Public Release:  New DFG Research Centre on Biodiversity: Decision for Leipzig/Jena/Halle-Wittenberg

Joint committee selects joint proposal from 3 states; exploration and protection of the natural foundations of life; 33 million euros initially through 2016; based in Leipzig

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

This release is available in German.

The decision on the establishment of the new Research Centre of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) on Integrative Biodiversity Research has been made. The DFG's Joint Committee, at its meeting on 27 April 2012 in Bonn, followed the recommendation of the DFG Senate and selected the joint proposal by the three universities of Leipzig, Jena and Halle-Wittenberg for the now seventh DFG Research Centre. Set to launch later this year, the centre will combine various interdisciplinary research activities on biodiversity at an internationally visible level. The overall objective is the exploration, and thus the protection, of the natural foundations of life. The new Research Centre will initially be funded for four years and receive about 33 million euros during this period. The institution will be named "iDiv - German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research" and based in Leipzig.

The DFG's Joint Committee had to choose between four candidates: the Free University of Berlin, the University of Göttingen, the consortium of the universities of Leipzig/Jena/Halle-Wittenberg, and the University of Oldenburg. They had been selected in July 2011 by the DFG Senate from 11 proposals submitted by 15 universities in response to the announcement of the Research Centre in October 2010. The four shortlisted entries underwent a comparative review in January 2012 by an international panel. Its vote narrowed the competition down to two finalists deemed equally excellent: the proposals from Berlin and from the Saxony/Thuringia/Saxony-Anhalt consortium, the latter of which ultimately prevailed.

"The centre planned by the three universities has the potential to become within a few years an internationally visible location of biodiversity research," said DFG President Matthias Kleiner after the decision. The Research Centre will be based around four key questions: How can biodiversity be recorded? How does it arise and maintain itself? What impact does it have on the functioning of ecosystems? How can it be protected? Answers to these questions will be pursued in the five research areas of biodiversity theory, interactive ecology, evolution and adaptation, biodiversity conservation, and biodiversity synthesis. A centre for synthesis will promote collaboration between the various disciplines of biodiversity research as well as the creative development of the entire field. The participating researchers in iDiv have backgrounds in biology, chemistry and physics, geosciences, economics, and computer science.

The proposed centre was persuasive not only for its scientific design but also for the scientific and structural environment at the three universities, which are located in proximity. These institutions already have a high profile and host numerous, sometimes internationally oriented research projects in the biodiversity sciences. Also involved in the new centre are a number of non-university research institutions, including several Max Planck institutes, the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig, and institutes of the Leibniz Association. The cooperation between the three universities and the non-university institutions - including joint interstate funding of new professorships, research groups and infrastructure - was regarded as exemplary.

Thirteen new professorships and research groups will be established as part of the centre. Great importance is attached to the training of early-career researchers, some of which will take place in an integrated graduate school. Another key focus will be the communication of the centre's research activities to the general public.

The new centre is the seventh institution established under the Research Centres Programme, which the DFG initiated in the year 2000 as a particularly strategic funding instrument. The first three centres - "The Ocean in the Earth System" in Bremen, "Functional Nanostructures" in Karlsruhe and "Experimental Biomedicine" in Würzburg - were set up in 2001 and last extended in 2009 through mid-2013. Two other centres - "MATHEON: Mathematics for Key Technologies" in Berlin and "Molecular Physiology of the Brain" in Göttingen - were established in 2002 and last extended in 2010 through 2014. The year 2006 saw the launch of the "Research Centre for Regenerative Therapies" in Dresden, which is currently in its second funding period through the end of 2013. Research Centres may be funded for up to twelve years.

Featuring combined scientific expertise as well as cooperation between universities and non-university institutions, Research Centres were also the model for the Excellence Initiative's clusters of excellence; four of the six DFG Research Centres are also funded as clusters of excellence. Unlike clusters of excellence, however, the DFG's centres are announced for specific topics. They are intended to be internationally visible research institutions that raise the profiles of the respective universities and establish excellent training and career conditions for young researchers.

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Further Information

Media contact:
DFG Press and Public Relations Office, tel. +49 228 885-2443, presse@dfg.de

Contacts at the DFG Head Office:
For scientific inquiries on biodiversity research:
Dr. Roswitha Schönwitz,
Life Sciences Division, Tel. +49 228 885-2362, Roswitha.Schoenwitz@dfg.de

For inquiries on the DFG Research Centres Programme:
Dr. Thomas Münker,
Research Centres Division, Tel. +49 228 885-2307, Thomas.Muenker@dfg.de

Additional information is also available from the designated speaker of the planned Research Centre:
Prof. Dr. Christian Wirth,
University of Leipzig, Faculty of Biosciences, Pharmacy and Psychology, Institute of Biology I, Tel. +49 341 97 38 59 1, cwirth@uni-leipzig.de

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