Brussels, 26 Feb 2004
The German Research Foundation (DFG) announced on 25 February that it is to create 14 new research units where scientists and academics will attempt to answer 'special scientific questions'.
The units will adopt an interdisciplinary, and in some cases interregional, approach to intriguing puzzles in the fields of life sciences, humanities and social sciences, the natural sciences and engineering. The 14 units will share more than 20 million euro over the next three years, with further funding covering a total of six years of investigation.
The full range of questions that the units will examine makes for an eclectic final list. Under the life sciences heading, an interregional unit including teams from Berlin, Munich and Hanover, will study new methods in genetic engineering and immunology to further the development of technology that allows pig organs to be transplanted into humans. The aim is to find new ways of overcoming the global shortage of human organ donors.
Humanities researchers from the Free University in Berlin, meanwhile, will look for new perspectives in the study of so called 'self-reports', such as diaries, letters or travel reports. The objective is to examine the social practice of self-reports from different cultures, countries and eras, and determine the differences and similarities.
The question of exactly how dust from the Sahara desert, which can be found everywhere in the northern hemisphere, enters the atmosphere and affects the climate will be occupying the new research unit called the 'Saharan mineral dust experiment'. The team will carry out their research using satellite data and measurements taken from aeroplanes.
A second group of natural scientists from the University of Bonn and six other institutions will be trying to unlock the evolutionary secrets of the sauropod dinosaurs, one of the largest life forms ever seen on Earth. Through a combined approach of palaeontology, zoology and biomechanics, they will attempt to find out why the bodies of these creatures came to assume such enormous dimensions, and how they managed to function.
The DFG states that its objective in establishing the new units is to promote collaboration among outstanding scientists and academics throughout Germany, and thereby create new areas of research within universities.
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