The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is setting up six new Research Units and a new Clinical Research Unit. The DFG Joint Committee decided this on the recommendation of the Senate.
The meetings of the DFG's statutory bodies were conducted online due to the coronavirus pandemic. These new Research Units will receive a total of approximately €30 million, including a 22 percent program allowance for indirect project-related costs.
The funding duration for these teams is based on the date on which the first draft of a funding proposal was submitted. Research Units which submitted their draft proposals after 1 October 2018 will be funded for a maximum of two four-year periods; this applies to five of the newly established Research Units. The two other teams who submitted their draft proposals before 1October 2018 will be funded for a term of two three-year periods.
In addition to these seven institutions, a decision was made to extend the funding to five Research Units for a second period. Research Units enable researchers to devote themselves to current and pressing issues in their subject areas and to establish innovative new research areas.
Clinical Research Units are additionally characterised by their close link between research and clinical work. Altogether the DFG is currently funding 160 Research Units, 14 Clinical Research Units and 16 Centres for Advanced Studies. The latter are specifically geared to forms of work in humanities and social sciences.
The seven new teams in detail
(in alphabetical order by the spokesperson's university)
Diffusion chronometry can be used among other things to examine the phenocrysts in different rock layers of past volcanic eruptions to determine the timing of eruption processes. The Research Unit "Diffusion Chronometry of Magmatic Systems" will seek to further refine these methods and develop them as a new instrument for characterising magmatic processes. This could for instance enable us to better understand the formation of deep rock bodies in the earth's crust, volcanic eruptions on the earth's surface and hydrothermal reservoirs. (Spokesperson: Professor Sumit Chakraborty, University of Bochum)
The materials science Research Unit "Periodic Low-dimensional Defect Structures in Polar Oxides" will examine mixed crystals of lithium niobate and lithium tantalate. Varying the ratio of niobium and tantalum enables the electronic and atomic transport processes to be altered and the so-called ferroelectric domains to be controlled, which will give new insights into material science and physical phenomena. In the longer term, the team seeks to identify the properties of this material combination to enable new applications - especially in the high temperature range, but also in integrated acoustics, photonics and sensor technology. (Spokesperson: Professor Holger Fritze, Clausthal University of Technology)
Iron is a trace element that is essential to human health. The liver is the central organ that metabolises iron and it keeps the systemic concentration of iron within an optimal range. Bone tissue is particularly susceptible to variations in iron concentrations, which can cause reduced bone density and osteoporotic fractures. The Research Unit "Defining the Osteohepatic Axis in the Context of Iron Homeostasis - FerrOs" will therefore investigate the mechanisms of liver-bone communication within iron regulation. This team wants to use new findings on the pathophysiology of iron-dependent bone diseases to contribute to the development of innovative dual therapeutic concepts. (Spokesperson: Professor Martina Rauner, TU Dresden)
The Research Unit "Affective and Cognitive Mechanisms of Specific Internet-Use Disorders (ACSID)" will examine the psychological and neurobiological processes in the development and perpetuation of addictive behaviour on the internet. This includes computer games, viewing pornography, online shopping and the use of social networks. The aim is to achieve a deeper understanding of internet-use disorders as new types of mental illness and to discover the affective and cognitive processes that promise successful approaches for prevention and therapy. (Spokesperson: Professor Matthias Brand, University of Duisburg-Essen)
The Research Unit "Reduction of Complexity in Nonequilibrium Systems" is focusing on non-equilibrium phenomena in different contexts, such as transport processes in nanostructures and biomolecules as well as different forms of friction and other dissipative effects. The researchers come from backgrounds in physics, chemistry and material sciences and they aim to develop precise theories, models and calculation methods that provide an exact description of non-equilibrium processes in complex systems. (Spokesperson: Professor Gerhard Stock, University of Freiburg)
When part of the liver is removed, called a liver resection, there is a high risk of liver failure especially in the case of major interventions. The Research Unit "Quantifying Liver Perfusion-Function Relationship in Complex Resection — A Systems Medicine Approach (QuaLiPerF)" aims to clarify the interactions between changes in blood flow to the liver caused by the operation, referred to as perfusion, and its metabolic function. This should form the basis for a model of the flow through the liver and its function, which in the long-term would enable better prediction of liver function and regeneration after an operation and thus minimise the risk of liver failure. (Spokesperson: Professor Uta Dahmen, University of Jena)
Pain caused by disruption or damage to nerves can subside even without complete anatomical and physiological recovery of neuronal structures. The Clinical Research Unit "Peripheral Mechanisms of Pain and their Resolution" will deal with the question of why this is the case for many patients, whereas postoperative pain as an example can become chronic in others. The team will improve treatment procedures by examining this based on so-called neuropathic pain after surgery, chemotherapy or in cases of autoimmunity. (Spokesperson: Professor Claudia Sommer, University of Würzburg)