The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing five new Research Units. This was decided by the Senate of the DFG at a session during the 2014 Annual Meeting at Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main. The research collaborations will offer researchers the possibility to pursue current and pressing issues in their research areas and to establish innovative work directions.
As with all DFG Research Units, the collaboration between the new units will be interdisciplinary and span multiple locations. In the initial 3-year funding period, they will receive approximately 8 million euros in total. This brings the number of Research Units funded by the DFG to 188.
The new Research Units
(in alphabetical order by host university)
According to current population forecasts, by 2040 one in two people in Germany will be over 50 years old and one in three will be over 60. This presents challenges to medicine, because the self-healing capacities of the human body, like the regenerative ability of the organs and the ability to heal after injury, diminish with age. This is partly due to changes in the immune system and changed reactions to external stimulations. The Research Unit "Regeneration in Aged Individuals: Using Bone Healing as a Model System to Characterize Regeneration Under Compromised Conditions" aims to investigate the phenomenon using the model of age-related changes in bone healing processes and link this to research into other age-related processes.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Georg Duda, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Free University of Berlin and Humboldt University of Berlin)
The development of new vehicles and intelligent transport concepts is resulting in ever-growing volumes of traffic and ever-increasing axle loads. This trend has so far been neglected in the field of road transport infrastructure. This is the starting point for the Research Unit "Long-Term Road Structures for Future Traffic Loads. A Coupled Road - Tyre - Vehicle System". The participating researchers intend to develop a coupled thermomechanical model for the physical analysis of road, tyres and vehicle. In addition to a better understanding of the physics of the system, it is hoped that the results will make it possible to optimise road structures and the associated construction materials to maximise their longevity.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr.-Ing. Michael Kaliske, Technical University of Dresden)
Acinetobacter, known since the first Iraq war, is a group of bacteria for which there is little treatment and which has now spread around the globe and very quickly develops antibiotic resistance. Its mechanisms of infection are largely unknown, which is why it presents such enormous challenges to both science and healthcare providers. The Research Unit "Adaptation and Persistence of the Emerging PathogenAcinetobacter baumannii" brings together microbiologists, medical microbiologists, biochemists, structural biologists and bioinformatics scientists to investigate the bacterium's infection process and mechanisms. The group aims to obtain fresh insights in infection biology, which could be crucial in the clinical control of the bacterium. The study of Acinetobacter is also of fundamental interest in medical microbiology, because virulence factors known from other bacteria are not present in Acinetobacter.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Volker Müller, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main)
The Research Unit "Sociality and Health in Primates" will examine the connections between sociality and fitness in non-human primates. Among baboons, for example, socially integrated individuals have a longer life expectancy than socially isolated individuals, who have poorer fitness. So how do social roles and networks affect proneness to disease? By studying the social systems of primates, the group intends to analyse the impacts of social variables such as group size, dominance rank, social support and mating tactics on various aspects of health and physical constitution. The researchers also plan to investigate the transmission of infections and sexually transmitted diseases between social groups of non-human primates and thus better understand the relationships between sociality and health.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Peter M. Kappeler, Deutsches Primatenzentrum GmbH - Leibniz Institute for Primate Research, University of Göttingen)
Social comparison processes are a fundamental feature of human behaviour. For example, the assessment of our own sporting achievements, annual earnings or attractiveness depends on whom we compare ourselves with. This comparative thinking is the focus of the new Research Unit "Relativity in Social Cognition: Antecedents and Consequences of Comparative Thinking". The group intends to investigate whether comparative thinking is a superordinate behaviour principle and can be used to explain various aspects of human behaviour. Specialists in psychology, behavioural economics and behavioural biology will examine the antecedents and consequences of comparative thinking in order to help explain the complex dynamics of human social behaviour.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Thomas Muβweiler, University of Cologne)