DFG establishes interdisciplinary commission to strengthen pandemic research

Against the background of the current coronavirus pandemic, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is to establish an interdisciplinary commission for pandemic research. The commission will be made up of 18 members representing all research disciplines, and its task will be to strengthen the knowledge-driven research which is essential to pandemic and epidemic research and which forms the basis for nearly all translational approaches. The decision to set up the commission was made by the Executive Committee of the DFG, Germany's largest research funding organisation and the central self-governing organization of the country's research community.

Nationally and internationally, a large number of research and networking activities have already been launched to improve our understanding and help us fight the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences. These have a primarily clinical or application-oriented focus. We believe an essential complement to this is a body that concentrates on basic research during this crisis, looking not only at the medical and epidemiological perspective but also the economic, ethical, legal, social, psychological and historical aspects. The new interdisciplinary commission for pandemic research is designed to fill this gap and help to coordinate high-quality research."

Professor Dr. Katja Becker, DFG President

Dr. Katja Becker will head the commission, after the decision was announced.

The new commission is to support DFG-funded projects investigating pandemics and epidemics, including both existing work and research projects initiated as the result of the cross-disciplinary call launched by the DFG at the end of March, for which funding proposals can be submitted up to 1 September 2020. The commission will also have the task of monitoring the overall basic research landscape in relation to pandemics and epidemics and identifying potential research needs, giving special attention to inter- and transdisciplinary cooperation and the strengthening of synergies.

As the DFG President emphasized, it is to operate on a purely science-driven basis with a long-term focus, and represent relevant activities of the DFG both within and outside the research community. In particular, this includes close cooperation with national and international institutions and partner organisations.

The 18 scientific members of the commission will be appointed for an initial two-year period. Additional experts may participate in or be invited to attend meetings of the commission to discuss special issues.

Following the Executive Committee's decision, the members of the commission are currently being selected, with the majority having already been appointed. The members confirmed so far are:

  • Professor Dr. Frank Allgöwer, Director of the Institute for Systems Theory and Automatic Control at the University of Stuttgart and Vice President of the DFG
  • Professor Dr. Christian Apfelbacher, Director of the Institute of Social Medicine and Health Systems Research at the Faculty of Medicine of University Hospital Magdeburg
  • Professor Dr. Professor Dr. Cordula Artelt, Director of the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories and Professor of Longitudinal Educational Research at the University of Bamberg
  • Professor Dr. Cornelia Betsch, Heisenberg Professor of Health Communication at the University of Erfurt
  • Private lecturer Dr. Carsten Butsch, research assistant at the Institute of Geography at the University of Cologne and currently substitute professor for Human Geography at the Institute of Geography at Heidelberg University
  • Professor Dr. Christian Drosten, Director of the Institute of Virology at Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin
  • Professor Dr. Eva Grill, Professor of Epidemiology at the Institute for Medical Information Processing, Biometry, and Epidemiology at LMU Munich
  • Professor Dr. Susanne Herold, Professor of Infectious Lung Diseases at the University of Giessen and Head of Department for Infectiology at University Hospital of Giessen and Marburg
  • Professor Dr. Stefan Liebig, Professor of Sociology at the Free University of Berlin and Director of the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin)
  • Professor Dr. Stephan Ludwig, Director of the Institute of Molecular Virology at the University of Münster
  • Professor Dr. Michael Meyer-Hermann, head of the department of Systems Immunology at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig
  • Professor Dr. Jörn Müller-Quade, holder of the Chair of IT Security at the Institute of Theoretical Informatics at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
  • Professor Dr. Carla Nau, Director of the Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care at the Lübeck Campus of the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein
  • Professor Dr. Jonas Schreyögg, holder of the Chair of Health Care Management at Universität Hamburg and Scientific Director of the Hamburg Center for Health Economics
  • Professor Dr. Britta Siegmund, Director of the Division of Gastroenterology, Infectiology and Rheumatology at Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Vice President of the DFG and Chair of the DFG Senate Commission on Key Questions in Clinical Research
  • Professor Dr. Simone Sommer, Director of the Institute of Evolutionary Ecology and Conservation Genomics at Ulm University
  • Professor Dr. Uwe Volkmann, Professor of Public Law and Philosophy of Law at Goethe University Frankfurt

The first meeting of the commission is to be held on 15 June.

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