From climate dynamics to educational research...

April 25, 2006

This press release is also available in German.

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has announced that it will fund 16 new Priority Programmes from the beginning of 2007. This was decided by the DFG Senate at its meeting on 6 April 2006. The new programmes, which were selected from 47 proposals, will receive approximately 57 million euros in funding during their initial funding period. Priority Programmes promote networking between research groups working on a specific topic, both within Germany and internationally. The coordinated, distributed funding of novel problems is intended to give strong impetus to the progress of research in the field addressed. Priority Programmes generally run for a period of six years. This brings the number of Priority Programmes funded by the DFG to 94.

The new Priority Programmes:

Humanities and Social Sciences

The Priority Programme "Survey Methodology" will study one of the main instruments used in social science research: scientific surveys. The programme's main objective is to improve data quality. Its research will focus on the development of survey methodologies and new technological methods of data analysis and processing. In addition to this, the researchers hope to find ways to increase the willingness to participate in such surveys.
(Coordinator: Prof. Uwe Engel, University of Bremen)

Systematic testing of skills is central to the development of education systems and in international comparative studies such as PISA. The Priority Programme "Skill Models for Measuring Individual Learning Outcomes and Assessing Educational Processes" will, for the first time, bring together the approaches of leading educational researchers to develop theoretically and empirically sound competence models and appropriate measurement procedures.
(Coordinator: Prof. Eckhard Klieme, German Institute for International Educational Research (DIPF), Frankfurt/Main)

Life Sciences

Biologists have long assumed that cell function is regulated primarily by proteins. Only recently did they discover that RNA molecules are also involved in controlling key cellular processes. The Priority Programme "Sensory and Regulatory RNA in Prokaryotes" will study the structural and functional characteristics of these molecules.
(Coordinator: Prof. Franz Narberhaus, University of Bochum)

The Priority Programme "Microbial Reprogramming of Plant Cell Development" will study the interaction of plants and microorganisms. One of the main objectives is to study plant cell development programmes that may be activated or reprogrammed by means of symbiotic interaction at the molecular level. This interaction may occur with fungi, which release phosphates, bacteria, which release nitric oxide, or by plant diseases. This research is of particular importance in agriculture, for example in the search for ways of reducing the needs for fertilizer and pesticides.
(Coordinator: Prof. Martin Parniske, University of Munich)

Sphingolipids are lipids that were long thought to be building blocks of cell formation. The fact that they are active components within cells, and regulate cell function such as cell differentiation or blood vessel growth, was only discovered a few years ago. The Priority Programme "Sphingolipids - Signals and Disease" now hopes to bring basic researchers and clinical researchers together in order to investigate the role sphingolipids play in a wide range of diseases.
(Coordinator: Prof. Erich Gulbins, University of Duisburg-Essen)

Natural Sciences

Spintronics is a new area of research that deals with advancements made in classical electronics. It offers a new approach to data processing that uses not only the electric charge but also the spin property of electrons. The Priority Programme "Semiconductor Spintronics" will look at fundamental issues concerning the exploitation of electronic spin for semiconductor devices, including the use of optical and electronic methods of reading/writing individual spin states.
(Coordinator: Prof. Michael Oestreich, University of Hannover)

Soil is a reactive surface in which heat, water, gasses and chemical elements are absorbed, stored and transmitted. Biogeochemical processes that occur on this surface play a key part in many ecosystems. Soil scientists, chemists, physicists and biologists will collaborate in the Priority Programme "Biogeochemical Interfaces in Soil" to study the complex physical, chemical and biological processes and interactions in soil.
(Coordinator: Prof. Kai Uwe Totsche, University of Jena)

Nanoparticles are suspected of causing irreversible damage to cells. The Priority Programme "Bio-Nano-Responses" aims to improve our understanding of the key processes involved in the uptake of nanoparticles by cells, their transport and biological effects. To achieve this a wide variety of tailored nanoparticles will be produced. Their behaviour in biological systems will be observed, and their effect on cell metabolism analysed.
(Coordinator: Prof. Reinhard Zellner, University of Duisburg-Essen)

The Priority Programme "Integrated Analysis of Interglacial Climate Dynamics" aims to use quantitative studies of the palaeoclimate (climactic conditions in the past) to achieve a better understanding of the climatic system and allow more precise predictions of future climate change. The research will work on the assumption that our current climate corresponds to the climate of a warm period and is therefore comparable to past warm periods. An integrated approach will be used to study the data, which will be combined from all climate archives for the first time.
(Coordinator: Prof. Michael Schulz, University of Bremen)

Engineering Sciences

The attempt to model localised extreme weather phenomena, such as tornados, hurricanes or cyclones, in as much detail as possible poses a great challenge for meteorologists. The main problem they face is the fact that, to date, it has been impossible to accurately model physical phenomena that take place on very different scales, both in terms of time and space. This is the issue that the Priority Programme "Synoptic Modelling in Fluid Mechanics and Meteorology" will address. Meteorologists, fluid engineers and mathematicians will cooperate to develop new modelling methods to solve this task.
(Coordinator: Prof. Rupert Klein, Free University of Berlin)

The Priority Programme "Colloid Process Engineering" will focus on developing principles for creating and processing novel, tailor-made colloids. The research will deal primarily with issues such as modelling, production and controlling particles in liquids. This will involve not only chemistry and process engineering, but also physics.
(Coordinator: Prof. Matthias Kind, University of Karlsruhe)

One of the main subjects within computer science is the development of algorithms and data structures. Their efficiency is the basic prerequisite for sophisticated computer applications, which need to handle ever increasing quantities of data on hardware that is becoming more and more complex. So far, algorithmics has often developed highly simplified models. The goal of the Priority Programme "Algorithm Engineering" is to bridge the gap between theory and practice. The key to achieving this is a broader methodology that significantly expands the traditional triad of algorithm theory (drafting, analysis and provable performance guarantees) to open up new perspectives for numerous fields of application.
(Coordinator: Prof. Peter Sanders, University of Karlsruhe)

Computer-aided material design is set to take centre stage in material science. One of the current areas being addressed in this field concerns the description of how a solid forms from a melt. In the Priority Programme "Nucleation and Growth Kinetics in Colloids and Metal Alloys" mathematicians, physicists, material scientists and engineers have for the first time combined research on nucleation and microstructure formation processes in metals with colloid research. In this programme they aim to gain a comprehensive understanding and inter-scale simulation of these processes.
(Coordinator: Prof. Heike Emmerich, RWTH Aachen University)

The Priority Programme "Adaptive Surfaces for High-Temperature Applications" aims to further improve the development of new protective coatings for high-temperature components such as those found in power stations and high-pressure plants. The objective of this research is to develop basic principles for layered systems that react to their environment just like living skin, with sensory properties, protective properties and permeability, in order to assist in the development of functional technical components. This will involve cooperation between material scientists, physicists, chemists and corrosion researchers.
(Coordinator: Prof. Christoph Leyens, BTU Cottbus)

In digitally networked dynamic systems a variety of components are connected to controllers via a common, sometimes wireless communication network. The objective of the Priority Programme "Control Theory of Digitally Networked Dynamic Systems" is to develop a control theory based on theoretical approaches to control theory and mathematical control theory, which can be used to model, analyse and design this type of system. This project will therefore involve theoretical control engineers and theoretical system mathematicians.
(Coordinator: Prof. Jan Lunze, University of Bochum)

In addition to these programmes, the DFG Senate has also established the programme "Atmospheric and Earth System Research with the 'High Altitude and Long Range Research Aircraft' (HALO)" to support university cooperation in the field of atmospheric research. Many processes in atmospheric research, such as cloud formation and photochemical processes, are still not thoroughly understood. This is primarily because the relevant mechanisms take place on scales of time and space that cannot be measured simultaneously. Due to the combination of its great range (8,000 km) and altitude (15.5 km), the research aircraft HALO has now made it possible to study processes such as the spreading of aerosols over long periods of time and at great distances. The use of HALO will put German atmospheric research at the leading edge of international atmospheric research.
(Coordinator: Prof. Jost Heintzenberg, Institute for Tropospheric Research (IfT), Leipzig)

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

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