealogies, coalescents with highly-variable offspring distribution, and genealogies with genetic and geographic structure will be targeted. The programme thus aims at the further development of the mathematical theory of biological evolution. In addition, projects involving the analysis of related experimental data will be targeted; here, approaches will be model driven rather than purely statistical.

The programme will not provide funding for

  • the generation of experimental data,
  • studies with a primary focus on ecology,
  • studies with a primary focus on phylogeny.

Further information concerning the research orientation of the programme can be found at the programme’s website.

Besides individual projects, joint proposals (involving typically two groups) are welcome. From the work programme within the proposal it should become clear which parts are assigned to which scientific coworker, especially which tasks should be fulfilled by PhD students or postdocs. In case of joint proposals the assignment of requested funds to the individual PIs should also become clear. Concerning continuing projects the report on the scientific achievements and results from the first funding period should be included in chapter 1 “State of the art and preliminary work” of the continuing proposal.

Proposals for the second three-year funding period have to be submitted starting 29 April and no later than 13 May 2015.

They have to be submitted via the DFG’s portal “elan” for applications and should be marked with the reference code “SPP 1590/2“. Those applicants who do not yet have an account on “elan” (from earlier proposal submissions or from review tasks accomplished for DFG) need to register. The registration of a new account needs to be confirmed manually by DFG and should thus be requested no later than 6 May 2015. The proposals, which should indicate how they fit into this programme as a whole, have to be submitted in English, and need to be prepared using the respective forms and guidelines in English language.

General information on proposals in the framework of a Priority Programme (in particular concerning eligibility and admissible funding requests) can be found in guideline 50.05 (part B). See also guideline 54.01 for instructions how to prepare a proposal. The specific proposal has to be structured according to form 54.012. However, it is admissible to prepare the proposal as a pdf-file, e.g., using LaTeX, instead of using the rtf-file which is available online.

Please notice the rules for publication lists that have been modified recently: Beside the general bibliography every proposal should include a separate list of up to ten own publications (by the PI(s) or from their working groups) that relate directly to the project. Further the number of publications that may be listed in any academic CV has been increased to up to ten as well. These publications need to be classified as a) refereed publications (published articles and monographs; accepted articles (with note of acceptance by the journal or a DOI reference number) or b) other publications (e.g. preprints on arXiv or the SPP’s preprint server).

A review meeting with international reviewers and applicants similar to the review meeting for the first funding period is planned for 3–4 September 2015 at Bielefeld University.

Further information

More information on the Priority Programme is available under:

DFG’s portal “elan”:

Forms and guidelines can be downloaded at:

For further scientific information, please contact the Priority Programme’s coordinator:

For administrative and formal inquiries please contact: