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Leibniz Collaborative Excellence

Connectivity and synchronisation of lake ecosystems in space and time

Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB)

The project CONNECT will establish a collaborative network between experts in remote sensing and freshwater ecology. The combination of established in situ high frequency measurements with near and far remote sensing tools will bridge existing gaps in temporal and spatial resolution, enabling the parallel investigation of numerous lake ecosystems in a regional landscape context. Lakes are hotspots of biodiversity, play an important role in the global carbon cycle, and serve as sentinels of climate change. Despite their spatially well-defined and seemingly island-like location in the terrestrial landscape matrix, lakes are generally not isolated. Instead, their chemistry and biology is strongly controlled by aquatic-terrestrial coupling through lake catchment properties, often related to land-use, and connectivity to other lake ecosystems, both shaping aquatic community composition and ecosystem functioning. The goal of our study is to disentangle the influence of local and regional processes on the current state of lake ecosystems as well as on lake response patterns following strong environmental disturbances. Our highly interdisciplinary team aims to provide the scientific basis for future sustainable and integrative lake management of key ecosystem services, e.g. provision of drinking water, recreation and fisheries on local, to regional and global scales.


Using “signatures of selection” to decipher key mechanisms regulating fe/male fertility

Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology (FBN)

Curative therapies for infertility are rare, because the complex network of mechanisms determining reproductive success is largely unknown. To decipher parts of this network we use worldwide unique mouse lines created by long-term selection (180 generations) for the integrative fertility traits “increased litter size and weight”. These traits comprise core reproductive processes (i. a. gonad development, gamete recruitment, ovulation, fertilization and embryonic/fetal development). In the selection mouse lines, 45 years of litter size maximization have carved the causal alleles out of the genome as patterns of genetic invariance, the so-called “signatures of selection”. We aim to detect these characteristic frequency patterns of alleles causal for the selected traits and identify the affected genes and pathways. We test if the genomic patterns resulting from selection for increased litter size (a primarily female trait) are also relevant for male reproductive physiology and performance. Finally, we employ comparative animal models to verify their general significance. With this project we will provide substantial new knowledge about the network of genes and pathways actually relevant for controlling central reproductive processes in mammals.


Epigenetic regulation of ImmuneAging: Heterochromatic DNA methylation as a regulator of T cell senescence

German Rheumatism Research Center Berlin (DRFZ)

Eines der größten Probleme des Alterns ist die reduzierte Wirksamkeit des Immunsystems, die zu verschiedensten altersbedingten Erkrankungen, einem erhöhten Infektionsrisiko und reduziertem Impferfolg führen kann. T-Lymphozyten sind essentiell am Alterungsprozess des Immunsystems beteiligt und zeigen dabei eine charakteristische chemische Veränderung (De-Methylierung) der DNA. Diese sogenannte "epigenetische" Veränderung wirken sich nicht auf die DNA-Sequenz, wohl aber auf die Struktur der DNA aus. In dem Projekt, das im Leibniz-Wettbewerb 2018 gefördert wurde, werden daher die Mechanismen und funktionellen Konsequenzen der DNA-De-Methylierung in T-Lymphozyten während des Alterungsprozesses des Immunsystems untersucht. Die Ergebnisse sollen nicht nur die internationale Grundlagenforschung voranbringen, sondern auch potentielle Biomarker für die Prävention und Behandlung der altersbedingten Immunschwäche identifizieren. Das Vorhaben führt somit das Leibniz-Thema „Gesundes Altern“ in exzellenter Weise weiter. Das interdisziplinäre Konsortium vereint die Kompetenz von vier Leibniz-Instituten und zwei universitären Partnern und verbindet zelluläre Grundlagenforschung mit klinischer Forschung.


Kritischer Katalog der Luther-Bildnisse (1519-1530)

Germanisches Nationalmuseum (GNM)

Die Bedeutung Martin Luthers für die Religions- und Kulturgeschichte ist unbestritten. Im Gegensatz zum Erschließungsgrad seines Werkes sind die für seine Wirkungsgeschichte ebenso wichtigen Porträts weder vollständig gesammelt noch kritisch erschlossen. Ein kritisches Werkverzeichnis der Luther-Bildnisse ist daher ein wissenschaftliches und angesichts des Reformationsjubiläums auch ein kulturpolitisches Desiderat. Das Gemeinschaftsprojekt von Kunstgeschichte, Kunsttechnologie, Reformationsgeschichte und Informationstechnologie zielt auf eine qualifizierte Einschätzung der Herkunft, Datierung und Verbreitung des wichtigsten Porträtkomplexes der Frühen Neuzeit und verwirklicht damit paradigmatisch die Kooperation über Fakultäts- und Institutionengrenzen hinaus. Das interdisziplinäre Projekt zielt darauf ab, methodische und inhaltliche Grundlagen für ein Kritisches Werkverzeichnis aller Lutherbildnisse des 16. Jh. zu legen. Die traditionelle Analyse der Gemälde und Druckgraphiken soll mit informationstechnischen Ansätzen unterstützt werden, die auf Grund von Ähnlichkeiten in den Abbildungen die Abhängigkeiten und relativen Chronologien erschließen und damit neue Wege in den Digital Humanities beschreiten. Anhand der seriell gefertigten Lutherbildnisse sollen sowohl etablierte Methoden der Mustererkennung zur Ähnlichkeitssuche, als auch neueste Ansätze in der Anwendung von Deep Learning erprobt werden. Hier bieten sich unüberwachte oder semi-überwachte Verfahren an, die auch mit geringem Trainingsmaterial zu Recht kommen. Die Ergebnisse eröffnen in der Kunst- und Kirchengeschichte neue Zugänge zum Verständnis der seriellen Fertigung von Andachts- und Kultbildern, ihrer Funktion und Wirkung in Zeiten sich ändernder religiöser Praxis. 


Market Design by Public Authorities               

Berlin Social Science Center (WZB)

Market design is one of the fields in economics where theory and practice are married harmoniously and where research has improved real-life markets. This was recognized by the 2012 Nobel Prize in Economics awarded to Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapley "for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design".  This project aims to advance our understanding of market design by focusing on the role and incentives of the market designer. We will study the objectives of public authorities when designing markets by taking into account political constraints such as re-election motives as well as corruption and favoritism. We ask how existing rules and outcomes of markets designed by public authorities can be explained, which leads to the question how the incentives of the policy makers can be adjusted to maximize welfare. We will focus on matching markets such as school choice mechanisms and the assignment of public services as well as on public procurement mechanisms.  The project will strengthen the leading role of the two Leibniz Institutes WZB and ZEW in the area of market design and will establish a network that includes the DIW and Ifo as well as the international players in the field.


Climate Change Impacts on Migration and Urbanization

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)

Humanity is on the move: Around the world, people leave rural livelihoods behind and flock to the cities, move abroad temporarily or permanently in search of better lives and opportunities, or are forcibly displaced from their homes by disasters or conflicts. As different as the direct drivers of migration can be - economic, social, environmental - and the spatial scales - from urban to continental scale - they must be considered together to understand how they may change under future climatic and socio-economic changes. This project will assess international migration, domestic migration, and urbanization, under climate change. Economic development, diasporas, and policies will be considered as main drivers of international migration, and used to project changes in migration flows under climate change. On the national scale, population changes will be distributed taking into account scenarios of polycentrism vs. primate cities as well as direct climate impacts, extending existing gridded population scenarios on a 0.5° grid (SSPs) by the impacts of climate change and migration. On the city scale, migration activities will be translated into urban land-cover changes preserving features of urban form. The project combines interdisciplinary expertise from climate change, migration, and urban development, to better understand the major processes and linkages involved.


Terahertz Detection of Atoms in Plasma Processes

Paul Drude Institute for Solid State Electronics (PDI)

The proposal Terahertz Detection of Atoms in Plasma Processes aims at the development of spectroscopic methods in the terahertz (THz) spectral range for the determination of the absolute density of atoms and ions for a variety of species in technologically relevant plasma processes such as plasma-aided deposition of AlN and Si-based films. The joint proposal brings together the expertise of the Paul-Drude-Institut für Festkörperelektronik in the field of customized THz quantum-cascade lasers for spectroscopic applications and of the Leibniz-Institut für Plasmaforschung und Technologie in the field of spectroscopic plasma diagnostics. Our novel approach is based on the detection of hyperfine transitions of the ground state in metal atoms and ions in the THz spectral range using quantum-cascade lasers. These lasers can be conveniently used in coolant-free Stirling coolers allowing for a compact setup. For the detection of Si, Al, N+, and O, single-mode quantum-cascade lasers emitting at 2.31, 3.36, 3.92, and 4.75 THz, respectively, will be developed. Frequency combs spanning the spectral range from 3.3 to 4.0 THz will be developed for the simultaneous detection of Al and N+ allowing for a compact process control system based on dual-comb spectroscopy for the deposition of AlN films.


Controlling and Switching of Function of Peptide and Protein based BioSurfaces: From Fundamentals to Applications

Leibniz Institute of Surface Engineering (IOM)

Biosurfaces are synthetic surfaces that are surface-modified with surface-linked biomolecules and they are designed to have a specific function or application. They are important in areas such as molecular sensing, bioanalytics, separation science, and biotechnology. In the present application an excellent team of interdisciplinary researchers aim at exploring the opportunities of the concept ’controlling and switching of function of peptide and protein based biosurfaces’, i.e., covalently bound peptides/peptide aggregates and proteins at or near the hybrid material surface in order to change function or to unravel and shed light into hidden mechanisms of novel functions, and to develop these concepts towards applications. Since there are numerous 'man made' systems with dedicated or discovered functions possible, we focus here on two main representative systems, i.e., modified surfaces, in which supramolecular fibrillar peptide aggregates or a protein covalently bound or linked with molecular linkers to metal or inorganic surfaces, whose function can be switched or controlled by a non-thermal stimulus (e.g., light, charge, fields) in order to change or restore function or to unravel mechanistic details of its molecular function. The systems under investigation are i) a charge/current switchable enzyme near an electrode surface without the need for co-factors, and ii) functional peptide aggregates covalently linked to surfaces in interaction with viruses and membranes. In the project experimental as well as theory groups closely collaborate on the same supramolecular systems. Within the current proposal novel approaches of surface modifications, biosurface synthesis, biophysical probes, molecular dynamics theory, as well as non-thermal concepts of controlling and switching of functions of peptide and protein based hybrid biosurfaces will be explored - with the ultimate goal to transfer the fundamental insights into new applications, e.g., in biotechnology.


Structures of Viral Proteins Essential for Replication and Transcription

Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM)

In 2016, the World Health Organization initiated the R&D Blueprint as a global strategy to enhance preparedness to future epidemics. It is to focus R&D on under-researched pathogens with epidemic potential for which there are no, or insufficient, countermeasures. The Blueprint list includes several negative-strand RNA viruses (NSV) such as Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus, Ebola and Marburg disease virus, Lassa fever virus, Nipah virus, and Rift Valley fever virus. They occur in Low and Middle Income Countries and outbreaks have devastating consequences to their society and economy. A major gap in knowledge is the structure and function of the replication machinery of these viruses. A key component is the large (200-250 kDa) L protein (polymerase), an attractive drug target harbouring several enzymatic activities essential for virus replication. Our aim is to produce ultra-pure full-length L proteins of NSV prioritized by the Blueprint, characterize their enzymatic activities, and solve their atomic structures using a range of innovative technologies. This collaborative project involves three excellent partners with complementary expertise in tropical virology, biochemistry, X-ray crystallography, and cryo electron tomography. The integrative approach will yield structural data and technological platforms that will greatly facilitate the future development of drugs against human-pathogenic RNA viruses.


Epigenetic stability and plasticity of social environmental effects

Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW)

Social status significantly affects Darwinian fitness by altering health, life history, and physiological trade-offs. Because social status is usually stable throughout life and a behaviourally transmitted trait, social inequalities persist within and across generations. Even so, the molecular mechanisms underlying these social effects are poorly understood. We hypothesize that DNA-methylation is a main epigenetic pathway through which an individual’s social environment regulates gene expression and hence physiological responses and life-history trade-offs. We predict that methylation patterns in individuals experiencing social stability will promote status-specific trade-offs. We further predict that when the social environment results in status changes  as when high (low) born offspring are reared by a low (high) status surrogate mother, plasticity in methylation patterns should match the gene regulatory pathways, life-history trade-offs and fitness to the new social conditions. We test our hypothesis in the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), a highly social mammal on which we accumulated detailed life-history data and biological samples from 30 years. To assess the impact of status-specific methylation patterns on health, we will measure faecal immunoglobulin, cytokine levels and eukaryome diversity, and will control for the possible confounding effect of gut microbiomes. By linking for the first time in a wild social mammal changes in social status to DNA-methylation, fitness and health, this project will shed light on gene pathways underpinning social inequalities, their plasticity, health consequences and potential implications for humans.


Taxation in the Era of Digital Transformation

Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW)

The digital transformation is considered the major economic development since the industrial revolution. The intensive use of information and communication technologies (ICT) affects how firms produce and provide goods and services, gives rise to new business models and transforms traditional ones. The digital transformation is thus considered a key determinant of growth and innovation. It also entails massive challenges for the government sector and welfare state including the financing of public budgets through taxation. Major issues for existing tax systems are that (1) ICT enables firms to serve markets without physical presence (i.e. tax nexus), (2) new business models increasingly uncouple value creation from tax jurisdictions, (3) the massive use of data and intangible property amplifies transfer pricing problems. Policy endeavors to reform tax systems in view of these challenges (e.g. prominently in OECD actions against “base erosion and profit shifting”: BEPS) have not yet been substantiated by empirical investigations of the role of digital transformation in tax sensitivity of decision making. Against this background, the aim of the proposed research project is to understand the impact of digital transformation on how firms create value, earn profits or design prices and how this could be linked to current or new principles of taxation. The empirical evidence derived from this project will help to clarify the role of digitalization in profit shifting activity, the potential side-effects of countermeasures, competition implications and opportunities for tax administration and enforcement and, finally, promising tax policy strategies for a digitally transforming economy. The project consortium reflects the multidisciplinarity needed and sets up sustainable collaboration of  leading researchers and institutions from economics of information and communication technologies, public finance, business administration, law, and applied information science.


Search as Learning - Investigating, Enhancing and Predicting Learning during Web Search

German National Library of Science and Technology (TIB)

Established information retrieval approaches address the relevance of search results to an information need, whereas the actual learning scope of a user is usually disregarded. Recent research in the search as learning area has recognized the importance of learning scopes and focused on observing and detecting learning needs. However, it has often been restricted to limited and isolated feature sets or specific learning tasks. High-dimensional feature spaces, (audio)visual information, or the generalizability of previous work to support various learning needs by retrieval, ranking, and recommendations have not been investigated yet.   The proposed interdisciplinary project aims at closing this gap by researching methods to improve retrieval performance and individuals' learning through (a) an accurate detection and prediction of learning needs and knowledge gains during search by means of query logs, navigation logs, eye-tracking and thinking-aloud data, which serve as a basis for (b) supporting users in their learning tasks through an enhanced retrieval and ranking process and recommendations, as well as for (c) suggesting appropriate and personalized recommendations including multimodal information (diagrams, slides, videos, etc.). Next to providing contributions to information retrieval and Web search, the project goes beyond previous work by also addressing semi-informal learning scenarios that involve search for scholarly and scientific (multimodal) information, literature, and videos in digital library portals, e.g., as offered by TIB's main web portal and the TIB AV-Portal for scientific videos. Since different kinds of learning tasks are associated with significantly different user behaviors and preferences, a thorough understanding of learning needs and cognitive and behavioral learning patterns from a psychological perspective is required. Results will be evaluated in a variety of scenarios and will lead to generalizable models and methods.


Barium stannate based heterostructures for electronic applications

Leibniz Institute for Crystal Growth (IKZ)

To overcome the speed gap between logical and memory devices has become a critical issue in information and communication technology. Novel non-volatile memory concepts have been proposed and significant progress has been made in recent years. Among them the ferroelectric gate  field-effect transistor has attracted much attention  due to its potential advantages such as high speed, low power consumption, high density  and non-volatility. However, several material issues have to be solved and fundamental questions that concern their performance are far from well understood. Mobile ionic charges, depolarization fields and gate leakage currents are critical issues that limit the retention time.  In this project, we will develop BaSnO3 based heterostructures with ferroelectric gates as a promising materials system for ferroelectric field effect transistors. Therefore, we will explore a growth technology for BaSnO3 bulks crystals and will grow lattice matched single crystalline epitaxial structures by molecular beam epitaxy as well as metalorganic vapor phase epitaxy. With crystalline material of highest structural quality at hand and ab-initio theory and characterization methods allowing monitoring processes on the atomic scale, we have best preconditions to enlighten these issues. This will allow the design of future devices with deliberate electronic properties.   The project is initiated by the Leibniz ScienceCampus GraFOx - "Growth and fundamentals of oxides for electronic applications". It will take full advantage of the allocated knowledge and experiences within the existing projects and will focus the activities on complex oxides within GraFOx.


Resilience Factors in a diachronic and intercultural perspective

Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum - Leibniz Research Institute for Archaeology (RGZM)

Since the beginning of mankind, humans have been exposed to situations of stress and crises. These include, for example, profound changes in the personal environment such as illness or death, social changes such as political, social or economic crises, but also ecological changes such as natural catastrophes or climate changes. Often such crises have led to decline and collapse but in many cases individuals, communities or even societies have proved to be resilient to such crises and threats or they were able to deal with these challenges. 

Today various scientific disciplines from life and social sciences to historical and archaeological disciplines examine which factors enable individuals, smaller or larger collectives to cope with stressful situations.  The aim of “Resilience Factors in a diachronic and intercultural perspective” is to bring these disciplines together. The project investigates how current concepts of life and social sciences can be transferred to historical disciplines, and - vice versa - how they can benefit from long-term diachronic and cross-cultural perspectives. In synchronic and diachronic as well as in intercultural and intracultural comparisons, specific stress situations are analysed in order to examine whether and to what extent similar factors were relevant for individuals and collectives. Furthermore the project offers insights in cultural and chronological occurrence of resilience factors. This innovative approach will not only enrich current debates in human, economic and social sciences with a new perspective, but will also contribute to the controversial ongoing discussion of human behavioural universals. In addition to the identification of specific resilience factors, the project also highlights cultural differences, questioning research traditions and paradigms, but also evaluating new interdisciplinary approaches.

Coordinated by the Romano-Germanic Central Museum - Leibniz Research Institute for Archaeology and the German Resilience Center (DRZ) the collaborative network combines following expertise:  Social Psychology Department at Goethe University with the Center for Leadership and Behavior in Organizations, Department of Social and Legal Psychology, Institute of Ancient Studies  with the Institutes of Classical Archaeology and Prehistoric and Protohistoric Archaeology all located at Johannes Gutenberg University  Mainz, Archaeology Department at Goethe University,  Romano-Germanic  Commission of the German Archaeological Institute and Technische Universität Darmstadt with its Department of  Architecture,  Classical Archaeology.