DFG to fund eight new research units, one clinical research unit and one center for advanced studies

Topics range from the transformation of sacred spaces to sialic acid and modal and amodal cognition / Total of approximately €32 million for first funding period

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing eight new Research Units, one Clinical Research Unit and one Centre for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences. This decision was made by the DFG’s Joint Committee at the recommendation of the Senate in Bonn. The new collaborations will receive a total of approximately €32 million, including a 22 percent programme allowance for indirect project costs.

For the first time, new Research Units can now benefit from an extended funding period agreed by the Senate and Joint Committee in 2018. The maximum funding duration for draft proposals for Research Units and Clinical Research Units submitted on or after 1 October 2018 now amounts to two periods of four years each. This applies to one of the newly established Research Units. Proposals based on drafts received before 1 October 2018 will continue to be funded for two three-year periods. Centres for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences can be funded for two four-year periods as before.

In addition to the ten groups, the Committee also approved extending six Research Units, one Clinical Research Unit and one Centre for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences for a second funding period. Research Units enable researchers to pursue current and pressing issues in their research areas and to take innovative directions in their work. Clinical Research Units are also characterised by the close connection between research and clinical work. Centres for Advanced Studies are specifically tailored to the working methods used in the humanities and social sciences. With today’s decisions, the DFG is now funding 164 Research Units, 10 Clinical Research Units and 13 Centres for Advanced Studies.

The ten new research collaborations
(in alphabetical order by spokesperson’s university)

A future sustainable energy system could be based on hydrogen, an energy store produced by means of electrolysis. However, the electrolysis of water involves reactions that consume a significant amount of the electrical power. To make the process more energy-efficient, alternative anodic reactions are needed. The Research Unit “UNODE – Unusual Anode Reactions” will investigate new anodic oxidation reactions. The long-term aim is to close the gap between the principles of organic electrochemistry and electrocatalysis for the synthesis of industrially relevant compounds. (Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schuhmann, University of Bochum)

More and more churches are being sold, repurposed or demolished, despite the fact that acceptance of church buildings and attachment to them is much more prevalent than would be expected in light of the current downsizing in churches. In day-to-day life, even non-religious people perceive sacred spaces as valuable. Such spaces therefore serve the wider population as a means of orientation and identification. The process associated with the transformation of church buildings is proceeding in a largely unstructured way. Beginning with this starting point, the Research Unit “Sacred Spaces Transformation. Function and Use of Religious Places in Germany” will combine different research approaches to develop a theory of sacred space in the 21st century that is of practical relevance. (Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Albert Gerhards, University of Bonn)

Many fields of research use partial differential equations to model processes. The mathematical Research Unit “Vector- and Tensor-Valued Surface PDEs” will investigate the properties of partial differential equations that have not yet been extensively researched. As measurements and modelling approaches become increasingly precise, for example for cell membranes, attention is turning to new types of equations, including partial differential equations on (moving) surfaces. These allow the movement behaviour of cells to be described, a process in which vectorial information, e.g. information about direction, plays an important role. (Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Axel Voigt, TU Dresden)

Traditionally, the study of Late Antiquity has focused on the eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and central Asia. The Centre for Advanced Studies “Romanization and Islamication in Late Antiquity – Transcultural Processes on the Iberian Peninsula and in North Africa” will now turn the spotlight on the western Mediterranean. An examination of western North Africa and the Iberian peninsula promises new insights, and not just because of the many historical and cultural links. The two regions also experienced different development trajectories, for example in the fact that the Roman influence disappeared in Africa while it continued in Spain. (Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Sabine Panzram, University of Hamburg)

The aim of the Research Unit “Sialic Acid as Regulator in Development and Immunity” is to describe the role of modifications by sugar molecules, reactions known as glycosylation, at an organismic, cellular and molecular level. The researchers are especially interested in the interaction between aspects of development and immunity for a particular sugar residue known as sialic acid. Glycosylation has not yet been studied in detail due to its complexity and diversity. Meanwhile, we know that it plays an important role in many biological and disease processes. (Spokesperson: Dr. Martina Mühlenhoff, Lecturer, Hannover Medical School)

The Research Unit “Biotic Interactions, Community Assembly, and Eco-Evolutionary Dynamics as Drivers of Long-Term Biodiversity-Ecosystem Functioning Relationships” aims to discover what mechanisms influence the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functions in the short and long term. We know that biodiversity is essential to ecosystem functioning, but the underlying ecological and evolutionary mechanisms are only partly understood. The group will investigate this using new experimental and analytical methods in one of the longest ongoing biodiversity experiments in Europe, the Jena Experiment. This Research Unit is the first to be funded for an initial four-year period in line with the new arrangement adopted in 2018. (Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Nico Eisenhauer, University of Leipzig)

A systemic inflammatory response or sepsis occurring equally throughout the whole body can trigger serious damage to or even failure of one or more organs. The goal of the Clinical Research Unit “Organ Dysfunction During Systemic Inflammation” is to identify and investigate the molecular, immunological and cellular signalling pathways relevant to this process and develop treatment strategies. (Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Alexander Zarbock, University of Münster)

The Research Unit “Next Generation Perturbative QCD for Hadron Structure: Preparing for the Electron-Ion Collider” will work at the interface between hadron physics and high-energy particle physics. Using theoretical methods, the group intends to gain insights into the structure of strongly interacting particles, or hadrons. The researchers also hope to draw new conclusions about a physics beyond the Standard Model of particle physics. (Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Vladimir Braun, University of Regensburg)

How humans form mental pictures of the outer and the inner world is a key question in cognitive psychology. The Research Unit “Modal and Amodal Cognition: Functions and Interactions” will investigate the functions and interactions of different forms of representation. The researchers will combine two representation formats which have traditionally been examined separately, a language-related (amodal) and a non-language (modal) format. This will yield new insights into various areas of cognitive psychology – perception, action, language, thinking and learning – as well as clinical and developmental psychology. (Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Barbara Kaup, University of Tübingen)

Google and Starbucks are just two examples of major multinational corporations that pursue an aggressive tax avoidance strategy through profit shifting and other methods. The Research Unit “Understanding the Behaviour of Multinational Corporations in the Context of International Tax Institutions” will analyse how multinational companies directly and indirectly adapt their behaviour to international tax regulations. The group will also investigate the consequences for the real economy and possible welfare effects. (Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Georg Wamser, University of Tübingen)

The eight collaborations extended for a second funding period
(in alphabetical order by their spokesperson’s university, with links to project descriptions in GEPRIS, the DFG’s online project database):

Kolleg-FOR “The International Rule of Law – Rise or Decline? The Role of International Law in Global Change” (Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Georg Nolte, HU Berlin)

FOR “Journal Literature: Rules of Format, Visual Design, and Cultures of Reception” (Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Nicola Kaminski, University of Bochum)

FOR “Switchable Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOF Switches)” (Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Stefan Kaskel, TU Dresden) https://gepris.dfg.de/gepris/projekt/279409724

FOR “Multi-Functional Conversion of Chemical Species and Energy” (Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Burak Atakan, University of Duisburg-Essen) https://gepris.dfg.de/gepris/projekt/229243862

FOR “Artificial Gauge Fields and Interacting Topological Phases in Ultracold Atoms” (Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Walter Hofstetter, Goethe University Frankfurt)

KFO “Cardiac and Pulmonary Failure: Mechanical Unloading and Repair” (Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Johann Bauersachs, Hannover Medical School)

FOR “From Few to Many-Body Physics with Dipolar Quantum Gases” (Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Silke Ospelkaus, University of Hannover) https://gepris.dfg.de/gepris/projekt/258183570
This Research Unit is jointly funded by the DFG and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).

FOR “The Epistemology of the Large Hadron Collider” (Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Gregor Schiemann, University of Wuppertal) https://gepris.dfg.de/gepris/projekt/286181063

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