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DFG Establishes 9 New Research Units

( Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft ) Topics range from three-dimensional railway line planning to changes in rice cultivation and political communication in the online age/First group in new acoustics funding area established

This release is available in German.

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is to establish nine new Research Units. This decision was taken by the DFG's Senate at its February session in Bonn. The new groups are intended to provide researchers with the opportunity to address current and urgent issues in their fields and to develop new research strategies.

Like all DFG Research Units, the new facilities will take an interdisciplinary and multi-locational approach. Five of the new groups involve international projects in which researchers will collaborate with colleagues in Denmark, Israel, the Netherlands, the Philippines and Switzerland.

The nine Research Units cover all the DFG's major research areas, from life sciences to natural and engineering sciences right through to humanities and social sciences. Topics covered include such diverse subjects as multiscale 3D modelling for planning subway and tram routes, the creation of new algorithms and communication strategies for electricity transmission networks, and the geometry and physics of spatially coincident structures. Other groups will examine the influence of the omnipresent online media on political communication and how changes in rice cultivation in Southeast Asia affect climate change.

During the first three-year funding period, the nine new Research Units will receive a good 19.3 million euros in total funding. Adding these new Research Units will bring the total number of DFG-funded Research Units to 220.

The New Research Units in Detail (in alphabetical order by coordinating university)

The "Transkulturelle Verhandlungsräume von Kunst" ["Transcultural Negotiation Spaces in Art"] Research Unit aims to break new ground in art history. This Research Unit will examine objets d'art and artistic practices that have either highlighted or already processed cultural differences, and are, therefore, considered agents within a transcultural negotiation space. Against this backdrop, the group will examine both old forms of expansion and exchange and the newest forms of sociocultural integration, paving the way for a reorientation in the field. The group's research will encompass the modern world system's entire period of origin, from the 13th century to the present day, and will cover Africa, Europe, North and South America and East Asia. The Research Unit will also use this combination of synchronous and diachronous approaches to contribute to a "Global Art History" in Germany.

(Coordinating University: The Free University of Berlin; Coordinator: Professor Gregor Stemmrich)

The Research Unit entitled "Simulation and Evaluation of Acoustical Environments" (SEACEN) is the first Research Unit in the DFG's new "acoustics" funding area. The new group, which also involves researchers from Israel and the Netherlands, focuses on what is known as the "auralisation" of acoustic realities. Research into this process is of great significance not only for basic research, but also for a wide variety of applications in media, room acoustics and virtual reality. Not least, the results of this research are intended to help answer questions such as the following: How can the acoustic quality of a room be objectivised? How can music from a concert hall be replicated as accurately as possible elsewhere? How must the sound be recorded, processed and reproduced to preserve- primarily - the acoustic impression of being in a concert hall? How must virtual sound fields be modelled and reproduced in order to create realistic acoustic impressions of different spaces?

(Coordinating University: Technical University of Berlin; Coordinator: Professor Stefan Weinzierl)

The further development of microsystems into "smart systems" is the object and aim of the "Sensorische Mikro- und Nanosysteme" [Sensory Micro- and Nanosystems"] Research Unit. The researchers involved aim to use their research to advance considerably beyond the microsystems currently available on the market. These are based mainly on silicone microtechnologies from older process generations. Doing so involves further miniaturising the components, incorporating nanotechnologies in manufacturing and using new materials. Doing so will, on the one hand, enable more functions to be integrated into a single component. It will also enable this component to provide new and considerably improved functionality. The smart systems created in this way will be even better at describing and evaluating situations, making anticipatory decisions and communicating with their environments.

(Coordinating University: Chemnitz University of Technology; Coordinator: Professor Thomas Geßner)

Electrical energy transmission networks link power stations across entire continents, provide electricity to customers, and serve as marketplaces and integration platforms for renewable energies. The demands on these networks are becoming increasingly complex - and so, too, are their control, monitoring and protection requirements. A new Research Unit now aims to develop new protection and control systems for maximum-voltage transmission networks, which span multiple continents. This process involves performing research into new protection and control algorithms designed, for example, to optimise system monitoring, improve reactions to short-term overloads, and make major outages easier to prevent. The Unit will also carry out research into powerful communication networks and strategies with the aim of developing real-time-capable information and communications technology. The combination of these two focus areas is intended to make electrical energy transmission systems even more reliable and secure.

(Coordinating University: The Technical University of Dortmund, Coordinator: Professor Christian Rehtanz)

The focus of the "Politische Kommunikation in der Online-Welt" ["Political Communication in the Online World"] Research Unit is both a dynamic and politically and socially significant one. This team of German and Swiss communication researchers will examine how open communication between citizens, political organisations and media has changed through the advent of the now omnipresent online media, such as online newspapers, search engines, video portals, social networks and blogs. This is linked to the issue of the political consequences of these changes - the effect they have had on voters' political preferences, for example, or on the structures of political organisations. In order to answer these key questions, the Research Unit wants to perform empirical research using panel studies to examine the changes in political communication. The group also intends to examine and link what have, until now, been separate theoretical approaches to online communication. Examining a range of individual projects will, after all, illuminate the connections between communication changes, media changes and political changes from different perspectives.

(Coordinating University: The Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf; Coordinator: Professor Gerhard Vowe)

Rice cultivation is tremendously significant, not only in feeding the world's population, but also from an environmental perspective. The new Research Unit, which is known as "Introducing Non-Flooded Crops in Rice-Dominated Landscapes" will use modern molecular, pedological and plant physiological methods to study the environmental consequences of current and future changes in rice cultivation in large areas of Southeast Asia. In doing so, the group will pay particular attention to the effects modified rice cultivation systems have on the biogeochemical carbon and nitrogen cycles, on the emission of greenhouse gases and on the water balance. The team will gain impetus from cooperation with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines, where agricultural varieties of rice and cultivation techniques are developed.

(Coordinating University: The Justus Liebig University of Gießen; Coordinator: Professor Volkmar Wolters)

The planning of tram, train and subway routes and similar infrastructural measures in urban environments, as well as the associated construction of the requisite under- and overpasses, is becoming increasingly complex; the legal, environmental, economic and design ramifications are becoming more diverse, and the number of participants with - in some cases - widely diverging competencies, levels of knowledge and interests, is constantly increasing. The Research Unit aims to use a "computer-aided cooperative route planning system in multi-scale 3D town and architectural models" to considerably simplify the planning process. In order to do this, the two-dimensional planning models normally used are to be expanded to create three- and four-dimensional town and architectural models. The research group aims to combine technologies from the areas of geographical information systems, computer vision and collaborative planning platforms in new ways, and to investigate new approaches to interactive, parametric route planning, image-based "real time" localisation in 3D and multiscale 3D modelling. The results should prove highly significant for basic research in the engineering sciences, as well as in planning, for applications including on-site mobile systems.

(Coordinating Institution: The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT): Coordinator: Professor Martin Breunig)

The new "Geometry and Physics of Spatial Random Systems" Research Unit aims to bridge the gap between mathematics and physics. This Unit will examine spatially coincident structures in geometry and physics. On the mathematical side, the group aims primarily to further develop the methods and models used in spatial stochastics, in particular in stochastic geometry. The group also intends to examine the relevance these mathematical tools have for the physics of complex structured materials, thus linking the group's research to condensed matter and statistical physics. The physicists involved will focus (among other topics) on analysing the distribution of galaxies within the universe and on studying mesoscopic structures in microemulsions. They will do so using the stochastic methods developed. The planned research, which includes a project involving researchers from Denmark, is particularly significant due to the exceptionally varied application opportunities for stochastic geometry in the analysis, modelling and simulation of microscopic and macroscopic geographical structures.

(Coordinating Institution: The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT): Coordinator: Professor Günter Last)

A new Research Unit involving researchers working in the synthetic, spectroscopic and theoretical fields aims to explore and utilise the far-reaching opportunities provided by laser- and synchrotron-based radiation sources in answering chemical and biological questions. As its name ["Dynamik von Elektronentransferprozessen an Ãœbergangsmetallzentren in biologischen und bioanorganischen Systemen"] indicates, the group will investigate the "Dynamics of Electron Transfer Processes at Transition Metal Centres in Biological and Bioinorganic Systems". The group's research will focus primarily on time-resolved measurements. It has not, until now, been possible to perform these using conventional radiation sources. The group will examine chemical model systems which have already been well-researched in themselves, but which are expected to provide considerable new insights with the application of the new methods. The planned experiments, which will be carried out at various locations including Deutsche Elektronen-Synchotron (DESY), are intended to provide strong impetus to both the bioinorganic field and to biological research into metalloenzymes.

(Coordinating University: University of Paderborn, Coordinator: Professor Gerhard Henkel)