More freedom to take risks: DFG funds the first Reinhart Koselleck Projects

December 18, 2008

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has given six scientists more freedom to do especially innovative and higher-risk research. They are the first researchers to be awarded funding under the DFG's Reinhart Koselleck Projects programme. They will each receive a lump sum of between 500,000 euros and 1.25 million euros for their planned research work, which they will be able to use flexibly over a five-year period.

The DFG's Reinhart Koselleck Projects grants programme allows recognised scientists and researchers to conduct research projects that would be impossible under the auspices of their own institution or other DFG funding programmes. Since it is usually more difficult to plan particularly innovative and risky research than it is for normal research work, the only application requirements are a five-page project outline, although the applicants are also expected to have a proven track record in order to justify the trust and confidence placed in them. "What we are interested in is bold ideas and people who are capable of putting them into practice," explained the President of the DFG, Professor Matthias Kleiner, on announcement of the first awards by the Joint Committee of Germany's largest research funding organisation. Even renowned researchers who wanted to do higher-risk, promising research have had no such opportunities to apply for funding, Kleiner continued. "The unusually high level of risk may be an adventurous idea, an original hypothesis or even a novel or innovatively applied methodology. The Reinhart Koselleck Projects thus close a crucial gap in the DFG's portfolio and in German research funding as a whole."

The patron of the new funding programme is Reinhart Koselleck, one of the most important German historians of the 20th century, who died in 2006 and was one of the founding fathers of modern social history in Germany. The Koselleck Projects programme was initiated in January 2008 by the DFG's Joint Committee, and the DFG has been accepting funding proposals since June 2008.

The first Reinhart Koselleck Projects in brief:

Prof. Dr. Klaus Fiedler (57), social psychology, professor at the Institute of Psychology at the University of Heidelberg

Klaus Fiedler aims to take a cognitive-ecological approach to developing decision making research that includes the ecological limits of rational decision making. With this alternative to traditional approaches to explaining decision making he hopes to find answers to the burning questions of the modern information age. To do so, Fiedler hopes to establish a high-calibre network of leading researchers and stimulate intense debate between younger researchers by means of a special funding programme focussing on the field.

Prof. Dr. Reiner Kirchheim (65), materials science, professor at the Institute of Material Physics at the University of Göttingen

By taking an experimental and theoretical approach, Reiner Kirchheim aims to demonstrate that the well-known effect of surface-active substances can be generalised to apply to defects in solids. This may make it possible to stabilise certain atoms and molecules in materials with defects and to develop novel material properties, for example nanoporous metals as an innovative form of hydrogen storage, or nanocrystalline steel. In addition to this, Kirchheim also wants to find out whether this approach may make it possible to reduce the energy of formation of defects to zero - a problem that is also of interest in many other disciplines.

Prof. Dr. Dominik Marx (45), theoretical chemistry, professor at the Faculty of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the Ruhr University of Bochum

Dominik Marx is interested in the theoretical study of chemical reactions that are brought about by mechanical effects on chemicals, and in particular by intramolecular electron pair bonding. These processes are fundamentally different to reactions that are thermally or photochemically induced, as are normally studied in experimental and theoretical studies. A particular focus of this project will be on mechanochemical simulations. For instance, Marx aims to investigate numerous different systems and types of reaction. The results of these studies will initially be theoretically analysed by a combination of statistical mechanics and electronic structure. The long term goal, however, is to propose a general framework and guidelines for understanding mechanochemistry.

Prof. Dr. Erich Schröger (50), psychology, professor at the Institute of Psychology at the University of Leipzig

Humans are mentally adaptable thanks to their ability to interpret the world about them, make implicit and explicit predictions about the future, and thus evaluate the consequences of their own actions. Erich Schröger aims to expand and merge two traditionally separate fields of research in cognitive and biological psychology. He is particularly interested in automatic modelling and the systematic acquisition of auditory rules as well as the suppression of the brain's responses to autogenous auditory stimuli. By taking a primarily experimental approach, Schröger hopes to prove that the prediction and verification of what was predicted play a key role in both of these areas and that they are based on similar cognitive processes.

Dr. Roland Schüle (51), molecular medicine, Head of Clinical Research at Freiburg University Hospital

Prostate cancer, one of the most common forms of cancer amongst men in the western hemisphere, is the focal point of Roland Schüle's research. At present there is neither an appropriate form of clinical management, nor of long-term therapy for patients with androgen-independent prostate carcinomas. Schüle therefore plans to use his Reinhart Koselleck Project funding to characterise the molecular mechanisms of this condition and derive innovative therapeutic options from the results.

Dr. Stefan Schuster (42), DFG Heisenberg Fellow and privatdozent at the Institute of Zoology II at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg

How does our brain control complex decision-making and how does it adapt to the ever changing circumstances and conditions in our environment? Stefan Schuster wants to study these key questions of cognitive neurobiology at the cellular level in fish. Schuster will combine behavioural physiology, electrophysiology, functional imaging, computational neuroscience and zebrafish genetics. He aims to determine how the world is represented at the level of very small decision-making networks in the mammalian brain in such a way that flexible, yet nevertheless reliable action is possible.
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Further Information

Information about the Reinhart Koselleck Projects is available at: www.dfg.de/en/research_funding/individual_grants_programme/reinhart_koselleck_projects/

For further information from the DFG, please contact: Dr. Sarah Holthausen, Tel. +49 228 885-2032, Sarah.Holthausen@dfg.de

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

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