Public Release: 

Four new research units established

Topics range from paleoarcheology to the perception of risk, total of €7 million for the first funding period

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft

This news release is available in German.

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing four new Research Units. This was decided by the DFG Senate in Bonn. The research collaborations offer researchers the possibility of pursuing current and pressing issues in their research areas and establishing innovative work directions. The maximum funding duration of Research Units is two periods of three years. In the initial funding period, the four new groups will receive approximately 7 million euros in total. The DFG currently funds 197 Research Units.

The new Research Units (in alphabetical order by host university)

The history of the Earth shows that when the temperature rises, it is the largest members of an animal group that die first. The smaller animals survive. This is called the Lilliput Effect and is just one example of how knowledge of paleobiology can help to predict the impact of the global rise in temperature with greater accuracy. The new Research Unit "Temperature-Related Stresses as a Unifying Principle in Ancient Extinctions (TERSANE)" will focus on climate-related extinction events at the Permian-Triassic boundary and during the early Jurassic period. What were the stress factors that caused the massive ecological changes which led to mass extinctions? The interdisciplinary projects will combine geochemical studies with paleobiological analyses and physiological experiments to reveal new information about the effects of global warming.

(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Kießling, Host University: University of Erlangen-Nuremberg)

Why do people sometimes tend towards high-risk behaviour although they are aware of the dangerous implications for their health? The psychological Research Unit "The Dynamics of Risk - Perception and Behavior in the Context of Mental and Physical Health (RISKDYNAMICS)" will be investigating the role played by an individual's perception of risk in preventative behavior. There is an assumption that this is particularly important in societies in which individuals have to expose themselves to health risks and take responsibility for this themselves. The Research Unit will analyse the stability and dynamics of risk perception of this nature over a period of time, looking at processes before, during and after a risk event. It will also look at the communication of risk in groups and social networks.

(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Britta Renner, Host University: University of Konstanz)

"The Mountain Exile Hypothesis: How Humans Benefited from and Re-shaped African High Altitude Ecosystems During Quaternary Climate Changes" is the title of a new Research Unit which will be looking at the Bale Mountains in Ethiopia: how much human influence on the ecosystem in the high-altitude afroalpine zone can be detected? Did humans seek safety at higher altitudes thousands of years ago and what is the evidence for this? In a multidisciplinary approach involving geographical, geochemical, archaeological, ecological and biological methods, the researchers want to reconstruct the natural history of the ecosystem in the Bale Mountains and identify anthropogenic processes which have contributed to its evolution.

(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Georg Miehe, Host University: University of Marburg)

The Research Unit "Resilience - Periods of Upheaval in Society in the Dialogue between Mediaeval Studies and Sociology" wants to find out whether the modern psychological term "resilience", which is the ability to survive moments of crisis, would be helpful and productive for the examination of pre-modern historical constellations. Disruptive events in Italy in the 13th century such as failed harvests, plague, wars and persecutions will be interpreted from a social constructionist angle and their causes, their sociopolitical, socioeconomic and sociocultural resources and their consequences examined. This is intended to create a historical-empirical typology of resilience processes and strategies.

(Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Lukas Clemens, Host University: University of Trier)


Further Information

Media contact:

DFG Press and Public Relations, Tel. +49 228 885-2443,

Further information will be provided by the spokespersons of the established units.

For more information on Research Units, go to

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