DFG Establishes 18 New Research Training Groups
Topics Range from Astro-Particle Physics and Globalisation Right Through to “Knowledge in the Arts” / First German-Brazilian Collaboration / Funds for Knowledge Transfer / Intensive Mentoring
With the aim of further strengthening early-career research in Germany, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is to establish 18 new Research Training Groups. This decision was taken by the appropriate Grants Committee in Bonn. The new institutions will initially be funded for a period of four and half years, during which time they will receive total funding of around 60 million euros. In addition to the 18 new RTGs, the Grants Committee also approved the renewal of four RTGs for a further 4.5-year period.
At its first session this year, the Grants Committee received a particularly high number of proposals for new Research Training Groups to review. Once the review processes had been carried out, a total of 24 establishment proposals remained, as well as six renewal proposals from existing RTGs. “The Research Training Group funding structure continues to be an extremely attractive option, and one which is in great demand among universities and doctoral researchers,” said DFG President Professor Matthias Kleiner. In view of the high level of interest and in order to be able to approve as many outstanding funding proposals as possible, the DFG has, this year, considerably increased the funding available to Research Training Groups from the funds provided by the German federal and state governments through the Pact for Research and Innovation.
As Kleiner emphasised, the new Research Training Groups will also provide their doctoral researchers with the opportunity to earn their doctorates within the framework of a highly-qualified and structured research and qualification programme. This concept not only ensures high academic standards, but also permits intensive monitoring. “In view of the current discussions on malpractice and integrity in science, this type of close relationship between doctoral researchers and their mentors, which is as trustful as it is binding, simply cannot be prized highly enough”, added the DFG President.
Topics studied span the spectrum from the evolution of the concept of “privacy” and the processes and practices of today’s innovative society right through to the efficient use of resources in companies. Several of the newly-approved Research Training Groups focus on aspects of globalisation. In the life sciences, groups are examining such issues as bacterial survival strategies and improving radiation therapy; those in the natural sciences will examine the nature of dark matter and complex networks in, for example, climate research and land use change.
One of the 18 new RTGs is an International Research Training Group – and a first, to boot. The first German-Brazilian RTG has been established in Berlin and São Paolo and brings together physicists, mathematicians, biologists, climatologists and geographers from both countries to research complex networks. A bridge has also been created between science and art, thanks to the Berlin University of the Arts and its RTG “Knowledge in the Arts”, which brings together art scholars and artists. Several of the new RTGs are spread over different locations, enabling them to provide opportunities for collaboration to early-career researchers in smaller subject areas where the “critical mass” required for submitting an application would not have been achieved at a single university.
Another new feature is intended to enable Research Training Groups to contribute to the transfer of scientific knowledge – and thus to dialogue between universities and businesses, as well as with the public sector. Effective immediately, funds for transfer projects can also be applied for within the framework of this DFG funding programme. Two initial transfer projects – applied for by a Karlsruhe Research Training Group on “Process Chains in Production” – have now been approved.
In total, the DFG now funds 206 Research Training Groups, including 45 International Research Training Groups.
The new Research Training Groups are as follows (in alphabetical order by coordinating university):
The aim of RTG 1675 “Teilchen- und Astroteilchenphysik im Lichte von LHC” [“Particles and Astro-Particle Physics in the Light of the LHC”] is to explore the limits of the standard particle physics model. In order to do this, the RTG’s members will use data collected by the Large Hadron Collider, which was put into operation in March 2010. This data promises to yield considerable new insights over the next few years. The Research Training Group will use complementary theoretical and experimental physical approaches to examine both this data and data from other experiments conducted within the fields of particle and astro-particle physics. In doing so, they will make significant contributions to such research topics as the origin of mass in elemental particles, the nature of dark matter, and the cause of asymmetry of matter and antimatter in the universe.
(Coordinating University: Aachen University of Technology. Coordinator: Professor Dr. Stefan Schael)
The first German-Brazilian Research Training Group brings together physicists, mathematicians, biologists, climatologists and geographers from both countries to study networks with complex topology. This information can be used to facilitate a greater understanding of complex systems in many scientific disciplines. Unlike most other studies, however, IRTG 1740 does not plan to examine fixed, unchanging topologies. Instead – as the Group’s name indicates – it will focus on “Dynamic Phenomena in Complex Networks”. One of its main goals is to improve our understanding of the earth’s subsystems under changing conditions, whereby specific influences, like global warming and land use change in the Amazon region, will be explored.
(Coordinating University: Humboldt University (HU) of Berlin. Cooperation Partners: The National Institute for Space Research (INPE), Brazil; Universidade de São Paulo. Coordinator: Professor Dr. Jürgen Kurths, HU Berlin/Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Coordinator at Cooperation Partner: Professor Dr. Elbert E.N. Macau, INPE)
Innovation has shaped modern society from the very beginning. Now, however, its nature is changing, and innovation itself is becoming an aim and purpose of social activity. This is where RTG 1672, “Innovationsgesellschaft heute: Die reflexive Herstellung des Neuen” [“Today’s Innovation Society: The Reflexive Production of the New”] comes in. This Research Training Group will expand the economic concept of innovation to include social scientific aspects, as well as examining social innovation. The team will study practices and processes in science and technology, industry and service, and art and culture, as well as political regulation and spatio-social planning.
(Coordinating University: Berlin Institute of Technology. Coordinator: Professor Dr. Werner Rammert)
RTG 1759 aims to bridge the gap between science and art in an innovative manner. This Research Training Group is based at the Berlin University of the Arts, an institution where the various arts are not just taught and explored, but also practiced. As its name indicates, the RTG “Wissen der Künste” [“Knowledge in the Arts”] will examine knowledge in the arts as an implicit, habitualised, incorporated and process-oriented form of knowledge. Through the interplay of art history and cultural studies, media studies and the philosophical, pedagogical and engineering scientific disciplines, the Research Training Group will examine ways in which artistic knowledge develops, as well as how it expresses and legitimises itself.
(Coordinating University: Berlin University of the Arts. Coordinator: Professor Dr. Tanja Michalsky)
RTG 1620 “Models of Gravity” aims to explore generalised gravitational theories. These include, for example, theories which are derived as effective low-energy limits of string theory. The Research Training Group’s projects focus both on the theoretical properties of these models and on the extent to which they can contribute to a greater understanding of dark matter, dark energy, and the Pioneer anomaly.
(Coordinating Universities: University of Bremen; University of Oldenburg. Coordinators: Professor Dr. Claus Lämmerzahl, Bremen; Professor Dr. Jutta Kunz-Drolshagen, Oldenburg)
Unlike real communication, virtual communication has restrictions associated with it. This theory forms the basis of the research into the increasing digitisation of communication carried out by RTG 1780 “Kopplung virtueller und realer sozialer Welten” [“Linking Real and Virtual Social Worlds”]. This digitisation shifts processes, environments and human interaction to a virtual plane. The members of this Research Training Group want to clarify which of the current limitations on media-based communication could be overcome by linking real and virtual worlds. At the same time, the RTG will also explore the interaction and experiential opportunities afforded by virtual communication compared to direct, real-world communication.
(Coordinating University: Chemnitz University of Technology. Coordinator: Professor Dr. Maria Bannert)
Radiotherapy is one of the most significant and effective methods of combating tumours. RTG 1739 “Molekulare Determinanten der zellulären Strahlenantwort und ihre Bedeutung für die Modularität der Strahlensensitivität” [“Molecular Determinants of Cellular Radiation Responses and Their Significance for the Modularity of Radiation Sensitivity”] aims to develop this method further in basic research and to apply the findings thereby gained to clinical practice. The research programme takes a natural scientific, medical, theoretical and practical approach and is aimed at identifying those molecules which determine cellular responses to ionising radiation. The Research Training Group’s findings will then form the basis for the development of effective strategies for modulating the effects of radiation.
(Coordinating University: University of Duisburg-Essen. Coordinator: Professor Dr.Verena Jendrossek)
RTG 1678 focuses on the relationship between “Materialität und Produktion” [“Materiality and Production”]. Both are key concepts in cultural history and in the history of ideas, and are usually analysed through comparative constructivist and materialist research approaches. The RTG wants to go beyond this. Its projects are aimed at exploring the relations and interactions between production and materiality, as well as their associated processes, from both a current and historical perspective. Historical and contemporary comparisons cover a wide range of aesthetic experiences and production – including gesture, decoration, writing, illustration and assemblage.
(Coordinating University: University of Düsseldorf. Coordinator: Professor Dr. Andrea von Hülsen-Esch)
“Presence” can be defined as a temporal and spatial existence and immediacy. Scientific analysis of this concept is usually limited to European history of ideas, where it is restricted to aesthetic issues. The new approach taken by RTG 1718 “Präsenz und implizites Wissen” [“Presence and Implicit Knowledge”] expands the debate to include a cross-cultural comparative dimension. The research hypothesis postulates that there is a reciprocal context of justification between presence and implicit knowledge. The members of the Research Training Group will therefore examine culturally diverse forms of discourse on presence in different functional areas of society.
(Coordinating University: Friedrich-Alexander University (FAU) of Erlangen-Nuremberg. Coordinator: Professor Dr. Heike Paul)
Research into the historical development of and the current rationale behind religious claims to validity forms the focus of RTG 1728’s work. The Research Training Group, entitled “Theologie als Wissenschaft. Formierungsprozesse der Reflexivität von Glaubenstraditionen in historischer und systematischer Analyse” [“Theology as Science. Processes of Formation in the Reflexivity of Faith Traditions, Analysed from A Historical and Systematic Perspective”] will base its research on the theory that scientific theology, in particular, embodies the “reflexivisation” of faith traditions. In its work, the Research Training Group will draw on self-descriptions and declarations of autonomy provided by the religions themselves. The study is an interdenominational one that will involve the cooperation of Protestant, Catholic and Islamic theologists, as well as scientists from non-theological disciplines. Through its work, the Research Training Group also aims to revive the visibility of the scientific nature of theology – or theologies.
(Coordinating University: Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main. Coordinator: Professor Dr. Claus Arnold)
RTG 1703 “Ressourceneffizienz in Unternehmensnetzwerken – Methoden zur betrieblichen und überbetrieblichen Planung für die Nutzung erneuerbarer Rohstoffe“ [“Resource Efficiency in Company Networks – Corporate and Industrial Planning Methods for Utilising Renewable Raw Materials”] aims to develop methods to facilitate the more efficient use of resources. The team will focus on the efficient use of renewable raw materials in joint production processes (processes which produce several different products at the same time). The researchers aim to achieve a cascading usage of uses, in which the same raw material is used several times before being processed to generate energy. The projects will thus contribute to sustainability management, which affects procedures in all sectors of the network at operational, tactical and strategic levels.
(Coordinating University: Georg August University of Göttingen. Coordinator: Professor Dr. Jutta Geldermann)
The globalisation of the world economy is a process which is changing living conditions for most people. There has, however, been comparatively little research into the effects of globalisation on and in developing countries. Development research focuses more on microeconomic issues, rather than systematically linking knowledge with the globalisation process. RTG 1723 “Globalisierung und Entwicklung” [“Globalisation and Development”] now aims to unite these two strands of globalisation and development research. The projects undertaken will examine how economic globalisation affects individuals in developing countries, as well as how these individuals react and how their responses help to shape globalisation.
(Coordinating Universities: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz University of Hannover; Georg August University of Göttingen. Coordinators: Professor Dr. Lukas Menkhoff, Hannover; Professor Stephan Klasen, Ph.D., Göttingen)
“The dose makes the poison.” Paracelsus’ words still influence medicine and biology today. Organisms react incredibly inconsistently to external stimuli: whether with lasting damage, continuous resistance, or even increased vitality. The RTG 1715 “Molekulare Signaturen adaptiver Stressreaktionen” [“Molecular Signatures of Adaptive Stress Responses”] has set itself the goal of investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying this multitude of contradictory responses to stress, and to use the improved understanding of these reactions to develop new approaches to resistance and regeneration.
(Coordinating University: Friedrich Schiller University of Jena. Coordinator: Professor Dr. Reinhard Wetzker)
RTG 1721 “Integrated Analysis of Macromolecular Complexes and Hybrid Methods in Genome Biology” is dedicated to a key topic in molecular biology: complex and dynamic macromolecular systems. In order to comprehend these structurally and mechanistically, the Research Training Group aims to communicate and further develop a new generation of structure-function analyses. In order to do this, techniques of different resolutions are combined and previously separate disciplines in structural protein sciences are brought together and combined with computer-aided biochemistry and single-molecule and high-resolution microscopy. Particular focus will be placed on emerging “hybrid methods”.
(Coordinating University: Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. Coordinator: Professor Dr. Karl-Peter Hopfner)
Globalisation processes have been part of every era – and they have formed a topic for literature from antiquity to the present day. Until now, however, literature’s treatment of globalisation has been a little-researched topic. Correspondingly, the level of literary science expertise in this area has been little explored. RTG 1733 “Funktionen des Literarischen in Prozessen der Globalisierung” [“The Role of Literature in Globalisation Processes”] now addresses this dual deficit from a historical, supranational and predominantly comparative perspective. The Research Training Group aims primarily to explore the processes with which literature represents, models, reflects, criticises – and thus helps define – globalisation. It will also examine the globalisation of the conditions under which literature is created.
(Coordinating University: Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. Coordinator: Professor Dr. Robert Stockhammer)
The rapid digitisation of the media has led, not least, to the development of new forms of interaction between individuals, organisations and the public. Communication is taking place increasingly in virtual social networks. RTG 1712, “Vertrauen und Kommunikation in einer digitalisierten Welt” [“Trust and Communication is a Digitised World”] will examine how trust can be created and maintained under these conditions. The research projects will also take particular account of developments in the media, economy, science and sports. In a wider context, the RTG aims to assist in clarifying the factors which influence trust in general.
(Coordinating University: University of Münster. Coordinator: Professor Dr. Bernd Blöbaum)
Privacy and private information are matters of great social and societal import. Until now, however, neither they nor their application in current challenges, such as, for example, in law or information technology, have been subjected to interdisciplinary analysis. RTG 1681 “Privatheit. Formen, Funktionen, Transformationen” [“Privacy. Forms, Functions and Transformation”] intends to help close this gap. The Research Training Group will treat privacy and attitudes to non-private information as a cultural variable, one specific to different epochs, social classes and groups. The RTG aims to create a comprehensive picture of the concept of privacy and to develop a theory which describes the parameters of privacy and elucidates their interplay.
(Coordinating University: University of Passau. Coordinator: Professor Dr. Hans Krah)
While bacteria multiply exponentially under optimum conditions, there are many environments in which conditions inhibit their growth or kill cells. This evolutionary pressure causes the bacteria to develop highly efficient strategies which enable them to survive in inhospitable environments. RTG 1708 aims to analyse the “molecular basis for bacterial survival strategies”. A diverse series of experiments has been designed to furnish the members of the Research Training Group with insights into the full spectrum of these strategies. In this way, the work of the Research Training Group will also enhance our understanding of the spread of bacterial disease pathogens and assist in the development of antibacterial agents.
(Coordinating University: University of Tübingen. Coordinator: Professor Dr. Karl Forchhammer)