New German-Japanese collaboration in the neurosciences

October 11, 2010

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) are expanding their successful collaboration to encompass a particularly promising area of research. With assistance from the two funding organisations and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), researchers from Germany and Japan will carry out joint projects in the field of computational neuroscience. An agreement was signed by BMBF State Secretary Dr. Georg Schütte, DFG President Professor Matthias Kleiner and JST President Professor Koichi Kitazawa during the international "Science and Technology in Society" forum in Kyoto, Japan.

Within the neurosciences, the significance of the field of computational neuroscience has increased rapidly in a short period of time. In addition to using modelling to gain a better understanding of neural networks, combining neuroscientific approaches with artificial intelligence, robotics and other technical systems is becoming increasingly significant. Approaches involving medical technology, such as those involving controlling prosthetics or writing aids through what are known as "brain-machine interfaces" are being lent tremendous impetus by advances in the field of computational neuroscience.

"An intensive and extremely beneficial cooperative relationship has existed between the DFG and our Japanese partner organisation, the JST, for years," said DFG President Kleiner during the signing of the joint agreement. The cooperation begun in 2006 in the field of nanotechnology has been particularly fruitful, leading to the establishment of numerous joint projects and collaborative groups of German and Japanese researchers. "Expanding this collaboration to the field of computational neuroscience is simply a natural progression," Kleiner emphasised. "In both countries, there are numerous strong research groups focusing on this topic, and several of them have already established cooperative relationships. We now want to focus this expertise more strongly."

The collaboration that has now been arranged will follow a multistep process. First, German and Japanese researchers will convene in Japan in spring 2011 for a workshop. This workshop is intended to design a call for specific research projects, for which researchers from both countries can submit joint proposals. These will then be reviewed jointly by the DFG, the JST and the BMBF, and funded on the Japanese side by the JST and on the German side by the DFG and the BMBF.

BMBF State Secretary Schütte issued the following clarifying statement: "The BMBF has been promoting the dynamic discipline of Computational Neuroscience since 2004. In establishing the National Bernstein Network for Computational Neuroscience, the Ministry for Education and Research has created a strong structure for outstanding German research in this field. This structure will now facilitate interesting international research cooperation." The National Bernstein Network for Computational Neuroscience receives funding of around 160 million euros from the BMBF. The Bernstein Network comprises six Bernstein Centers for Computational Neuroscience, which form the core elements of the network. Excellent early career researchers are honoured with the Bernstein Prize, which is awarded annually. Cooperation with international partners is facilitated by a German node as part of the "International Neuroinformatics Coordination Facility" (INCF). Furthermore, a joint funding initiative has recently been set up between the BMBF and the American NSF and the NIH to promote German-American project cooperation.
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Further Information

Information on the existing DFG-JST cooperation projects is available online at: www.dfg.de/dfg_profil/im_internationalen_kontext/internationale_partner/Japan/index.html

Information on cooperation between Japanese and German researchers, as well as on the funding opportunities provided by the DFG, is also available from the DFG's Japan Office. Contact person: Dr. Iris Wieczorek, Tel. +81 3 35892507, Iris.Wieczorek@dfg.de

Contact person for technical enquiries relating to Computational Neuroscience: Dr. Jan Kunze, Life Sciences Department, Tel. +49 228 885-2297, Jan.Kunze@dfg.de

BMBF contact person for technical questions: Dr. Christiane Buchholz, Tel. +49 30 18575110, Christiane.Buchholz@bmbf.bund

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

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