Strengthening independent junior research groups in collaborative research centres


DFG approves the establishment of eight new centres

Four of the eight Collaborative Research Centres that the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation, DFG) will establish from July 2004 onwards deal with medical issues. In addition to studying a common heart condition, they will also focus on an improved understanding of the immune system and the molecular foundations of carcinogenicity. One Collaborative Research Centre in the humanities will examine the relationship between images, symbols, behaviour and social changes, while three centres in the natural sciences will deal with atmospheric research, exotic states of matter and nuclear physics. The decision made by the responsible Grants Committee on 24 and 25 May 2004 brings the total number of Collaborative Research Centres funded this year to 272, located at 61 universities, including 19 Transregional Collaborative Research Centres and 14 Transfer Units, receiving total funding of about €363 million.

With its support of Transfer Unit 50 "Application of machine systems and the implementation of the spin extrusion/cross rolling process chain" at the Technical University of Chemnitz, the DFG is funding the application of the results from the previous Collaborative Research Centre "Process chains in bulk metal forming with respect to productivity and environmental compatibility". This continuation reflects the committee's decision to implement Transfer Unit funding after successful completion of the pilot phase as a permanent component into the Collaborative Research Centre funding programme. The funding of Transfer Units aims to continue and extend the involvement of industrial enterprises of all sizes in the basic research of Collaborative Research Centres through application-related cooperation.

Additionally, the committee passed measures intended to make Independent Junior Research Groups within Collaborative Research Centres more attractive. The selection procedure has been streamlined and the strict age limit of 35 has been abolished, since it does not do justice to all disciplinary cultures and routes of qualification. Instead, researchers are expected to complete their doctorate in a short amount of time and have appropriate postdoctoral or professional experience, during which scientific independence was achieved. The measures aim to create a long-term perspective for the leaders of Independent Junior Research Groups. With respect to the structure-building character of the funding programme, the applicant university is required to demonstrate a clear commitment to the Junior Research Group. Furthermore, young researchers who lead an Independent Junior Research Group within the framework of the Emmy Noether Programme will be given the opportunity to integrate their group into a Collaborative Research Centre.

In the context of the Collaborative Research Centres/Transregional Collaborative Research Centres Programme, the committee decided to extend the pilot phase by five years to gain further experience with this funding instrument, which was introduced in 1999. A Transregional Collaborative Research Centre, as the multiple-location variant of the traditional Collaborative Research Centre, must be located at either two or three universities, and have a sustainable capacity building effect at each location. The conventional guidelines for Collaborative Research Centres apply regarding participation from outside the universities and the provision of core support by universities.

The new Collaborative Research Centres in detail:


The Collaborative Research Centre "The representation of social orders in transition: comparisons across cultures and times" examines the development of images, symbols and behaviour as signs of social reality. Researchers at the Humboldt University and the Centre for Modern Oriental Studies in Berlin and the University of Hamburg will examine changes in the representation of social orders and draw international comparisons.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Hartmut Kaelble, Humboldt University of Berlin)

Biology and Medicine

Cancer may occur when ras molecules in cells do not function properly. In the Transregional Collaborative Research Centre "Ras-dependent pathways in human cancer", scientists at the Universities of Marburg and Würzburg will examine the link between intracellular signalling by ras proteins and carcinogenicity. Both of the universities participating in this Transregional Collaborative Research Centre are confident that they will achieve improved success through complementary research.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Martin Eilers, Philipps University of Marburg)

The Collaborative Research Centre "GTP- and ATP-dependent membrane processes" intends to contribute towards closing the current knowledge gap regarding membrane-associated processes. It concentrates on the study of GTP- and ATP-dependent processes, which play an essential role in the transmission of external signals into the cell and in transport processes at the cell membrane. Consequently, they regulate important biological processes such as cell division. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and guanosine triphosphate (GTP) are important energy-storing compounds in the cell metabolism that store chemical energy.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Klaus Gerwert, Ruhr University of Bochum)

About 500,000 patients in Germany suffer from dilative cardiomyopathy – the disease that is the major indication for heart transplant. Beginning with the realisation that this illness is often associated with a particular viral infection, the Transregional Collaborative Research Centre "Inflammatory cardiomyopathy – molecular pathogenesis and therapy" attempts to bridge the gap between basic research and potential therapeutic application. Clinicians and researchers involved in basic research at the Medical Faculty in Berlin and the Universities of Tübingen and Greifswald are cooperating on this research. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Heinz-Peter Schultheiss, Charité Medical Faculty, Berlin)

The Collaborative Research Centre "Strategies of cellular immune intervention" will primarily focus on the examination of the immunological role of dendritic cells, which are strong stimulators of defensive immune reactions. Scientists at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg are looking in particular at the implementation of the most recent findings in immunology on the therapy of phenomena such as cancer and autoimmune diseases.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Gerold Schuler, Friedrich Alexander University of Erlangen-Nürnberg)

Natural Sciences

The research subject of the Collaborative Research Centre "The tropospheric ice phase – TROPEIS" is familiar to us all, as the tropospheric ice phase includes, for example, snowflakes and hail pellets. However, how the ice particles are formed in the atmosphere, their individual properties and how they are distributed is largely unknown. Meteorologists, physicists and chemists at the Universities of Frankfurt, Mainz and Darmstadt, as well as the Atmospheric Chemistry Department of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, will study the development and characteristics of ice particles, their effect on dynamic and chemical processes, and radiation transmission in the atmosphere. (Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Ulrich Schmidt, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt)

Hadrons are particles subject to strong interactions. Amongst them are protons and neutrons, the elementary building blocks of the atomic nuclei in everything around us. To test the underlying theory, quantum chromodynamics, large accelerators are required with which electrons, for example, are shot at atomic nuclei. The electron beam assumes the function of a light beam in an ordinary microscope. An important accelerator, the Electron Stretcher Accelerator (ELSA), is located at the Physics Institute of the University of Bonn and constitutes the experimental centre of the new Transregional Collaborative Research Centre "Electromagnetic excitation of subnuclear systems". Physicists at the Universities of Bochum, Bonn and Gießen are cooperating to study the internal structure of protons and neutrons with a series of detectors, such as the unique "crystal barrel". New particles are discovered time and time again, as frequently predicted by theoreticians. For instance, so-called pentaquarks, previously unknown exotic particles consisting of five quarks, were recently detected at ELSA as one of the first laboratories worldwide, an achievement which caused considerable international excitement.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Friedrich Klein, Rheinische Friedrich Wilhelms University, Bonn)

The pulses of new lasers only last for attoseconds, a quintillionth of a second, but produce an energy output of several petawatts, i.e., quadrillions of watts. They thus create energy densities greater than those in the interior of the sun. Scientists at the Transregional Collaborative Research Centre "Relativistic Laser Plasma Dynamics" want to exploit these properties to study exotic states of matter. They also want to advance the development of an accelerator technology termed "bubble accelerator". The Universities of Düsseldorf and Jena as well as the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich already enjoy a reputation as leaders in plasma and laser physics, which will be beneficial to the Collaborative Research Centre.
(Spokesperson: Professor Dr. Oswald Willi, Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf)

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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