Crossing Borders 2010

The Volkswagen Foundation – Policies and Priorities

































The Foundation in Brief

A Foundation of Knowledge

Mission and Concept




Finance and Administration

Investment Management


Core Principles

Funding Concept

Funding Profile

Review and Decision

International Funding

Cooperation in Partnership

Widening Horizons

Objectives and Requirements

Information and Contact

Examples of Funding

African Cultures in Change

River in Flux ...

Research on the Nano Scale

A Hint of Chaos

Multilingualism Perceived as Opportunity

Avantgarde – Multiplied by Four

“My Philosophy Is Simply to Get the Ball Rolling”

What Distinguishes Humans from Apes

The Foundation’s Funding Initiatives

Persons and Structures

Challenges – for Academia and Society

International Focus

Off the Beaten Track

Funding Principles

The Board of Trustees

Funding Initiatives

Persons and Structures

Challenges – for Academia

and Society

International Focus

Off the Beaten Track

Funding Initiatives

• Lichtenberg Professorships 66

• Schumpeter Fellowships for Future Leaders in Business

Studies, Economics, Law, and the Social Sciences


• Focus on the Humanities 68

• University of the Future 69

• Research in Museums 70

• Symposia and Summer Schools 71

• Integration of Molecular Components in Functional

Macroscopic Systems


• New Conceptual Approaches to Modeling and Simulation

of Complex Systems


• Free-Electron Laser Science: Peter Paul Ewald Fellowships

at LCLS in Stanford


• Evolutionary Biology 75

• Key Issues in the Humanities – Program for the Promotion

of Interdisciplinary and International Cooperation


• European Platform for Life Sciences, Mind Sciences,

and the Humanities


• “Deutsch Plus” – A Program for Multilingualism in Teaching

and Research


• Knowledge for Tomorrow – Cooperative Research Projects

in Sub-Saharan Africa


• Between Europe and the Orient – A Focus on Research

and Higher Education in/on Central Asia and the Caucasus


• Documentation of Endangered Languages 82

• Fellowships for Post-doctoral Research in the Humanities

at the Humanities Center of Harvard University


• Future Issues of Society – Europe and Global Challenges 84

• Extraordinary Projects 85

• Science, the Public, and Society 86

Copyright VolkswagenStiftung, 2010

Publishing Information

Published by


Hanover, August 2010


Beate Reinhold


Jens Rehländer

The articles on pages 17 to 63

were written in German by their

respective authors.


Language Associates, Bremen


Sponholtz Druckerei GmbH


ISSN 1618-0577

Unless stated otherwise, the photos

were kindly provided by the

supported institutes.


pages 4, 23 - 25, 69, 75, 96: Dennis

Börsch, Hanover

page 6: Wolfgang Filser, Augsburg

pages 8, 52 - 54, 73, 81: Jens

Steingässer, Darmstadt

page 10: João Vieira, Calouste

Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon

page 12: Alexander Loch, CELD



pages 16 - 18: Frank Wilde, Hanover

pages 28 - 33: Elisabeth von Pölnitz-

Eisfeld, Bayreuth

pages 34, 36 - 39: Claudia Schiffner,


page 40, 44, 45: Uwe Dettmar,


page 43: Uwe Lewandowski,


page 46: David Klammer, Cologne

page 50 (montage): Axel Küstner,


page 51: Thomas Pflaum, Castrop-


page 58 (montage), 59, 61 below,

68: Frank Nürnberger, Berlin

page 62, 63: Institute for Learning

& Brain Sciences, University of

Washington, Seattle

page 66: Angelika Heim,


page 67: Jann Wilken, Hamburg

page 72: Thomas Wolf, Gotha

page 74: Brad Plummer, SLAC,


page 76: Klaus Siebahn, Güstrow

page 77: Michael Münch,


page 78: Cluster EXC16, Universität

Konstanz (film still editing:

Andreas Langenohl)

page 82: Daniel Duke

page 85: (top) Ulrich Schießl,

Dresden; (below) Tino Simon

page 86: Patrick Metzger, Berlin

A Foundation of Knowledge



The Big and the Small

If we take a look at the so-called “big picture”, we

are facing a rapidly growing world population,

among them more than one billion people suffering

from malnutrition and starving to death;

financial and political instabilities, inefficient

energy practices, and a global environmental crisis.

Regarding their own “small world” it is in the

first place the politicians whom people all over

the world expect to propose remedies, to find

solutions for improving their living conditions,

and to secure their future well-being.

However, the constraints and limitations of

national policies and actions have become obvious,

and those in charge have had to learn that

problems do not halt at the borders of nations or

continents. Challenges affecting remote and less

developed parts of the world are our challenges,

too. We all know by now that answers have to be

developed jointly, that only balanced action incorporating

the interests of potentially unequal parties

will provide sustainable conditions. This also

applies to academia and its role in contributing to

a common future worth living.

Non-profit institutions engaged in the field of

research and higher education like the Volkswagen

Foundation are small players compared to the

enormity of the mission outlined above – and

measured in financial terms, compared to the

means of public authorities and enterprises, they

are tiny. However, it is not the overall amount of

money spent, it is the approach that makes the

difference. Private foundations possess considerable

advantages they can exploit. Their autonomy,

alertness, and flexibility enable them to operate

effectively as facilitators of change, to establish

islands of success, and thereby to achieve con-

Dr. Wilhelm Krull, Secretary General

siderable impact on policy-advisors and decisionmakers

alike. By encouraging networking across

disciplinary, institutional, and national borders,

and by helping creative researchers to break new

ground, foundations are able to prove that even

on a transcontinental scale small things matter.

If you take a look at the funding portfolio of the

Volkswagen Foundation, you will see that at the

forefront of our endeavors are objectives such as

support for communication and cooperation

among researchers from different disciplines, as

well as different countries and continents, to facilitate

the creation of efficient and effective

research collaborations, and to enable foreign

researchers, in particular those from the less

favored parts of the world, to participate on an

equal footing in internationally competitive

research schemes. This entails making a vital contribution

to sustainable capacity development by

offering training programs, fellowships, and cooperative

projects as well as securing attractive

career prospects for young researchers in their

home countries. The approach taken by the Volks-

wagen Foundation is one of adaptiveness, flexi -

bility, and intercultural sensitivity. Documenting

the endangered language of a small Papuan

speech community calls for other views and

means than studying the optimization of transborder

water management in neighboring countries

in Central Asia, or enhancing the conditions

for research into neglected tropical diseases in

sub-Saharan Africa.

The pivotal aim of working our way towards truly

symmetric partnerships in research is pursued by

the Foundation by defining the issues and developing

the instrumental framework of its international

grant-making in an interactive process with

the respective communities. Especially the varying

calls for proposals in its funding initiative

“Knowledge for Tomorrow – Cooperative Research

Projects in Sub-Saharan Africa” have been generated

in close collaboration with African and German

academics and organizations in explorative

meetings and thematic workshops at different

venues in Africa. Without listening to local voices

and gaining a deeper understanding of the problems

and the corresponding needs we will never

succeed in cooperating successfully and providing

the adequate responses to the challenges posed to

us all.

In his latest book entitled “The Geopolitics of Emotion”

the French intellectual and Harvard professor

Dominique Moïsi outlines two quite extreme

scenarios of “the world in 2025”, and he points out

the serious danger that we may well end up in

some kind of “new Dark Ages” if we do not live up

to the challenges ahead. He stresses on the one

hand the need for politicians to be attentive to the

problems involved in globalization, but on the other

hand he also makes us all aware of the need to

learn more about the emotions of people living in

other cultures and countries, and how crucial they

will be for our future development: “The Other

will increasingly become part of us in our multicultural

societies. The emotional frontiers of the

world have become as important as its geographical


To overcome borders like these there is no need for

bigness. Many small but concerted efforts building

a worldwide net of humanity seem to be more

promising than the rather abstract intentions of

mighty global players. Thus we – and many colleagues

in philanthropy – count on the smallest

entity, on everyone, men and women, to show

curiosity, sensitivity, and sympathy towards other

cultures. And we are confident that this will be

fruitful far beyond the sphere of international

research cooperation.

In view of the critical state of affairs it is by no

means easy to maintain an optimistic approach to

the challenges ahead. Turning them into opportunities

will require all the intelligence, boldness,

creativity, and persistence we human beings are

capable of. But it is certainly worth trying.

Wilhelm Krull

Crossing Borders 2010 5


The Foundation in Brief

A Foundation of Knowledge

Established in 1961 by the Government of the Federal

Republic of Germany and the State of Lower

Saxony as an independent research funding institution,

the Volkswagen Foundation has a strong

tradition in providing support for all branches of

science and scholarship. Its slogan “A Foundation

of Knowledge” reflects both a commitment to reliability

as well as flexibility in generating impulses

for the advancement of knowledge and innovation.

Average annual funding in the amount of some

€100 million over recent years makes the Hanover

based Foundation the most potent private research

funding foundation in Germany. To date, the Volks -

wagen Foundation has allocated €3.6 billion to some

29,300 projects in Germany and all over the world.

Mission and Concept

According to the will of its founders, the purpose

of the Volkswagen Foundation is to support the

humanities and social sciences as well as science

and technology in higher education and research.

The statutes ensure its independent legal existence

and its character as a non-profit organization.

Since taking up its activities in 1962 the Foundation

has proved to be a dedicated and flexible funding

partner. Autonomous and economically self-sufficient,

it is completely free to determine and develop

its funding instruments and the topics it decides

to support. The Foundation’s funding concept is

not static. This makes it possible to shift focus, to

take the initiative, to provide sustainable impulses

corresponding to the research needs and the challenges

our societies face today.

The second call for proposals within the context of the program “European Platform for Life Sciences, Mind

Sciences, and the Humanities” attracted a total of 100 applications from young researchers in seven countries,

of whom 46 were eventually selected. In springtime 2010 they met for their first intensive round of

discussions at a workshop held at the “Evangelische Akademie” in Tutzing on Lake Starnberg in Bavaria.

A large symposium held in June 2010 was dedicated to an international

exchange of views and cross-border networking for research

groups funded within the Central Asia/Caucasus program. Some

150 scholars and scientists traveled from Germany and various

Central Asian countries to hold discussions in Bishkek, the capital

of Kyrgyzstan. They also found time for a tour of the city – in the

background you can see the parliament building.

The Volkswagen Foundation constantly reviews

its funding portfolio in pursuit of overriding

objectives. These include a preference for transdisciplinary

issues and approaches, support for the

upcoming generation of researchers, and the reinforcement

of international cooperation. The Foundation

also updates its funding offers in accordance

with the developments and needs of general

research objectives, both in Germany and other

regions of the world.

It is in this spirit that the Foundation increasingly

offers initiatives to provide support for outstanding

researchers working beyond the mainstream

of their disciplines. Those persons and ideas are

especially welcome that dare to cross borders in

more than one meaning of the phrase – borders

between countries or continents, between disciplines

or concepts of mind, between generations

or societies. By being given the opportunity to

develop their own profile, such academics broaden

the horizon of the respective discipline and may

also sharpen the profile of their university.

The Foundation also opens up new pathways for

research in and on foreign countries, focussing on

the cooperation of academics in symmetric partnerships.

This especially applies for the initiative

“Knowledge for Tomorrow”, which is directed at

African countries south of the Sahara, but also for

its engagement in Central Asia and the Caucasus.


Following the end of World War II the ownership

of the Volkswagen Corporation was unclear and

claims were asserted from several sides. This situation

was finally regulated by a treaty between

the Federal Republic of Germany and the State of

Lower Saxony, which turned the automobile manufacturer

into a joint stock company and fixed the

establishment of a research funding foundation.

The Volkswagen Foundation was set up with independent

legal statutes under civil law in the year

1961. It started its activities in 1962. 60 percent of

the share capital of the Volkswagen Corporation

was put into private hands by a special public

offering, and the Governments of Germany and

Lower Saxony retained 20 percent each. The proceeds

from this privatization (at that time 1,074

million German marks) together with the profits

accruing to those holdings provided the endowment

of the newly founded Foundation. It is this

to which the Volkswagen Foundation owes its

existence as well as its name.


Today the Foundation’s assets amount to €2.3

billion. The Foundation’s funding activities are

financed from earnings on investments, capital

assets being invested so as to obtain the optimum

long-term yield. Earnings also accrue from returns

on the VW shares held by the State of Lower Saxony,

nominal value €77.3 million. There was a similar

arrangement with the Federal Government

of Germany; when it sold its shares in 1988, the

proceeds were added to the Foundation’s capital.

Crossing Borders 2010 7



The Foundation is governed by the Board of

Trustees. It comprises 14 eminent persons drawn

from the domains of academia, politics, and industry

(see page 94), of whom seven are appointed by

the Federal Government and seven by the State of

Lower Saxony. Their period of office is five years

and they can be reappointed for one further term.

The Trustees are completely independent and

responsible only to the Foundation’s statutes.

The Board usually convenes about three times a

year to discuss and formulate strategy and to decide

on applications. The Trustees are responsible for

the annual budget and the annual accounts, as

well as the publication of the Foundation’s annual

report and appointment of the Secretary General.

Dr. Wilhelm Krull has been Secretary General of

the Foundation since 1996, and is as such responsible

for its management.

Currently the Volkswagen Foundation’s office has

a staff of about 90, mainly spread over three divisions:

There is one division dealing with research

funding, the other divisions care for finance and ad -

ministration and manage the Foundation’s assets.

The office staff prepare the proposals for the

Board of Trustees and execute the Board’s decisions.

This involves the conceptualization and

implementation of funding initiatives, processing

applications, informing and advising the applicants,

and monitoring the funded projects from

start to finish. In addition, the grants have to be

administered and checked to see that they have

been used correctly and efficiently for the immediate

purpose for which they were allocated.

An interdisciplinary training program gives young academics

from Central Asia the opportunity to hone their research skills.

Participants of the LUCA program gathered in front of the main

entrance to Gießen University: (from the left) Kenjabaev Shavkat

(Uzbekistan), Murataly Duishonakunov (Kyrgyzstan), Daniela

Chase (Gießen University), Boris Gojenko (Uzbekistan), Parviz

Khakimov (Tajikistan), Natalya Tsychuyeva (Kazakhstan), Kanayim

Teshebaeva (Kyrgyzstan), Shahzod Avazov (Tajikistan), Ilhkomjon

Aslanov (Uzbekistan), Saltanat Sabitova (Kazakhstan).

Finance and Administration

Administering the Foundation’s finances and

budgeting is a task for professional management.

This is provided by the Finance and Administration

Division, which takes care of the Foundation’s

accounting and financial controlling. In accordance

with requirements laid down in the Foundation’s

statutes, this group also prepares the annual finan -

cial statements for the Foundation’s auditors and

ensures the internal control of assets.

The unit Human Resources and Central Services

is involved in the planning and implementation

of everything necessary to efficient staffing. It

also maintains the infrastructure necessary to

ensure the smooth running of the office.

The coordination and development of the Foun -

dation’s IT requirements is managed by the group

Information and Communication Systems.

Investment Management

The Investment Management Division takes care

of the Foundation’s capital assets, currently €2.3

billion. Their task pursues two main objectives:

One is to ensure the sustained funding of research

projects, the other is to maintain the real value of

the Foundation’s capital in the face of inflationary

pressure. This calls for investment not only in

interest-bearing securities, but also in stocks and

real estate. The investment strategy in these three

main areas is based on the portfolio theory of risk

diversification: the greater the spread and trade

off between risks and opportunities, the greater

the yield.


Core Principles

The Foundation’s support is available to the whole

spectrum of academic disciplines: ranging from

the humanities and social sciences, through the

engineering and natural sciences, including biosciences

and medicine. The Foundation allocates

funding to cover personnel costs for both academic

as well as non-academic staff, for equipment

and running costs, for travel expenses and for


The Foundation is completely autonomous and

free to decide how its funds are to be allocated,

which projects it considers worthy of funding, and

whom it deems appropriate to grant funds. The

sole restriction is that this be in accordance with

the Foundation’s statutes. All funding must be designated

for a specific purpose and the Foundation

must ensure that such purposes are extra-budgetary;

i.e. that they in no way substitute or compensate

the budget of the recipient institution.

Funding Concept

The Foundation strives to be an active partner of

scientists and scholars and to generate targeted

impulses for the benefit of the respective national

and international research environment. In pursuance

of this goal it concentrates its support on

specific, carefully selected funding initiatives.

Overriding features of the Foundation’s funding

concept are the preference given to new and

promising fields of research, interdisciplinary

approaches, support for outstanding – and in

particular young – scholars, boosts for international

cooperation, close interrelation between research,

education and training as well as enhancement

of the communication among researchers and

between academia and the public. The funding

initiatives also mirror a commitment to societal

issues. Correspondingly, the scope of funding is

not oriented solely to the needs articulated by the

scientific community. The Foundation’s focus of

attention is also on current developments and

issues where the economy, politics and society

look to academia to provide adequate solutions.

Funding Profile

The Foundation’s funding profile is reflected in

the way its portfolio is structured. The following

contains a brief explanation of the categories

under which funding initiatives are bundled

according to area of investigation, target group, or

funding instrument. Readers will find an overview

of these categories and corresponding initiatives

on the front inside cover. The individual funding

initiatives are described in more detail following

page 66. Information updates are constantly

posted on the Foundation’s website:


• Persons and Structures

One of the Volkswagen Foundation’s approaches

is to combine explicitly person-related funding

with innovative structural change: for instance,

lending support to outstanding scholars and scientists

with forward-looking ideas who are not

afraid of taking risks – at correspondingly “courageous”

universities – and then relying on the

interplay between the two to generate not only

new knowledge, but also to develop alternatives to

entrenched processes and structures. The Founda-

Crossing Borders 2010 9


tion’s funding activities enable outstanding

researchers to concentrate on topics which break

new ground in their respective disciplines.

Scientifically and structurally new territory to

be trodden by innovative research personalities

pursuing likewise innovative ideas – that is what

the Foundation’s funding initiatives in this segment

have in common. They breathe life into the

demands the Foundation places upon itself, promoting

and reinforcing education and research in

Germany by means of the purposeful intertwinement

and orientation of its funding initiatives –

for the long-term success of Germany.

• Challenges – for Academia and Society

Under this heading the Foundation aims at drawing

attention towards new areas of research and

stimulating investigations which transcend the

existing borders between research and practice, different

disciplinary cultures, or between German

and international research – including areas which

may well harbor potential risk. Topics and issues

are identified in close cooperation with the field.

The Foundation also supports research in areas

where politics, the economy, or society turn to

researchers for orientation and scientifically

grounded advice on shaping the future and the

resolution of concrete issues.

Depending on the respective case, the Foundation

has a number of different funding instruments at

its disposal. For instance, these instruments might

pursue the objective of bringing about a change in

working methods, or inducing the realization of

latent synergies by new forms of cooperation.

• International Focus

Science is globalized to a high degree – a fact

amply illustrated by the popular slogan “worldwide

competition for the best minds”. However,

when the goal of internationalization is viewed

explicitly from the side of research, a number of

barriers become apparent. Some of these have

their roots in money and politics, others in disciplinary

methods, technological conditions, or in -

stitutional structures, as well as in language and

inter-cultural understanding. In this respect, too,

the Volkswagen Foundation strives to break down

and to transcend borders. Thus the focus of this

The provision of sustainable support for tropical medicine is the

aim of the European Foundation Initiative for African Research

into Neglected Tropical Diseases (EFINTD), a joint program in

which the Volkswagen Foundation is cooperating with the Portuguese

Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, the French Fondation

Mérieux, the British Nuffield Foundation and the Italian Fondazione

Cariplo. The participants joined in intensive discussions

at a springtime conference held in Lisbon in 2010 – our photo

shows Dr. Christelle Mbondji from the University of Yaounde.

funding segment is on promoting cooperation

between scholars and scientists from Germany and

in countries outside the European Union, in particular

in developing and transition countries. On

the one hand, the aim here is that academic institutions

in other countries benefit from funded

projects, and local scholars and scientists – especially

the younger ones – are given the opportunity

to train their research skills. To the same extent,

though, it is intended to encourage and reinforce

a stronger international orientation on the part of

German researchers.

The guiding principle is to move away from the

perspective of “research on” something and to

adopt an approach of “research with” someone.

Research projects are therefore developed and

implemented with the joint cooperation of all

parties involved.

• Off the Beaten Track – Extraordinary Projects

The Foundation may also be interested in supporting

exceptionally worthy projects which lie outside

the scope of its current funding program. The

aim is to provide a forum for ideas and concepts

which involve future-oriented issues and are

capable of opening up new perspectives by combining

different disciplines and methodological

approaches. However, this offer is open only to

truly exceptional schemes. In order to be successful,

proposals must not only meet the highest

scientific demands. Applicants must also be able

to show that their concept does not fit within the

funding scope of any other institution. Due to the

exceptionally rigorous demands placed on such

projects, applicants are advised in every case to

first submit a draft proposal before embarking

on a full-scale application.

• Niedersächsisches Vorab

The Foundation’s statutes prescribe that a certain

part of the funds distributed by the Volkswagen

Foundation must be made available to research

institutions located in the State of Lower Saxony.

The Board of Trustees decides on the allocation

Prior to defining calls for proposals in the “Knowledge for Tomorrow”

funding initiative the Foundation organized workshops with

African and German researchers to mutually discuss topics suitable

for inclusion. One such meeting focusing on “Sustainable

Value Chains – Integrated Technologies for a Sustainable Resource

Utilization in Africa” took place 2009 in Lusaka, Zambia.

of these grants (called Niedersächsisches Vorab)

acting on recommendations made by the Lower

Saxony State Government.

Review and Decision

The Volkswagen Foundation is committed to the

principles of peer review. It usually asks several ex -

ternal experts to review each proposal prior to any

final decision being made. There is no permanent

stock of experts, but, depending on the subject

and the structure of the proposal, the Foun dation

seeks expert opinions from different disciplines,

universities and institutes, also from the nonuniversity

sector and from abroad. If deemed

appropriate, the applications are submitted for

review by a panel of experts. The Foundation

mostly convenes such meetings of experts when

it seems advisable to initiate a direct discourse

between experts from different disciplines – due

to the interdisciplinarity of the subject involved,

for instance. Every year about 800 experts contribute

their expertise to the peer review process.

Once an application has been approved, the allocated

funds are transferred to the recipient institution

for it to administer. One of the conditions

attached to funding is that the Volkswagen Foundation

receives an annual report on the development

of the project in addition to proper accounts,

recording how the allocated funds have been spent.

Crossing Borders 2010 11


International Funding

Cooperation in Partnership

The “International Focus” category of the Foundation’s

funding portfolio embraces those initiatives

that are explicitly oriented towards research in

and on foreign countries. Two main objectives are

pursued: One aim is to build up and reinforce the

research infrastructure and to enhance scholarly

qualifications in specific target regions. The other

is to draw the attention of German academics

to international research topics and to secure a

stronger international orientation for German

research. In both cases, an important aspect is to

encourage symmetric partnerships between German

researchers and their counterparts in other


What has always been true for the relationship

between developed and developing societies also

applies for the academic sector: all too often in the

past, the field of research has revealed an imbal-

The Center for Endangered Languages Documentation (CELD) at

the State University of Papua (UNIPA) is engaged in documenting

Wooi, a language spoken by only 1,600 people. Dr. Alexander Lock

(second from left) and Professor Nikolaus Himmelmann from

Cologne (right), closely cooperate with Director Yusuf Sawaki, his

team and the speech community.

anced and unfair sharing of responsibilities, as

well as participation in success. To counter such

imbalances the Foundation places special importance

on ensuring an equitable involvement

of the scientists and scholars from abroad who

participate in the cooperation projects of the

respective funding initiative.

To give one example: Within the framework of its

initiative “Knowledge for Tomorrow. Cooperative

Research Projects in Sub-Saharan Africa” the Foun -

dation organized thematic workshops in Africa.

German and African researchers were given the

opportunity to jointly review the status of research,

to define pertinent research issues and to work

out the possibilities and instruments for cooperation

– also between inner-African research institutions.

On the basis of these results the Foundation

subsequently developed thematically defined

calls for proposals that suit the specific needs as

well as the potentials of African researchers.

Capacity building in sub-Saharan Africa should

not merely entail support for mutual projects, but

also provide targeted support for junior

researchers and the development or expansion of

academic networks inside Africa. The new African

generation of scholars should be given the opportunities

and adequate incentives to pursue their

future careers in their home countries. This would

ease brain drain and ensure that the regions harness

their most valuable expertise to their own


Likewise, cooperation in partnership plays an

important role in the Foundation’s funding ini -

tiative aimed at enhancing the conditions for

research and education in Central Asia/Caucasus.

Here, too, the aim is especially to support junior

academics in the region; for instance, by promoting

research in close cooperation with German

colleagues, via support for reintegration, and by

infrastructural schemes that encompass academic

teaching projects. A further aim of the initiative

is to direct the attention of German researchers to

the region: by means of funding projects that put

a focus on the political, socio-economic, cultural,

or also the natural conditions of countries in the


The “Documentation of Endangered Languages” is

another funding initiative with an international

orientation. Here, too, cooperation in partnership,

encouragement of junior academics and the international

exchange of ideas are all important components.

Widening Horizons

The funding program entitled “Europe and Global

Challenges“ was set up by the Foundation in cooperation

with Compagnia di San Paolo in Turin and

Riksbankens Jubileumsfond in Stockholm. Up to

ten research groups of interdisciplinary and international

composition will be supported in investigating

challenges that states all over the world

have to face. The groups must comprise scholars

from European and non-European countries, thus

providing different, complementary experiences

and approaches within the project.

The Harvard Fellowships also are part of the Foundation’s

“International Focus”. At the Humanities

Center of Harvard University young researchers

from Germany are given the opportunity to widen

their horizons – not only referring to their specific


Applications from academic institutions abroad

are accepted in the context of most of the Foundation’s

funding initiatives, provided a substantial

cooperation with German institutions is envisaged.

Since its funding profile is being constantly amen -

ded, the Foundation recommends applicants from

abroad to obtain updates either from the Internet

or by contacting the office in Hanover. This refers

especially to the varying calls for proposals.

Objectives and Requirements

There are varying requirements attached to the

participation of scholars from outside Germany in

the Foundation’s funding initiatives. Whereas the

initiatives under its “International Focus” are aimed

solely at fostering international cooperation and

exchange, applications within the other categories

must explain the necessity for cooperation between

German and scholars from outside Germany.

The pivotal criterion is the “added value” to be

expec ted from the joint project, i.e. the gain in

knowledge. The nature of the proposed collaboration

must be agreed upon by the participating

groups prior to their submitting applications.

Information and Contact

Applicants in Germany and from abroad should

first obtain updates on the Foundation’s funding

initiatives before submitting their proposals. For

each funding initiative there is an “Information

for Applicants”, containing detailed information

on the topic area and objectives and also listing

the pertinent requirements.

The quickest way to obtain up-to-date information

on the various funding initiatives and calls

for proposals is to consult the website www.volks - Starting on page 66, this

brochure, too, contains brief descriptions of all

current funding initiatives (as of June 2010).

Should any questions be left unanswered by the

“Information for Applicants”, please address the

program manager responsible for the particular

funding initiative.

Crossing Borders 2010 13

Examples of Funding

The following examples of the Foundation’s

funding activities underline the diversity of

projects supported in a variety of fields. They

also reflect the basic objectives of its funding

port folio: encouragement to interdisciplinary

approaches, opening of new paths for international

cooperation, and support of promising

young academics.

African Cultures in Change

Societal change in the sub-Saharan countries is

moving at a rapid pace: Researchers join forces

to analyze the impact on identities and cultures.

The electronic media provide a sense of global proximity and at the

same time impact identities. Music may help to preserve cultural

values, but it also accelerates cultural change. How is culture “negotiated”

within this complex interplay in African societies? That is the

central theme of two projects supported by the Volkswagen Foundation

within the context of its Africa Initiative.

In the midday summer sun the tower of Timotheus Church shines like a white

solitaire through the lush green treetops of the episcopal town of Hildesheim

in North Germany. Even from a distance, the building seems to suggest it is

home to something rather special: Something many people might consider

more valuable than jewelry. In July 2009 this previously lutheran church became

home to the new Center for World Music, hosting a music-ethnographical

collection comprising 4,000 instruments from all over the world, 50,000

gramophone records and 10,000 books. The repository, which belongs to the

University of Hildesheim, is also home to a unique transcultural project: “The

Formation and Transformation of Musical Archives in West African Societies”,

a research project funded by the Volkswagen Foundation in an amount of

410,000 euros. The project unites scholars from universities in Hanover and

Hildesheim, in Maiduguri, Nigeria, and Accra, Ghana. A little delving reveals

the participation of researchers from such different disciplines as musicology,

social anthropology and the already interdisciplinary area of “African Studies”.

“In Hildesheim we have found a most adequate location for our research

work on music archives”, say the two project leaders, Professor Dr. Raimund

Vogels from the Hanover University of Music and Drama and Dr. Wolfgang

Bender from the Center for World Music. Their work on so-called “material

archives” – like museums, libraries and sound archives containing recordings

on different sound storage media – is at one and the same time research on

“ideational archives”, i.e. data that encompasses practical, internalized or

“incorporated” human knowledge. In their interplay, both “types” of archives

preserve as well as change the cultural legacy of society.

Professor Dr. Willie Anku, project partner at the Academy for Performing Arts

at the University of Ghana, explains further: “From lullabies and nursery rhymes

Kick-off meeting for the project involving

the music-ethnographical collection, which

is housed in the Timotheus Church in Hildes -

heim: (photo opposite, from left) Dr. Florian

Carl from the Center for World Music in

Hildesheim, Dr. Isaac R. Annah, cooperation

partner in Ghana, project leader Professor Dr.

Raimund Vogels from the Hanover University

of Music and Drama, Professor Dr. William O.

Anku, project partner in Ghana, project

leader Dr. Wolfgang Bender from the Center

for World Music and Christopher Mtaku,

coordinator from Nigeria.

Crossing Borders 2010 17


Funding initiative “Knowledge for

Tomorrow – Cooperative Research

Projects in Sub-Saharan Africa”

– see page 79

The Center for World Music boasts thousands

of musical instruments, gramophone records

and books, making it the ideal base for the

project entitled “The Formation and Transformation

of Musical Archives in West African

Societies”; it also provided the backdrop for

initial talks between the collaborating partners

from Germany, Ghana and Nigeria.

to ritual wedding or funeral chants, each society has its own musical repertoires

for special occasions and these play a vital role in the mediation of values and

behavior. In this way music forms identity – on a very fundamental level. It

awakens emotions that influence the thinking and actions of individuals as

well as whole nations; music inspires us to consume, meditate or even start

marching. Music demonstrates that our feelings, perception and behavior are

all inextricably linked together.”

This makes music interesting for politics, too, especially in West Africa.

“Because in these countries music and political culture are traditionally closely

intertwined”, Professor Vogels explains. Already in the 18th and 19th centuries

Ghana underwent a musically inspired change of identity. At that time the

occupation of the southern region by the Asante people gradually resulted

in the dominance of their music forms. Then the colonization of West Africa

brought with it hymns, patriotic songs and military music insinuating collective

identification with the “Empire”. The independence movement also made

use of music. “A good example of this is the song composed by Ephraim Amu

in 1929 called ‘This is our precious land’, which schoolchildren in Ghana had

to sing on ‘Empire Day’”, relates Vogels. In the collective awareness, though,

the song took on another status; beside the official “God Bless Our Homeland

Ghana” it eventually became the informal “felt” national anthem.

“Today, too, singers and music ensembles are serving the aims of political

leaders”, Vogels reflects pensively on a medium that is quite literally instrumentalized

for “propaganda” purposes. However, new forms of medial reality

alone do not impact on people’s awareness. In modern times, African identities,

as expressed in musical genres, styles and institutions, are negotiated in

a complex web of relationships between Africa, Europe and America, sustained

somewhere between “material” and “ideational” archives. This is where some

of the research quartet’s work begins to crystallize. How are musical archives

compiled in West African societies, and what changes do they undergo in the

course of time as result of the manifold influences they are subjected to from

all sides? In what way does “archived” knowledge shape modern African

identities? And what is the relationship between material and ideational


“Ideational” musical repertoires, no matter whether pertaining to a political

culture, a disc jockey, or an era, are in a constant state of flux. Being stored in

the “material” archive in a specific version, this will in turn influence general

reception. These transformation processes do not always run in the desired

direction. This is illustrated by the example of European researchers building

documentations to preserve African cultures for posterity. Unhappily, material

archives compiled by foreigners not only “alienate” music from its cultural

roots; they also result in standardising what they intended to preserve as

something unique – a paradox that Professor Anku is endeavoring to rectify

by publishing an “African” textbook on African music.

Sustainable cooperation for capacity building in Africa

Regaining mental sovereignty over one’s own culture is one of the most

important goals pursued by the joint project. This, in turn, calls for capacity

building in Africa. “For not enough people here are well versed in scientific

activity”, bemoans Dr. Isaac Amuah from the University of Ghana. “The four

workshops and two international conferences planned within the project

therefore present ideal opportunities for African students and postgraduates

to hone their skills in academic discourse.”

The research project fits in ideally with the goals the Volkswagen Foundation

intended when it set up its funding initiative “Knowledge for Tomorrow – Co -

operative Research Projects in sub-Saharan Africa”: It contributes to building

up a sustainable research culture and to strengthening research activities in

southern Africa. As always in the case of its Africa Initiative, the Foundation

expects projects to have a special focus on support for young research talent

and on developing symmetrical North-South partnerships between the project

participants (see box for further information on the Africa Initiative).

Within the Africa Initiative the “music project” is embedded in the scheme

entitled “Negotiating Culture in Contemporary African Societies”. The thematic

scope for this call for proposals was formulated in a process of intensive discourse

between African and European researchers at an international workshop

initiated by the Volkswagen Foundation. The accordant call was designed

to attract projects which would shed light on the processual character of

negotiating culture, its dynamics, context and actors. The focus is to be on

interdisciplinary research on the phenomenon of intermediality – the migration

of themes between different media. The workshop took place in Saly

Portudal, Senegal, and was organized by the Institute of Social Anthropology

at Basel University, which is also hosting another project on processes of

“negotiating cultures”.

Of transnational dreams and new identities

Here, opposite the Basel Münster Cathedral with its checkered 900-year

history of different national rulers, research is being carried out on the topic

“Passages of Culture: Media and Mediations of Culture in African Societies”.

In front of a backdrop of rampant globalization, coping with an African present-day

reality caught between cultural legacy and new media is a topos

fraught with conflict. “The Basel region in the German-French-Swiss border

triangle with its long history of migration is truly inspirational for our work”,

enthuses Professor Dr. Till Förster from Basel University’s Institute of Social

Anthropology, head of the project funded by the Volkswagen Foundation

with 516,900 euros. Almost 30 percent of the Basel population and 16 percent

of the nearby German city of Freiburg are foreigners.

How do the widely spread new media and

new means of communication (bottom

photo) impact on African culture, especially

music and the theatre? This is the topic being

investigated by Professor Dr. Till Förster from

Basel University (top photo, second from

right) together with African colleagues. The

photo shows him among friends before taking

part at a congress in Bamenda, Cameroon.

– A project workshop was held in Yaoundé

in September 2009 where also Keneth Tume

Fondzeyuf, M. A., (center photo) presented his

ideas to the participants.

Crossing Borders 2010 19


Exchanging research results obtained in each

others’ respective country: Lic.phil. Bettina

Frei from Switzerland is carrying out research

in Cameroon, and doctoral candidate Primus

Tazanu from Cameroon is studying his compatriots

in Switzerland.

Based on a total of four case studies connected by the same research perspectives,

a team of five researchers is investigating the complex interplay between

culture and the – new – media. The team comprises researchers from the

universities of Basel and Freiburg, the Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria, the

Université de Yaoundé in Cameroon, and the University of Witwatersrand in

Johannesburg, South Africa. Each of the case studies deals with the medial

shift from direct to indirect “technologized” forms of communication and

negotiation. In South Africa the focus is on the development from live performance

to radio, CD and production for television, in Cameroon from stage

performance to cinema and television, in Nigeria from live music to medial


Last not least, three researchers from Cameroon, Germany and Switzerland

are examining the shift from face-to-face communication to electronic interaction

on the part of migrants. “Because new communication media are so

fast and cheap it has become possible for migrants to keep in close touch

with everyday life in their homeland far away, changing the face of migration”,

Till Förster elucidates. Emigration no longer entails being cut off from

one’s native culture. “Via electronic media the Africans living here in Upper

Rhine are able to take part in two everyday lives.” Text messaging, e-mails

and digital photos link up lifeworlds regardless of time zones.

The central question is whether and to what extent these new forms of

communication actually replace physical contacts. “We are working on the

hypothesis that these two essentially different everyday worlds subsequently

merge into a new social space that creates a substitute for the old ‘transnational’

identity”, says Förster. It is not solely the media playing a role here, but

also the location where the media is used. “In Cameroon the Internet is far

more visible than in Europe”, explains Professor Bole Butake from Université

de Yaoundé. “Not so many people have their own Internet connection, which

is why Internet cafés are frequented much more often.” That impacts on the

whole media culture, creating quite another kind of communication. “The users

converse with one another, informal knowledge is disseminated, including

knowledge of how to interpret encrypted messages – referring to petty-criminal

partner search on the Internet, for instance.” Elaborate signs or communication

systems come into being, like the cell-phone “ringing-tone language”

that conveys a simple message to the listener when the phone rings one, two,

or more times. The new media create lifeworlds that are constantly inventing

themselves anew, holding ready cultural concepts.

The view of mediatization being a result of how media interacts also sensually

with human action is one of the many strengths of this research project.

Another is the shrewd research setting co-developed by Freiburg Professor

Judith Schlehe that enables a multilayered approach to the migrants’ complex

processes of communication. For instance, PhD student Primus Tazanu is

responsible for the field research among his compatriots in the Basel region,

whereas the Swiss PhD student Bettina Frei is researching among the family

members, friends and acquaintances they are in contact with in Cameroon.

In a second stage of the project the “transformation of subjectivity” is examined,

and hence the question where the people in medial contact between

Basel and Cameroon feel most at home. “Migrants from Cameroon who

return to their country of origin are often accused of no longer thinking like

a Cameroon ian”, Förster states. Relatives and friends, for instance, expect

homecomers to return with gifts, although they cannot afford to do so. Then,

it is just as difficult for the homecomers to communicate why they were not

able to bring presents back with them, as the media picture of wealthy Europe

– portrayed on African television, for example by the crime television series

“Derrick” – is too vivid in the Cameroon people’s minds. As a consequence,

the “uprooted” migrants seek new spaces of understanding, shaped between

Mainasara Kurfi, M. A., from Kano, Nigeria,

speaking on the topic of his doctoral dissertation

“South to South: Transnational Flow,

Mediation and Glocalization of Literary

Materials in Northern Nigeria” during a

workshop held within the context of the

project “Passages of Culture”.

Crossing Borders 2010 21


Relying on the traditional means of visual

communication: "The Unbeatable Master"

hairdresser's in Bamenda uses hand-painted

pictures to advertise his services.

the old home and the new. “In these transnational spaces, new processes

of negotiation are acted out that have a political impact”, explains Professor

Förster further. There are no longer any simple national templates on which

to build identities and cultures – neither in Europe, nor in Africa.

Sometimes it is the more mundane matters that prove more difficult than

the complex research structures of the joint project. Butake, for instance,

bemoans that “It is easier to fly from South Africa to Cameroon than from

Nigeria, although we are neighboring countries”. In both countries the infrastructure

is still inadequate. “That is why we selected the project participants

with a view to their organizational ‘talent’ as well”, he chuckles. The ambitious

aim to support young researchers – in particular the ten PhD students

participating in the project – and to boost scientific networks in Africa will

certainly not founder due to lack of improvisation.

Ruth Kuntz-Brunner

Knowledge for Tomorrow: The Foundation’s Africa Initiative

In 2003 the Volkswagen Foundation started the

funding initiative for cooperative research projects

in sub-Saharan Africa. This thematically open

funding offer centers on building research competence

in Africa and providing sustainable support

for its reinforcement in the long term. An important

focus of the initiative is on opening up career

perspectives for young researchers in the region.

To this end, successful PhD candidates from the

first funding stage are offered further support in

a second stage via post-doc programs. In a third

and final stage, they may even be able to continue

their research as group leaders – provided they

successfully pass through an international process

of evaluation. Up to now the Foundation’s Africa

Initiative has provided funding primarily for re -

search projects, which are developed in close co op -

eration between African and German re search ers.

However, several workshops, symposia and summer

schools have also been supported.

It is important for the Foundation that the research

projects are conceived and carried out in symmetrical

North-South partnerships. To promote this

aim, prior to each call for project proposals the

Foundation organized accordant thematic workshops

in Africa – with major participation on the

part of African researchers.

Within the scheme “Negotiating Culture in Contem -

porary African Societies”, funding was approved

for the two aforementioned pro jects. This engagement

in the field of cultural studies is the Foundation’s

sixth sub-program within its Africa Initiative.

It is particularly noteworthy because it helps

to differentiate the view of a continent that is otherwise

mainly in focus due to its pressing economic

and political problems.

Since 2008 the Foundation has also been participating

in a collaborative effort involving four other

European funding organizations to support

research on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

So far within this program, funding has been allocated

for 17 fellowships to post-docs and PhD students

in a total amount of 2.2 m euros. The parti -

cipating foundations are: Fondazione Cariplo in

Italy, Fundação Gulbenkian in Portugal, the British

Nuffield Foundation and Fondation Merieux in

France. cj

River in Flux …

Researchers from Hanover, Tashkent and Dushanbe

are crossing borders of discipline and culture in

joint efforts to save the Zerafshan River.

In many countries of Central Asia, polluted water presents one of

the most pressing environmental issues. Particularly hard hit is the

region along the Zerafshan River. Though there is a rising awareness

of the situation sustainable solutions still seem far away. Help is on

the way, though, from one of the projects within the context of the

Foundation’s Central Asia/ Caucasus Initiative.

The cupolas which grace the oriental skylines of Samarkand and Bukhara in

Uzbekistan shimmer turquoise blue in the sun. The magnificent cities on the

old Silk Road are lush oases surrounded by otherwise barren desert, whose sole

means of irrigation are the waters of the Zerafshan. It is a long time, though,

since this river conjured up pictures of A Thousand And One Nights. For the

Zerafshan, which is so vital to the livelihoods of more than seven million people

in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, contains less and less water – and the little

that is left contains a cocktail of toxic pollutants. “Today the Zarafshan is one

of the most contaminated waters in Central Asia”, says Dr. Melanie Bauer

from the Leibniz University in Hanover.

This young engineer is in charge of a project begun in 2008 and supported by

the Volkswagen Foundation within the context of its funding initiative “Between

Europe and the Orient – A Focus on Research and Higher Education in/on

Central Asia and the Caucasus”. The objective pursued by the participants is

to develop solutions which will lead to sustainable water management in the

Zerafshan Valley. The project idea is result of a joint effort involving Dr. Bauer’s

project group and researchers in the affected countries. These include Professor

Inom Normatov and his staff from the Tajik Academy of Sciences in Dushanbe,

capital of Tajikistan, and a team of researchers led by Dr. Malika Ikramova

from the Central Asian Scientfic Research Institute of Irrigation in Tashkent.

“We already knew each other well from years of working on other projects

surrounding the problems connected with the Aral Sea”, Bauer points out.

“In the meantime we are a well-rehearsed team.” Along with engineers from

various disciplines, the team comprises chemists and socio-economists, as

well as a total of six young researchers from the three countries taking part.

The project partners are of one mind: The water must be cleaned up, as the

poor water quality has serious repercussions for the people living in the region.

The Zerafshan is the third biggest river in

Uzbekistan; via its many tributaries and

canals it irrigates the agricultural region

around the city of Samarkand (center of the

map). For the first 300 km it flows through

the neighboring country of Tajikistan, raising

the need for transborder water management.

Crossing Borders 2010 23

“For example, the cotton and rice plantations are irrigated with water from

the river. The result is that more and more heavy metal is being deposited

in the earth, affecting soil fertility and the quality of crops”, explains Malika

Ikramova, a water expert from Uzbekistan. This not only has economic consequences:

It is affecting the health and well-being of the local population. “The

situation is particularly bad in the countryside because people living in rural

areas sometimes take their drinking water directly from the river.” With fatal

consequences, as investigations of the similarly highly contaminated Aral

Sea show: Typhoid and cholera diseases are on the increase and infant mortality

rates are rising.

The problem is aggravated further by the fact that the volume of water carried

by the river is slowly but surely decreasing. A trend which a colleague of Bauer’s,

Oliver Olsson, is now able to prove on the basis of newly collected scientific

data – one of the first tangible project results. “Today the river carries almost

one-tenth less water than at the beginning of the twentieth century”, he reports.

“We also know that the incidence of flooding is gradually on the decrease,

whereas the number of drought periods, especially since the 1970s, is rapidly

increasing.” On average since then periods of extremely low water occur every

two years. This, of course, causes a higher concentration of the pollutant cocktail

and further diminishes the already scarce water resources. What is the

cause of the disappearing water flows? Olsson has a number of answers at

hand: “Take your pick: climate change, raised levels of water withdrawal on

the part of industry and agriculture, and growing population numbers!”

Moreover, the water problem in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan is particularly

difficult to get under control because in the countries of the former Soviet

Union a great many things are still in a state of flux. “These countries have

Funding initiative “Between Europe

and the Orient – A Focus on Research

and Higher Education in/on Central

Asia and the Caucasus”

– see page 81

One of the many measuring instruments

used by project leader Dr.-Ing. Melanie Bauer

(photo left) from Leibniz University, Hanover,

and her cooperation partners working on

the Zerafshan project is a pH meter for measuring

levels of acidity in the river. The second

photo shows science journalist Andrea Hofe -

richter (right) listening to Dr. Melanie Bauer

(center) and Oliver Olsson, graduate engineer

from Hanover University, explaining the

project design and the purpose of the joint

project in Central Asia.

Crossing Borders 2010 25


Taking measurements is the most important

thing: Karimjon Emomov (front) from the

Tajik Academy of Sciences in Duschanbe, the

capital of Tajikistan, removes samples from

a centrifuge. Meanwhile, his colleague, Obid

Bokiev, determines the concentration of dissolved

substances in the water by means of

a photometer.

been independent for 18 years, but the transition processes are anything but

over”, stresses Bauer. Due to the lack of government support for agriculture,

for instance, pesticides and fertilizers are increasingly less used. Many enterprises

have had to cut production, whereas others have fallen under foreign

control. “No one knows quite what is going into the river and what sort of

environmental standards, if any, serve as yardstick”, Bauer describes the


In order to shed light on the various factors impacting on the situation, the

water experts first want to ascertain the composition of the pollutants, where

they are coming from, and how they are distributed in the river – a main focus

of the project. At the same time and with the help of historical data they want

to trace back the development of the water contamination over the past twenty

years. “We have a clear division of tasks”, says Bauer. The researchers from

Hanover, for instance, coordinate the work being done by the three different

research groups and evaluate the information collected on water and substance

flows in order to obtain accurate results concerning the causes and

effects of the water pollution. The data for this is provided by the two teams

of Normatov and Ikramova. They have set up several measuring stations at

points where the river flows into and out of different cities, industrial areas,

and even a goldmine. Water and soil samples taken from these locations are

then analyzed using modern measuring equipment, much of which is purchased

with project funds.

“During the Soviet era there was an immense build up of agriculture and

industry in the Zerafshan Valley”, the Uzbek water researcher Ikramova explains

the background to the tragic development. Water consumption rose dramatically

and most of the contaminated water was – and still is – drained into the

river as untreated waste. Many of these toxic contaminants, including mercury

and chromium compounds, arsenic substances and harmful phenol, have a

particularly long life; so over the years they have become increasingly concentrated

in the river. Today they are present in large amounts in the sediment of

the river bed, albeit still in a latent state which is harmless to humans. “However,

it wouldn’t take much to reactivate these toxic substances; it would be

enough, for instance, if the acidity in the Zerafshan received a small additional

boost from untreated industrial effluents”, warns the water expert. Some of

these ticking time-bombs have already been located by means of measurements

taken by the project team.

In the course of taking measurements the researchers sometimes have to

cope with extreme weather conditions: From sub-zero temperatures in snow

and ice in the mountain ranges of Tajikistan to scorching heat in excess of 60

to 70°C during the Uzbek summer. The researchers must also take into account

the strongly fluctuating water levels in the river through the seasons. In some

places in November the Zerafshan is little more than a murky rivulet, whereas

during the rainy season it can swell to a roaring torrent.

The project scope is very broad. For instance, one of the tasks the researchers

from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are working on involves delving through

archived records in Moscow, Tashkent and Dushanbe in search of historical

data on the condition of the Zerafshan waters – an investigation fraught with

hurdles because the bureaucratic red-tape here is considerably more complicated

than in Germany. So it is quite fortunate that Normatov and Ikramova

maintain good relations with the ministries responsible. That is important

for another reason, too. “After all, our job is not to cast ecological doom and

despair, but above all to see that the research findings are put to good use

and influence policy-makers to pay more attention to sustainable water

management”, stresses Normatov.

Useful in this connection are the workshops scheduled throughout the course

of the project, in which policy-makers, representatives of regional water associations

and development-aid organizations are invited to participate. In the

opinion of the project leader, Melanie Bauer, “face-to-face meetings are

important in order to explain the full reach of the problems on hand and,

in turn, to prompt awareness for the issue.” The first workshop took place

in Tashkent at the start of the project. At least another two are to follow.

Whether in close circles or large groups, the communication between researchers

and policy makers has already borne first fruit. “Interest in the project on the

part of our Ministry for Agriculture and Water is proving to be quite keen”,

according to Ikramova, the Uzbek expert on water management. Nevertheless,

despite the initial success, a great deal remains to be done. A lot of things are

still insufficiently understood and there is still a long way to go before the

formulation of concrete policy measures – let alone their implementation

into practice. The extension of the project could be a tremendous help. Olsson

and Bauer, for instance, intend to provide their project partners with a computer

model which will be capable of visualizing the newly gathered data and

findings in graphic scenarios. With the aid of such simulations it is possible

to depict some of the developments before an economic or ecological worst

case accident occurs. And they also reveal which solutions are the most

viable. This will supply the experts on the spot with more sound arguments

for concrete measures, so that the dream of clean water once again running

through the Zarafshan Valley may soon come true.

Andrea Hoferichter

Classical field research along the Silk Route:

The Uzbek measuring team from the Central

Asian Scientific Research Institute of Irrigation

in Tashkent (SANIIRI) taking water samples

from the Zerafshan near the ancient

mercantile center of Samarkand (top photo),

and subsequently analyzing and interpreting

these in the office (bottom photo).

Crossing Borders 2010 27

Research on the Nano Scale

Visions for the opening millennium: Two young

professors move to the top of their disciplines.

Becoming visible through creative research at an early career stage -

that is possible for holders of a Lichtenberg Professorship. This Volks -

wagen Foundation scheme provides unique support of up to eight

years to help outstanding scholars and scientists establish their

research field at a university of their choice. The Lichtenberg Professorships

also feed fresh strategies into the university system.

Generously endowed, unbureaucratic in administration, excellent in con -

ception: This is how Alexander Böker and Jascha Repp sum up this funding

instrument. They became Lichtenberg Professors in the third selection round,

being accepted in summer 2006 and actually getting started with their

research projects just a few months afterwards. They are young, expert in

their field, and not afraid to risk creative research based on their visionary

ideas. That these qualities are appreciated not only by the Foundation will

come as no surprise, and it is not at all unusual for such bright young talent

to be offered positions with tenure shortly after their appointment as Lich -

tenburg Professors. Alexander Böker is a case in point: At the end of 2008

he took over the Chair for Macromolecular Materials and Surfaces as well as

the position of the Deputy Director of the “German Wool Research Institute”

(DWI) at the RWTH Aachen University. This article reports on his experiences

as a Lichtenberg Professor while still at the Chair for Physical Chemistry of

Bayreuth University.

“Look, this membrane has nanoscopic pores which only let single molecules

through – and the remarkable thing is that all the pores are the same size.”

Alexander Böker can become quite passionate when telling others about his

works – and a subtle smile lingers on his face. Carefully using tweezers, he

prods a wafer-thin membrane floating in a Petri dish. It’s smaller than a post -

age stamp, resembling an egg membrane floating on water. This – indirectly

– is the reason Alexander Böker became a Lichtenberg Professor. “Until now,

nanopores were produced by means of conventional plastics technology.

That’s all very well, but pores produced in this way are irregular, chemically

dead, repel water, and hence of little practical use.” In other words: This particular

development path has reached a dead end. “We must find alternatives”,

he adds energetically.

Piles of paper instead of Petri dishes: outside

the laboratory, Dr. Alexander Böker – then

holder of a Lichtenberg Professorship at the

Chair for Physical Chemistry at Bayreuth

University – has to cope with a great deal of

paperwork, like filling out application forms

and preparing publications.

Much of the work carried out by Professor Dr.

Jascha Repp (on the left) goes on in a small

steel chamber which houses a scanning tunneling

microscope installed in an ultrahigh

vacuum. Atom by atom he investigates the

characteristics of adsorbates on insulator


Crossing Borders 2010 29


Funding initiative

“Lichtenberg Professorships”

– see page 66

“Soft matter” is the central topic, even on the

staircase: (from the left) Kerstin Schindler

(chemist), Heiko Schoberth (physicist), Petra

Zippelius, Anne Horn (chemist), Dr. Li-Tang

Yan, Dr. Sujit Kumar Gosh and Gonther Jutz

(chemist) make up the team around Professor

Dr. Alexander Böker (foreground).

By means of his fine synthetic membranes with nanopores of a defined size,

he is pursuing the goal of producing tiny containers, vehicles in which cells

or medicaments can be encapsulated. One concrete application he is working

on – together with cooperation partners – is the treatment of the autoimmune

disease type I diabetes mellitus. This disease occurs in diabetics, when the

sick person’s own immune system attacks and destroys cells that produce the

vital insulin. If Alexander Böker is successful in shutting insulin-producing

cells in his revolutionary capsules, these can then be embedded into the patient’s

pancreas, where they can then discharge their contents. “The size of the pores

in the membranes we are experimenting with can be defined so exactly that

the attacking cells released by the patient’s immune system cannot get through

– thus shielding the process of insulin production.” This could lead to a cure

for diabetics.

The researcher intends to encapsulate not only cells but also drugs. It would be

most unlike a Lichtenberg Professor to stop at only one application for a new

discovery. No, his capsules must also be capable of being “activated”. Encapsulated

in his new membranes, he also wants to transport drugs – against cancer

for instance. And these should not be released until once inside the tumor.

How does he intend to achieve this? Alexander Böker is in his element as he

explains how he wants to design his pores to have functions, e.g. to open up

like an automatic door when activated by an external chemical signal. In certain

types of tumor, it might be possible to trigger such a function by means

of a very slight shift in the acidity level within the tissue: This would cause

the chemical barriers in the pores to contract, forming a sort of spiral, and

thereby opening the container. Vision? Yes – but a rather plausible one.

The basis for his membranes and capsules are synthetic components which

the chemist couples to the coat of a plant virus. The virus, which is specialized

on cow peas, serves as Alexander Böker’s model system. To the protein

components forming the virus coat he attaches synthetic components. When

exposed to ultra violet light, these all link up to form a wafer-thin plastic film.

He then removes the biological virus mantle, leaving behind pores which are

exactly the same size as the virus. As the coupling sites between the protein

and the synthetic still protrude into the pores, the chemist now is able to

integrate new functions, for example his switchable doors of active agents.

However, to a great extent Alexander Böker has to rely on his team when it

comes to the actual implementation of his ideas. Only seldom he is able to do

any lab research himself – to his great regret. Much of his time is spent in the

office, writing applications, reports and publications. All this is absolutely

necessary, though, in order to top up the funding for his research. “It is precisely

in the area of funding that I notice the biggest difference between a

Lichtenberg Professorship and other grants”, he says. “After putting me to the

acid test at the beginning, the Foundation now gives me the freedom to get

on with my work. I don’t have to justify every minor decision, and therefore I

can devote more time to my research and that of my young co-workers –

that’s the way it should be, isn’t it?” With money from the Lichtenberg Professorship

he is able to send his young colleagues – some of them hardly younger

than himself – to congresses and to his international cooperation partners.

He is able to offer them excellence of scientific training. “There’s a big difference

between reading the publications of renowned colleagues, and actually

being able to meet them in person”, he speaks from experience.

And speaking on the subject of colleagues, that ever-present smile flashes

once more: “At the beginning, Lichtenberg Professorships were so unusual that

the new colleagues I met at congresses – especially the older ones – didn’t take

me at all seriously”, he recollects with some amusement. “But on the other

hand, the colleagues in Bayreuth gave me all their support from the very


An experience shared by the physicist Jascha Repp: “Here in Regensburg I was

welcomed with open arms as a Lichtenberg Professor. The faculty realizes

that the professorship represents a significant reinforcement to the relevant

research focus.” Jascha Repp is also investigating on the nano scale, he is

working at the boundaries of physics, chemistry, and electronics. “Whereby

the electronics we are involved in here is a far cry from a conventional circuit”,

he stresses. Jascha Repp is experimenting with switches built from organic

dyes. By vaporization these molecules are applied onto a surface with extremely

low conductivity. The unique feature of these molecules is that they lie completely

flat on the substrate; the structure forms a cross shape that contains

two opposing hydrogen atoms on either side of a central square void. By means

of tiny electrical impulses, Jascha Repp can make these hydrogen atoms flip

The membranes produced in the Bayreuth

laboratory are just 80 nanometers “thick” –

that is equal to about one ten-thousandth of

a strand of hair. The bottles (below) contain

protein-polymer-particle solutions: These

are placed on silicon wafers to produce thin

membrane films which are later removed

from the silicon substrate.

Crossing Borders 2010 31


To begin with, small amounts of dye molecules

are placed in powder form onto a

vaporizer (top photo). The molecules are then

evaporated onto an insulator surface and

later stimulated by a scanning tunneling

microscope (STM). Liquid nitrogen and liquid

helium are used to keep the STM at extreme

low temperature. Our photo shows Professor

Dr. Jascha Repp filling the nitrogen tank.

from the sides of this quadrant to the top and bottom, or vice versa, the

geometry of the molecule remaining constant.

“This molecule acts as a switch since the electrical current changes upon flipping

of hydrogen atoms”, he elucidates. However, just one switch of this type

is clearly not enough for electronic applications. If, though, we can succeed in

linking several up into larger switching arrays it will be possible to transport

information via the molecules. And this is what he and his colleagues from

the IBM research laboratory in Zürich actually did achieve when they succeeded

in joining up three such molecules – “just a small step towards building

more complex switches with single molecules”, Jascha Repp points out.

However, an accomplishment that led to a publication in the renowned journal

“Science” (31 August 2007, Vol. 317. no 5842, pp.1203-1206).

Of course, it is not possible to build this type of switch on the lab bench. The

laboratory he and his colleagues work in resembles something between a

science-fiction film set and a submarine. Vast surfaces of polished stainless

steel meet the eye in the basement rooms of the Institute for Experimental

and Applied Physics in Regensburg. Heavy bolts and flanges hold the small

steel chamber together, there are just narrow windows through which the

researchers can look into the inside. “All our experiments have to be carried

out inside this chamber”, Jascha Repp explains, “and we cannot enter it ourselves,

or even use our hands”. Using small metal grips controlled from the

outside, he evaporates the dye molecules onto the insulator, where then in

the center of the cold steel chamber they are stimulated and activated by

means of a fine needle. At its center, the chamber houses a scanning tunneling

microscope. Through this instrument, no bigger than a man’s fist, the

Regensburg scientist can view the individual atoms which make up his molecules.

The space in which Jascha Repp moves things around with his grips is

completely empty: Quite literally so – for he is working in an ultrahigh vacuum.

Moreover, it is extremely cold. His very special switches will only function at

nearly absolute zero, i.e. around minus 270 degrees Celsius. The needle of the

scanning tunneling microscope moves infinitely slowly over the research

specimen, scanning the surface atom by atom.

This sort of work calls for immense patience. Jascha Repp, though, is a patient

person. Full of patience. Working with the grips in an ultrahigh vacuum

chamber is not really so bad, he says; it takes him about half a day to prepare

a specimen. And even when his equipment – which he built himself by the

way – sometimes suffers a breakdown, he remains perfectly calm. He may

well do so, for half a week will have to pass by before he is even able to examine

a defective soldering joint, for instance. For it takes much more then just a

few minutes to fill the vacuum in the chamber with air and warm it up to

room temperature. “A much bigger problem than that, though, is that we

then have to put the whole steel chamber inside a huge sort of heated oven

to get rid of the condensed water on the chamber walls.” There is pleasure

mixed with a trace of well-deserved pride when he tells of the many hours

spent soldering, bolting, milling, turning and gluing while putting “his” box

together, and later on maintenance and repairs: “It’s a bit like tinkering with

toys for grown up children”, he says with a grin.

It is all well worth the effort, though, as underscored by his scientific results.

These new types of switches made of organic dyes might eventually propel

electronics into a completely new dimension. The molecule switch would

take up only about one-hundredth of the space required by modern silicon

switches. Would, might … “This is all very fundamental research under

extreme conditions”, Repp stresses. Indeed it is: Stimulating individual molecules

with tiny amounts of electricity passed through the needle of a scanning

tunneling microscope in order to make hydrogen atoms flip, or linking

them together via stronger current pulses, in order to build simple switches –

despite all the successful results so far, it certainly sounds as though it will

still be some time before we can expect to see a useful computer built on this

principle. Yet, all things have to start with a preliminary step. And for him,

this very first step was made possible by his Lichtenberg Professorship, funded

by the Volkswagen Foundation to the tune of 1.4 million euros. For Jascha

Repp and Alexander Böker the key to the future was their success in being

among the elite group of researchers to be awarded a Lichtenburg Professorship,

the two agree unisono.

Jo Schilling

The Regensburg team led by Jascha Repp (foreground) benefits

from a new vacuum chamber and a new scanning tunneling micro -

scope at ultra-low temperatures. Photographed in the “building

pit” are (from the left): The two physicists, Mathias Neu and Tobias

Sonnleitner, together with Andreas Pöllmann, Hans-Michael

Solowan, Maurice Ziola and Christof Uhlmann.

Crossing Borders 2010 33

A Hint of Chaos

Computer simulations as research tools – or:

When small events entail dramatic consequences

Walking pace was yesterday. Today it is not only us humans who

travel around the world at high-speed, but also plants, animals, and

pathogens. Three projects which are supported by the Foundation

within its initiative entitled “New Conceptual Approaches to Modeling

and Simulation of Complex Systems” demon strate how the jungle

of modern mobility and its consequences can be made computable.

It is not unusual for Dirk Brockmann to see the world entrapped in a dense,

colorful spider’s web. With just one mouse click the physicist and professor

for complexity at Northwestern University in Evanston near Chicago can display

global air-travel trajectories in multi-colored lines on a world map. There

are as many as 40,000 connections worldwide. “About three billion people

travel along these routes every year. That’s the equivalent of about half the

world’s population”, he says. And always present as co-passengers on these

flights are viruses and bacteria traveling in the bodies of the people on board.

Many of these pathogens are harmless, but some of them have the potential

to trigger dangerous epidemics. Brockmann is an expert in this field. He caused

a global sensation about five years ago, when he – in collaboration with his

colleague Lars Hufnagel and at the time still at the Max Planck Institute for

Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen – used elaborate computer simulations

in order to track the global paths of the virus causing the pulmonary

disease SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and was subsequently able

to identify large airports as lynchpins for the distribution of the disease.

Around the world in no time: diseases get the globalization bug

Within the framework of a project funded by the Volkswagen Foundation with

approximately 570,000 euros Professor Brockmann is now investigating rail and

road traffic too. “We have already been able to identify mathematical similarities

between the networks, but we are still lacking a plausible underlying theory; a

model that would make the mechanisms graspable”, he outlines the challenge.

Brockmann now focuses his simulations more particularly on the dynamics

that inevitably ensue when people learn of an emerging dangerous infectious

Professor Dr. Dirk Brockmann (center)

to gether with members of his team on

Evanston Campus, USA: Daniel Grady, M.S.,

physicists Rafael Brune, Christian Thielmann

and Vincent David, Alejandro Morales

Gallardo, M.Sc., and Olivia Woolley, M.S.

Based in Oldenburg, Professor Dr. Bernd

Blasius (on the left) investigates how foreign

species are “moving in” on new habitats:

Currently in the focus of his research are

ocean dwellers that are becoming dispersed

along the world’s shipping lanes.

Crossing Borders 2010 35


Funding initiative “New Conceptual

Approaches to Modeling and Simulation

of Complex Systems”

– see page 73

Professor Dr. Bernd Blasius and his colleagues

Dr. Alexey Ryabov (center) and Dr. Pablo Kaluza

(left) are keeping track of the bioinvaders by

means of mathematics: using computer

models they can calculate propagation paths

and chances of dispersion in order to arrive

at better forecasts of negative developments,

or even to prevent them occurring in the first


disease. This entails taking into consideration a multitude of at times contradictory

factors. “When, for instance, large numbers of people flee from their

homes in panic in an attempt to escape a causative agent, the spread of the

disease will be accelerated”, the researcher explains. They may well be carrying

the virus with them without being aware of it, as many diseases initially

progress without displaying any symptoms. By way of contrast, other probable

reactions to the situation – such as wearing protective masks – can be highly

effective in containing a causative agent. In order to obtain a realistic quantitative

measure of the influence of such factors, the researchers are collaborating

with medical professionals and epidemiologists.

No less complex is the other part of this cooperative project. At the Institute for

Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment at the University of Oldenburg,

Professor Bernd Blasius is researching the immigration of alien species.

“Because of increasing globalization, bioinvasions have become a hot topic of

research”, says the physicist, who used to supervise a junior research group at

the University of Potsdam funded by the Foundation before he moved to his

current position in Lower Saxony. Although not all “invaders” are necessarily

harmful, some organisms could spread highly infectious diseases, completely

alter existing ecosystems, and even cause direct physical damage. Two examples:

every year Germany spends in excess of 40 million euros repairing damage

to river banks and barrages caused by the muskrat, which is originally native

to North America, or to contain rampant invading plant species, such as the

giant hogweed, which is naturally endemic to the Caucasus. In the international

database for “Global Invasive Species” one can find the top 100 of the

most harmful bioinvader species: a catalogue in need of constant updating.

Most species find their way into new environments accidentally and only

become noticeable once they have already proliferated. “In many instances

it is not possible to determine by what means a plant or animal has traveled”,

Blasius relates. The experts are not able to find a consensus on the spread of

bird flu, for instance. In pursuit of finding answers to questions like these

researchers are working on simulating the underlying transport networks

and probabilities of survival for various bioinvasive species with mathema -

tical methods. Crucial for this is the identification of nodes – i.e. those areas

relevant to the distribution: “They show us where to intervene in order to

prevent a potential invasion with minimal effort”.

At present the researchers from Oldenburg have turned their focus onto the

commercial ports and are trailing through immense databases. “They contain

masses of information pertaining to when which vessel docked at which

port, which route it was on, and whether it was an oil tanker or a container

ship”, says Blasius. Of interest here would not only be the cargoes they carry,

which could act as potential refuge for foreign organisms, but also the ballast

water, i.e. sea water, which has to be filled into the steel bilges every so often

in order to ensure that the ocean giants maintain their trim even when

loaded unevenly. Ballast water has, for instance, been found to have transported

algae from the Pacific into Norwegian waters, with the result that salmon

stocks have been poisoned by the ton.

However, whether a species actually manages to proliferate in foreign waters

will depend on a number of factors, reports Blasius. “For example, we have to

consider the salinity and temperatures of the ports’ waters, in order to approximate

the probability of survival.” The next objective for the researchers will

be to also compile data on predators and competing organisms for inclusion

in their models. This in turn calls for close cooperation with biologists.

In collaboration with his colleagues in Evanston, Blasius wants to determine

whether bioinvasions occur according to the same principles as the spread of

disease. Through this comparison, the scientists hope to gain a better understanding

of the underlying processes. In this matter they may soon be able to

benefit from the findings of a second project within the same funding initiative.

A team of German and Swiss scientists under the leadership of Professor Kai

Nagel from the Technical University of Berlin and Professor Kay Axhausen

from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich are examining social

networks – funded by the Volkswagen Foundation with approximately

500,000 euros. It is their aim to investigate recreational travel behavior in

modern society.

Human relationships, communication, and traffic

“Already today, recreational travel makes up a good third of all transportation,

with an upward trend”, Nagel outlines the situation. But whereas commuter

transport is already reasonably well predictable, the scientific description of

recreational travel is still in its infancy. According to Nagel, the currently

available models used to enable analyses are constructed too simplistically.

For instance, they are based on the assumption that using the car becomes

the more probable, the more cinemas, theatres and coffee shops are on offer

– and the closer they are to where people live. “However, it is especially travel

across longer distances that will increase with time, as people will move house

more often, whilst maintaining their established networks for a longer period

of time”, the physicist believes. And international friendships are likely to be

on the increase as well. In principle, one has to consider friendship networks

that can spread across the entire globe.

In order to encompass such factors, the Swiss team surrounding traffic planner

Axhausen has developed a comprehensive survey with regard to social networks.

Through random sampling they chose test subjects in Switzerland – from rural

as well as urban environments. In a private interview of about one and a half

hours, they are requested to answer questions on their biography and circle

of friends. The researchers are, for instance, interested in where any friends

Interesting newcomers to the North Sea:

over time, though, “invaders” like Pacific

oysters, American razor clams and common

American clipper shells are capable of displacing

other species and completely altering

the finely-tuned domestic ecosystem.

Crossing Borders 2010 37


Shall we drive to the cinema – or better take

the bike? Within the context of a research

project on the topic of social networking run

in cooperation between the Technical University

of Berlin and the ETH in Zürich, Andreas

Frei, Matthias Kowald, and Jeremy Hackney

(top photo, from the left) are investigating

the structures of leisure-time mobility. The

findings obtained from the two universities’

social networking project will also be used

for MATSim, an open-source software project

for traffic planning. Members of the project

group (bottom photo, from the left): Francesco

Ciari, Professor Dr. Kai Nagel, David Charypar,

Dr. Michael Balmer, Andreas Horni, Dr. Fabrice

Marchal, Jeremy Hackney, Gregor Lämmel,

Dominik Grether, David Strippgen, Professor

Dr.-Ing. Kay W. Axhausen, Marcel Rieser and

Konrad Meister.

might live, how closely contacts are maintained, and what subjects are discussed.

They also want to know whether face-to-face meetings are preferred

and whether telephone conversations or e-mail exchange are more likely.

And finally, the test subjects are asked to provide their friends’ addresses.

“This is very important, as we would also like to question them on the same

points in order to establish any potential interconnections”, Axhausen explains

the strategy. This type of “snowball sampling” is likely to be unique at present,

not least due to its extensiveness. To date, investigations pertaining to

social networks were restricted to a narrow circle, e.g. companies or schools.

The new data from the total of 500 people surveyed was scheduled for eva -

luation starting in summer 2009 by a research team surrounding Kai Nagel

from Berlin. “More specifically our goal is a microscopic simulation of road

traffic”, Nagel emphasizes. “We want to know when a particular car is at what

location and at what time.” From the physicist’s perspective it would be ideal

if the data analysis showed up specific patterns of movement, hence several

cars – and therewith the drivers and passengers – could eventually be “summarized”.

All in all, the investigation is intended to provide tools for predicting

recreational traffic in the future; building on this, scientists could potentially

develop efficient steering instruments suitable for traffic, urban and regional

planning. Equally desirable for the participating researchers would be that

their findings from the analysis of social networks contribute to understanding

the spread of disease or computer viruses, which to date have often been

hard to predict – right through to the spread of rumors.

Focus on logistics

If you thought it was only difficult to predict what living things do, then you

can think again. The world of goods and merchandise is also prone to a touch

of chaos. And nobody knows this better than Professor Bernd Scholz-Reiter

from the University of Bremen, who coordinates the third of the collaborative

projects presented here, funded by the Foundation in an amount of 455,000

euros. “Behind almost all products one can today find complex and dynamic

networks of clients, production plants, distributors, and transport routes –

which in addition are linked by interdependencies”, he explains how the

situation has developed. Should any bottlenecks occur, this could lead to long

reaction times. Such bottlenecks could for instance result from an earthquake

or from a simple power failure at the plant producing a certain component.

“Sometimes the causes of a delay in delivery might even remain a mystery”,

says the logistics expert.

Based on the example of a pump manufacturer, the researchers now want to

shed light on the logistics jungle. For that purpose they created a mathematical

network with several thousand nodes, using client and distributor locations,

production plants and storage facilities. “In order to simulate these

things in justifiable computing time, we only consider those nodes that are

crucial to the stability of the network”, Scholz-Reiter explains the next step.

The necessary mathematical tools are being developed by Fabian Wirth,

recently appointed professor of mathematics at the University of Würzburg,

and Sergej Dashkovskiy, a post-doc mathematician at Bremen University.

With the help of mathematical analyses and simulations, the researchers want

to determine which network structures are particularly interference-prone.

Furthermore, they would like to know which effects are controlled by the

dynamics of consumer demand. After all, delivery problems can also occur

when demand for a certain product increases suddenly and unexpectedly.

Reasons for this could be successful advertising campaigns or even political

decisions – when for example an impending increase in value added tax

leads to stockpiling.

The current planning and steering systems of companies do not consider

such dynamic developments. They are based exclusively on linear and static

assumptions. Hence, they are quite useless in the face of problems such as

changing suppliers or customers, or the introduction of new entities within a

given logistics network. “In contrast, with the example of the pump manufacturer

we will be able to observe many such structural changes of the network

as well as their consequences over a longer period of time. This will enable us

to incorporate them into our models”, says Scholz-Reiter enthusiastically.

Even the tendency to chaos inherent to these networks cannot daunt the

engineer. After all, seemingly irrelevant and small events can still have

important repercussions, like unfavorable weather conditions overseas may

lead to financial losses for a local business. Notwithstanding, Scholz-Reiter

is confident: “In the end we will tame the chaos.” And with this thinking he

finds himself in tune with his research colleagues from the other projects.

Andrea Hoferichter

Professor Dr.-Ing. Bernd Scholz-Reiter (photo

left, center front row) and his team at Bremen

University are developing sophisticated theoretical

methods for the optimization of network

solutions in logistics. Thomas Jagalski

M.Sc. (photo right) is working on how to

logistically connect customers, suppliers and

production centers in a way that ensures that

the complex processes involved run smoothly

– all over the world.

Crossing Borders 2010 39

Multilingualism Perceived as Opportunity

Linguists, sociologists and psychologists are

investigating language hurdles to integration.

A good command of the written and spoken language of the host

country is an indispensable prerequisite for successful participation

in most walks of society. All the experts agree: Language difficulties

represent a significant barrier to the integration of migrants. In an

effort to rectify this, the Foundation approved 1.4 million euros for

three study groups focusing on “Structure and Change of Language”.

Haven’t we all at some time experienced sheer despair when having to fill

in official forms? All too often they are just full of unintelligible officialese.

Just what is “personalized printed pay slip appended to account” intended to

convey? Does “recipient of fundamental means in latter years” perhaps mean

“pensioner”? “You must not only have a thorough command of the language,

but also some background knowledge of the subject covered by the government

agency concerned in order to successfully complete and submit forms

and applications”, stresses Dr. Uta Quasthoff, Professor at the Institute for German

Language and Literature at Dortmund University. Written communication

with the authorities and government agencies is something of a challenge

even to native speakers. For a migrant with only a smattering of German, though,

correspondence with public offices literally represents an insurmountable

hurdle. As a consequence, migrants often resort to avoidance strategies, burying

their heads in the sand and simply not responding to letters – or, if they

can, they delegate such tiresome red tape to helping relatives. “This naturally

means that they have little chance of asserting their interests or maintaining

any sense of autonomy”, she explains. “They remain in ignorance of relevant

information, and quite often suffer material disadvantages as a result.”

“Germany has seriously slipped up over recent years”, says Uta Quasthoff.

For far too long we have omitted to face up to the fact that Germany is an

immigration country; there is now a cultural lack of appreciation of multilingualism,

for instance. This is fatal, for, as already pointed out, a lack of writing

skills in our literacy-oriented society can soon make you into an outsider:

“That is an integration barrier par excellence”, Uta Quasthoff pushes her point

home. This is something she hopes her research project entitled “Literacy

between Languages and Cultures: Resource and Obstacle of Integration”,

which is being funded in an amount of 500,000 euros by the Foundation,

How can communication between migrants

and government agencies be improved? This

is the challenge being tackled by the three

researchers in our photo (from left to right):

Professor Dr. Ludger Hoffmann, Professor Dr.

Uta Quasthoff and Nils Kremeskötter.

Research into linguistic competence as a factor

of integration: Dottoressa Matilde Grünhage-Monetti

(photo left, second from left)

and a fellow member of the project team

conducting an interview in the Mozart Café

in Frankfurt with café proprietor Antonio

Jacino and head chef Ram Nath on the topic

“German at work”.

Crossing Borders 2010 41


They have given their project the name LiLaC

– Literacy between Languages and Cultures:

The research team in Dortmund comprises

linguists Annette Herkenrath, Professor Dr.

Ludger Hoffmann, Professor Dr. Uta Quast -

hoff (behind, left) and Sören Ohlhus, Nicole

Hinrichs, Nils Kremeskötter (foreground from

the left).

Professor Dr. Ludger Hoffmann and Nils

Kremeskötter discussing the acoustic analysis

of vocal intonation.

will help to change: She is joined in the project by her colleagues Professor

Dr. Ludger Hoffmann and Professor Dr. Dr. Michael Kastner from Dortmund.

Their main research objective is to develop concepts designed to support

migrants and disadvantaged “monolinguists” in their dealings with official

agencies – for example by means of developing simplified or translated forms,

qualified help in filling out forms, or customized courses of further education.

Quasthoff and her colleagues started their project by carrying out the necessary

empirical analysis. They intend to throw light on the economic, social,

and cultural difficulties experienced by first and second generation Turkish

migrants as well as monolinguists from comparable backgrounds in their

dealings with officialdom: Where do non-native speakers perceive room for

improvements and what are the most frequently occurring problems. To help

them in their investigation, the team has distributed questionnaires in several

underprivileged neighborhoods in the industrial Ruhr district. “By comparing

the two groups, we hope to find out how much of the problem can be

traced to multilingualism and migration biographies, and what is more likely

attributable to low levels of education or other forms of social disadvantage”,

explains Uta Quasthoff.

Some 400 respondents answered the questionnaire. From this initial group,

the team will eventually select 48 participants with whom they will conduct

comprehensive autobiographical interviews, ideally representatives across

three generations of a family. “One of our objectives is to determine the linguistic

skills common to each different age group; another is to find out how

specific factors influence their contact with the public authorities – e.g. educational

background, gender, or life courses.” They will also examine the

interviewees’ self-perception with regard to whether they see themselves

in the mainstream of society, or more on the periphery.

By employing a cross-generational form of investigation the Dortmund

researchers hope to reveal how the perspectives and attitudes within a

migrant family change over time. The interviews are also expected to result

in useable proposals to improve the situation. This is the common approach

shared by all three “Study Groups on Migration and Integration” working

on questions of structure and change of language within the Foundation’s

funding scheme. First, they investigate where language difficulties hinder

integration. Then the research results will help to identify ways to introduce

practical changes designed to facilitate the integration of migrants.

This also applies to the research project run by Professor Dr. Michael Bommes

from the Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies (IMIS) at the

University of Osnabrück. He and his colleagues are researching how children

are taught how to write in Germany and in Turkey – and how the different

organization of schooling in the two countries impacts on this process. The

title of the project is “Learning to read and write at school in circumstances

of migration and multilingualism”: The Volkswagen Foundation is providing

658,000 euros to fund the project. The participating research scholars – the

sociologist Inken Sürig and the linguists Dr. Ulrich Mehlem, Anja Boneß, and

Helena Olfert from IMIS – started their project by a one-year field study. They

observed the first (6/7-year-olds) and seventh grades (13-year-olds) of schools

in Duisburg-Rheinhausen, every week for two hours: They employed five

video cameras, documented the course of lessons, and copied homework and

tests. In both groups, one third of the pupils are being brought up with more

than one language, most of them speaking Turkish at home. For them, so the

researchers believe, learning to read and write is particularly challenging, as

the language of instruction is not their native tongue. By means of the study

the IMIS team will analyze closely how the pupils learn to transfer sounds into

letters, how they distinguish between oral and written language, and how

they acquire the skills necessary to develop differentiated forms of written

expression. Moreover, as sociological factors are so important in determining

academic success at school – for example how readily a child slips into the

role of pupil – the research team will also look into the children’s social backgrounds.

This will be done on the basis of comprehensive interviews with six

German and six Turkish children from each school group, as well as their parents.

“The idea of this is to find out whether there is a connection between

the family’s educational background and the children’s role behavior in the

classroom”, Inken Sürig explains. The ultimate goal that she and her colleagues

have set themselves is to identify major factors which facilitate the children’s

approach to written language.

The researchers have already come up with some interesting results. For

instance, they were quite surprised to learn just how little the Duisburg

seventh-grade pupils actually had to put pen and pencil to paper. “It was

mostly left up to the pupils themselves to decide whether they would make

notes during the lessons”, reports Ulrich Mehlem. Furthermore, the IMIS

team could observe that pupils who experienced difficulty in expressing

themselves adequately otherwise took very active part in lessons – clearly

their lack of verbal skills does not impair oral participation. The researchers

registered language deficits on the part of both the German pupils as well

as multilingual children. They were particularly impressed, though, by the

learning zeal of many of the migrant children.

Changing the scene, in Turkey the research group around Professor Dr. Chris -

toph Schroeder from Bilgi University, in Istanbul, is carrying out a methodically

identical study to the Osnabrück group in an Istanbul suburb with a largely

Kurdish population. The international research team hopes to gain some

interesting insights from their study – above all because education in Turkey

stems from quite another tradition from that of Germany. “A sizable part of

the population in Turkey, for instance, is still illiterate, so that the acquisition

of writing skills assumes a much greater cultural significance and is directly

associated with social success”, Ulrich Mehlem points out the differences.

It’s back to school for the migration

researchers in the team led by Professor Dr.

Michael Bommes (left) in Osnabrück. They

are conducting research on the language

acquisition of Turkish children. The team

(from the left): Dr. John Peterson, research

assistants Inken Sürig, Anja Boneß, Helena

Olfert and Dr. Ulrich Mehlem.

Crossing Borders 2010 43


On the basis of a large number of interviews

the scholars are working on how to promote

successful career and social integration by

way of lingu istic competence. Team members

(from the left) Kristina Harten, Sabina

Hussain, Susanne Meermann, Matilde Grünhage-Monetti,

Thorben Wist discuss the

development of respective tools.

In Germany, too, language competencies are also vital in working life – and

not only in jobs which call for high qualifications. “Even unskilled workers

must have relatively well-developed language competencies”, according to

Dottoressa Matilde Grünhage-Monetti from the German Institute for Adult

Education, in Bonn. Together with Professor Dr. Hermann Funk from Jena

University and Dr. Martin Hartung from the Institute for the German Language,

Mannheim, the Italian-born Anglicist is leading a study group on the

topic “German at Work”. The Volkswagen Foundation is supporting the group

in an amount of 250,000 euros. In collaboration with adult education centers

in Braunschweig and Vienna, and the German company Henkel, the research

team is developing tools for application in educational institutions and enterprises

which will help in determining respective levels of language requirements

for different jobs.

“Until now, language instruction has tended to neglect authentic oral communication

and focus instead on the written form”, says Gruenhage-Monetti.

That is about to change. To begin with, the research team went into a number

of companies in the producing and the care sectors – workers in these sectors

often have a migratory background – and took recordings of typical conversations

in the course of a normal working day. They then evaluate these and

conduct interviews with the employees and their supervisors. In this way the

researchers want to analyze the language used and determine the required

communicative competencies for sustainable and successful vocational and

social integration, taking into account the various assessments and expectations

of all concerned.

Grünhage-Monetti often hears human resources managers make statements

like: “Our workers don’t need to talk a lot; they should be getting on with

their work.” In reality, though, virtually all gainful employment, especially

work involving customer contact, calls for complex language skills. And even

in unskilled jobs – e.g. in the care sector or commercial cleaning – at some

point, like safety training or conflict situations for instance, high demands

are placed on language ability. “And in every conversation we enter into,

beside the matter on hand there is also always an interpersonal aspect which

reaches beyond the basic exchange of information”, the scholar elucidates.

Polite interchange, clear pronunciation, and correct intonation – as Grünhage-

Monetti’s team has already ascertained – are for instance in the care sector of

particular importance. “Especially dementia patients soon become aggressive

if they can’t understand something or if they think their conversation partner

is being impolite”, she says. She therefore says it is important to offer language

courses for migrants which are customized to fit their individual working

situation – thus ensuring a direct transfer into the practice. “Unfortunately,

though, only very few employers understand that training employees’ communication

skills also impacts on the quality of work and, moreover, on the

overall working climate”, she says regrettably.

That it is not always easy to comprehend a meaning exactly even if speaking

the same language is something the researchers in all three groups have found

out through their own experience. Since the study groups comprise researchers

from different disciplines they, too, sometimes experience a certain degree

of difficulty. “Not infrequently, the self-same term used both in sociology as

well as in linguistics conveys respectively quite a different meaning”, says

Uta Quasthoff. It can take time to understand each other, and that takes

patience. But once common ground has been established, completely new

perspectives begin to appear – much the same as when learning a new language.

“Interdisciplinarity can give rise to strands of research which would

never have been apparent from the perspective of a single discipline”, Quast -

hoff adds. The three projects on the topic “Structure and Change of Language”

present a shining example.

Ute Kehse

Blacenka Durkovic (top right) works as a waitress

in a café: The way she and other foreign

workers get by linguistically is the topic being

researched by Matilde Grünhage-Monetti (left).

Crossing Borders 2010 45

Avantgarde – Multiplied by Four

Salamanders, icefish, crows and fruitflies provide

young researchers with new insights into evolution.

In the framework of its funding initiative “Evolutionary Biology”

the Volkswagen Foundation is providing funds for postgraduate and

postdoc positions. Four of the scholarship holders – representing some

of the many facets of evolutionary research – are introduced here:

They go into the woods at night, explore the freezing Antarctic, climb

trees, and stuff tiny flies down plastic tubes.

Raindrops fall from the trees, it is quiet and already dark when Ralf Hendrix

enters Kottenforst forest: A good night for fire salamanders. It is on nights

like these in the wooded area between Bonn and Meckenheim that the animals

venture out of their hiding places in their dozens, easily seen crossing

the forest tracks on their hunt for food. All the evolutionary biologist from

Bonn has to do is to pick them up. He is researching the emergence of new

species – and these little black and yellow amphibians permit him a direct

insight into the fascination of evolution.

For the fire salamanders of Kottenforst are actually going through the process

of diverging into two different types: one line releases its larvae into running

waters, whilst the other releases them into stagnant pools that regularly dry

out. The two groups already exhibit differences in their genetic material, even

though they only appeared in Kottenforst forest a few thousand years ago. A

stroke of luck for Hendrix: “This is the first time we’re able to witness speciation

at first hand without having to rely on examining already diverged species in

order to reconstruct the process of speciation.” With his project the scientist

from Bonn is breaking completely new ground. For traditional concepts of

continental speciation require long-term geographical isolation of two groups

for them to diverge into two distinct species.

The fire salamanders near Bonn however, are diverging into two species

even though they inhabit the same woodland, cross the same forest tracks,

are active at the same time, and eat the same snails. That is why Hendrix is

cataloguing their genes by taking tissue samples from toes; he implants the

animals with small radio tracking devices in order to trace their movements;

he collects their larvae and keeps meticulous record of where he encounters

which species. Ralph Hendrix spends his nights in the forest because he is

Funding initiative

“Evolutionary Biology”

– see page 75

Ralph Hendrix with a fire salamander at night

in the woods near Bonn: during the scholarship

period he will write a dissertation on his

black and yellow darlings.

Crossing Borders 2010 47


fascinated by evolution. Like him 53 PhD students and postdocs are being

supported by the Volkswagen Foundation within the context of its “Evolutionary

Biology Initiative” for promoting evolutionary research in Germany

through their work.

The mystery of the cod icefish

Michael Matschiner from Basel is another member of this favored group. “I

am investigating the adaptive radiation of nototheniidae, also called cod icefish”,

he explains. Adaptive radiation? This describes a process in which one

species diversifies into many different species in a very short period of time,

by dividing themselves up corresponding to various ecological niches within

their habitat. However, here the word “short” should not be taken too literally:

in the case of cod icefish the development of their diversity has taken approximately

20 million years. Matschiner’s research organisms live in the Antarctic.

Their habitat is defined by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, which flows in

a clock-wise direction around the Antarctic, hence isolating it thermally from

neighboring oceans. The cod icefish have to cope with water temperatures as

low as two degrees below zero – which they obviously have succeeded at: they

inhabit the innumerable shelf areas to be found all the way around the Antarctic

and occupy a most diverse set of ecological niches.

The Swiss-born scientist is collaborating with the Leibniz Institute of Marine

Sciences at the University of Kiel (IFM-GEOMAR) for his PhD thesis and comparing

the genes of individual populations that live in the different shelf areas.

And he has come to an astonishing conclusion: Groups that live only a few

islands apart are sometimes less closely related to each other than other

groups that are geographically spread over vast distances. “Fish that inhabit

the Antarctic peninsula, for instance, display high levels of genetic analogy

with fish that are found in the Atlantic near South Georgia”, he explains. At

first glance there seems to be no logical explanation to this phenomenon, as

cod icefish swim close to the sea bed, are therefore rarely subjected to ocean

currents, and never move away from their habitat.

But as so often with great mysteries, the solution is almost banal: Matschiner

found it in charts of ocean currents. In between these two marine regions there

is a strong surface-water current, which won’t carry away adult fish, but might

entrain their larvae which drift at the water’s surface. This current connects

the Antarctic peninsula with the coast of South Georgia and thus enables

geneflow between the two populations. Matschiner’s conclusion: “In future

we will also have to consider ocean currents in our analyses of processes of

speciation in the marine world.” Such a detailed view of life and the interrelationships

that are the basis of its dynamics only became possible through

gene sequencing and the methods which enabled us to differentiate the

genetic material of individual organisms.

Interbreeding crows

However, sometimes these methods lead to results that do not fit into the

traditional theories of evolution – such as in the case of Dr. Jochen Brock Wacain

Wolf, who used to conduct research at the Max-Plank Institute for Evolutionary

Biology in Plön and is now based at the Swedish University of Uppsala. In the

course of his work he is on the look out for crows’ nests, which takes him on

canoeing trips down the Havel river, for instance, excursions into woodlands,

and even sometimes close to waste tips in urban areas. When he finds a nest,

he climbs up the tree and takes a small blood sample from the fledglings.

This minor intrusion allows an insight into the genetic makeup of the birds.

What he’s looking for is something which might end in having to rewrite

biology text books. The books say that black ravens and the grey hooded crow

are the prototypes of allopatric speciation. This type of species diversification

always involves an extrinsic process, which completely separates two groups

of the same species. In the case of the crows, this is supposed to have been an

insurmountable ice barrier during the last ice age. However: there is a narrow

mixing zone that trails through all of Europe, in which raven and hooded crows

actually do interbreed. “This mixing zone and new genetic investigations

demonstrate that ravens and hooded crows haven’t diverged that much from

each other at all”, explains Wolf. In order to gain an understanding of the

mechanisms that have indeed led to the splitting of the ancient crow species,

he has established research transects across the mixing zone. Where the zone

runs in a north-south gradient, he traces a 300 km long east-west transect

along which he examines the genes of the animals, crow by crow.

Michael Matschiner on an expedition in

the Arctic. The objects of his research, the

cod icefish, also live in the polar region,

but on the other side of the world – in

the Antarctic.

Crossing Borders 2010 49


Dr. Jochen Brock Wacain Wolf, photographed

here by his colleague Axel Künstner at his

new research location in Uppsala. His current

experimental animal, the crow, has been

inserted into the shot.

“Modern evolutionary biology is a mixture of field biology and high-tech”, Wolf

emphasizes. For his research, this means that he first has to sequence parts of

the genetic material of both species. With the help of bioinformatic algorithms,

specific gene sequences can then be decoded. In this data Wolf then searches

for genetic markers, in which the crow types differ significantly and that are

associated with their specific ways of life.

An extremely variable gene

A totally different aspect of evolutionary biology occupies Dr. Sophie Armitage

from Münster, who is also funded by the Volkswagen Foundation. She is not

interested in the speciation of amphibians, fish or birds, but conducts evolutionary

research on the immune system of fruit flies. Sophie Armitage has

specialized herself on one particular gene: it is called “down syndrome cell

adhesion molecule” and is abbreviated to Dscam. This gene is also present in

humans, and in cases of Down’s Syndrome among others this gene is present

in one copy too many. In fruit flies the Dscam gene is probably responsible

for allowing the immune system to recognize bacteria, viruses or fungi as

“gatecrashers”; it encodes for a protein that is attached to the fruit flies’ blood

cells. Since the Dscam gene is extremely variable, it produces thousands

of different variations of this protein. With help of this variety the insects’

immune system becomes able to recognize a whole spectrum of intruders.

“The immune system is a good model to investigate evolution”, Sophie

Armitage explains. “It is constantly adapting to pathogens which are trying

to invade the organism.”

How this affects changes to the gene, and which variations exist in the fruit fly

to start with, is what the Brit examines at a temperature of 18 degrees centigrade

in the company of millions of tiny flies. The Drosophila live in small plastic

tubes – none any bigger than a film container. Hundreds of different lineages

are meticulously arranged in plastic trays. However, Armitage is interested in

only 25 of these lineages, and her most important tool is the microscope. For

the flies to be immobilized she stuns them with carbon dioxide. Then she can

sort the animals by sex, and sort wildtypes caught with ripe bananas by their

individual traits or select flies for crossbreeding. These many individual animals

provide her with the variants in which Dscam may occur. Even if this all sounds

like excessively detailed niche research – Sophie Armitage demonstrates the

practical applications of this kind of research in two short sentences: “One

and a half million people die every year from diseases transmitted by insects.

That is why it is important for us to understand how insects interact with

those parasites.” A very small step from the fundamental principles of life to

problems of our times.

Jo Schilling

Sophie Armitage in her lab in Münster. Under

the microscope she is sorting wildtype flies,

which she has trapped nearby.

Crossing Borders 2010 51

“My Philosophy Is Simply to Get the Ball Rolling”

Researchers armed with video cameras, audio

recorders and notepads are documenting endangered

languages worldwide.

Approximately two thirds of the world’s 6,500 languages are in

danger of dying out. Since 1999 the Volkswagen Foundation has

been supporting the documentation of endangered languages and

through this bringing together researchers from various countries

and disciplines. Three projects, from the Sudan, Iran and Indonesia

respectively, are outstanding illustrations of these joint efforts.

A hotel room in Khartoum in the year 2003. The phone rings. From the other

end of the line he’s told someone is waiting for him at the reception. “My first

thought was: Those are the guys from the secret service!”, Professor Dr. Gerrit

Jan Dimmendaal remembers. At the time the Dutch linguist from the Institute

for African Studies at Cologne University was on a research stay in the Sudanese

capital. However, it turned out that the people who wanted to see the 53-yearold

linguist were 15 members of the Tima, a tribe at home in the Nuba Mountains

of central Sudan. “They asked me to develop an orthography of their

language so they could teach it to their children.” This coincidence was to be

the catalyst for a research project which the Volkswagen Foundation has been

supporting with a grant of 300,000 euros since early 2006 within the “Documentation

of Endangered Languages” funding initiative.

Under way in Africa: Among the Tima in Sudan

Beside Dimmendaal and Gertrud Schneider-Blum, a linguist from Cologne, the

project team comprises Abdel Rahim Mugaddam, head of the department of

linguistics at Khartoum University, as well as Sudanese PhD students Abeer

Bashir and Suzan Alamin. Being one of only very few projects of its kind in

Africa, the integration of local researchers in this project represents an important

contribution to capacity building in Sudan, where education and research

have been stunted by decades of political unrest and civil war. Mugaddam

has learnt to be pragmatic about these situations. “My philosophy is simply

to get the ball rolling, even when the perimeter conditions are bad.”

The Nuba Mountains, a region the size of Belgium, are a kind of “reservoir” for

more than 40 of the 140 languages spoken in the Sudan. As of yet, hardly any

Funding initiative “Documentation

of Endangered Languages”

– see page 82

The Cologne researchers Professor Dr. Gerrit

Jan Dimmendaal and Dr. Gertrud Schneider-

Blum together with their colleague Professor

Dr. Abdel Rahim Mugaddam from Khartoum

University discussing the Tima Plant Guide

which was compiled during the documentation

of this Niger-Congo language. Also the

multi-media version focuses on the mapping

of Tima names especially for trees.

Crossing Borders 2010 53


The video material recently recorded in Sudan

by Dr. Gertrud Schneider-Blum is being digitalized:

Sudanese research assistant Abeer

Bashir can be seen on the screen sending

greetings (top photo). It is hoped that she

and her colleagues will be instrumental in

anchoring the know-how gained during the

language documentation in her native Sudan

(bottom picture, from left): Professor Dr. Abdel

Rahim Mugaddam; co-workers Suzan Alamin

and Abeer Bashir photographed in front of

the Department of Linguistics at Khartoum


has been researched. Tima is spoken by approximately 5,000 people. However,

beside their mother tongue, they generally also make use of two to three other

regional languages, in addition to the country’s official language of standard

Arabic and English. Hence, more and more Tima is losing its role in everyday

life, and is less likely to be passed on to children – “a process we cannot halt”,

says Dimmendaal. Nevertheless, researchers can help to retain the cultural

knowledge encrypted in the language, amongst it many linguistic particularities.

Using audio equipment and video cameras they record samples of the

language, amongst them stories, songs, dances, and anecdotes of everyday

life. The data are then transcribed, analyzed, translated into English and Arabic,

and annotated with commentaries. Once they have been stored in the

electronic archives for endangered languages at Nijmegen (

DOBES), the development of which was also funded by the Foundation, they

are then available for further research, and especially to the Tima people


That the Tima-speaking community is fully supporting this project is in no small

part due to Abdel Rahim Mugaddam. Affectionately known as “Mr. Facilitator”

to his colleagues, he is not only responsible for the organization in the field,

but is also constantly on hand to the Tima people – and he integrates the issue

of documentation into his teaching. Abeer Bashir and Suzan Alamin are the

first African women experts on the subject of language documentation. The

two mothers, who each have several children, were able to stand up to the

objections raised by relatives, and with the help of their husbands and closer

families are now able to exploit all the opportunities presented by this project.

For instance, traveling alone they attend international conferences where

they can network with linguists from all over the world. It is Dimmendaal’s

dream that one day his Sudanese colleagues, both male and female, will be

able to continue this work independently. “Now we only need the political

situation to remain stable.”

Adverse environment: Field research in Iran

Professor Dr. Ludwig Paul from the Asien-Afrika-Institut at Hamburg University

knows only too well what effect the political situation can have on research

conditions. The linguist has been studying the languages of Iran for more than

twenty years now. Since October 2007, together with his colleagues Dr. Geoffrey

Haig from at the Department for General and Comparative Linguistics at

Kiel University, and Professor Dr. Philip Gerrit Kreijenbroek from the department

for Iranian studies at Göttingen University, he has been researching

Gorani – funded by the Volkswagen Foundation with approximately 300,000

euros. Gorani is spoken by about 1,500 people in Kermanshah Province in

western Iran and is closely related to the Kurdish and Persian languages. In

the middle ages it was still a widely spread cultural and literary language,

but through the centuries Gorani has lost its importance.

Many of the remaining indigenous Iranian languages are today being threatened

by official national languages such as Persian or by regional lingua francas

like Kurdish. For the Gorani people the problem is further aggravated by the

fact that one of their three villages had to make way for a dam. “With such

adverse perimeter conditions to contend with, it is only a matter of time before

this language perishes”, says Paul. What tends to be overlooked is that Gorani

is fundamental to the understanding of the western Iranian family of languages.

“In Persian there are certain phenomena that can only be explained

through knowledge of specific varieties.”

What makes the Gorani language especially interesting, but its investigation

also a somewhat sensitive issue, is its close association with the minority

faith Ahl-i Haqq, the history of which seemingly dates back before Islamic

times. “The Ahl-e Haqq are facing a difficult situation in Iran”, says Geoffrey

Haig. “They have a more secular attitude than the Iranian Shiites.” For the

researchers this becomes a difficult balancing act, trying on the one hand to

support the Gorani people, who fear the loss of their culture, but on the other

hand not to expose them to criticism or danger through their involvement

with the project. So their broad-minded openness came as something of a

surprise to the team, just as the unexpectedly high number of religious scriptures

that have been handed down in a distinct variant of Gorani and are still

today used in performing sacred rites of the Ahl-i Haqq. Thanks to the friendship

between the Iranian project member, Parvin Mahmudweyssi, and one

of the Gorani religious leaders, the European members around Professor Kreijenbroek,

a scholar of religions, are probably the first western researchers who

have been granted access to the religion and sacred rites of the Ahl-i Haqq for

purposes of documentation with the full support of the religious community.

However, the focus of the project is the everyday spoken language of the Gorani

people, which Paul, Haig and Mahmudweyssi are studying. Especially older

people are willing to talk to the researchers. And not only about everyday things

It is believed that Gorani, an endangered

language in West Iran, is now only spoken

by some 1,500 people, among whom are

Homeira, Nasrin, Haide and Parwin. They are

assisting the documentation project being

run by researchers from Hamburg, Kiel and

Göttingen (center: project leader Dr. Geoffrey

Haig from Kiel University).

Crossing Borders 2010 55


Gorani-speaking men and boys during a

religious ceremony called “Nazr” (top photo).

Seated on the right is Fereydun Hosseini, a

religious leader whose influence facilitated

access to the linguistic community and helped

the German research team conduct their

interviews. Project member Parvin Mahmudweyssi

from Hamburg (bottom photo, right)

interviewing three women in the western

Iranian province of Kermanschah who hope

the language documentation will preserve at

least part of the culture of the Goran people.

such as the walnut harvest, fairytales or legends. In autumn 2007 the team

interviewed people in Zarde village, where in the late 1980s approximately

sixty people were killed in an Iraqi gas attack. “The mere fact that someone

was interested to hear about their ordeal, was a welcome experience for the

Gorani people”, Haig remembers. “Accounts like these have the potential to

develop into myths.”

The research team would very much like to intensify their collaboration with

their Iranian colleagues. That is why they also invited Iranian experts to a

summer academy in 2007, which was also funded by the Foundation. “Official

contacts are however more complex, and require a lot of bureaucratic effort”,

says Paul. Yet, his impression of Iran has little in common with the authoritarian,

anti-western state, so often portrayed by the western media. “As a

foreigner you can move freely, provided you observe certain rules.”

Indonesia’s islands: In the midst of linguistic richness

A totally different region of the world is being researched by Nikolaus Himmelmann.

The professor from the Department for General Linguistics at Münster

University is already an old hand at language documentation which also took

him to Peru and East Timor. In 2006, his third project funded by the Foundation

took him to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. During fieldwork twenty

years ago he came across eleven languages here, of which almost half were in

danger of dying out. “I would have loved to work on all of them”, the researcher

discloses. His choice fell to Totoli, which he suspects plays an important role

in the Austronesian family of languages. Where it originated and how it

relates to its neighboring languages is yet to be established. Together with

a German-Indonesian team of linguists and anthropologists, Himmelmann

wants to comprehensively document the Totoli language for the first time.

For this the Foundation is providing 325,000 euros. The results are intended

to enable further research in the future – even if the language might by then

have already become extinct.

Of the 25,000 Totoli, who live in the city of Tolitoli Kota in the north of the

island and in four villages 80 kilometres away, only one in ten is still proficient

in their mother tongue. “Many Totoli felt that their language sounded

too provincial”, says Claudia Leto, young linguist from Münster. That is why

many of them sent their children to distant schools, where they could be

educated in Indonesian. Furthermore, the North, where the economy based

on the cultivation of cloves and shrimps has been flourishing for the past

decades, is attracting Bugis and Makassar people from the South, whose

language has since been asserting itself in politics and society. Claudia Leto

is above all interested in colloquial and conversational language across all

social spheres: “This is a much easier way to capture the structure of a language

than through written text.” Armed with a video camera and a notepad,

she and native-speaker Winano accompany their conversational partners

into the rice fields, on fishing trips, or to ceremonies of one kind or another.

“Once we were even allowed to witness a marriage proposal.” For the process

of transcription and annotation they are further supported by two Indonesian

linguists, as well as by Javanese anthropologist Jani Kuhnt-Saptodewo,

who enriches the project with her own research perspective. “Ethnologists

ask different questions and create means of interaction that I as a linguist

would never have thought of”, says Himmelmann.

Leto has observed that many Totoli are making increasing use of their language

again. Moreover, they are not only supporting the researchers with

their own private video recordings, but have meanwhile also set up their

own radio program. Young people, for their part, have started to rummage

through the digital archive for endangered languages in urban internet

cafes. The prospects for reviving the Totoli language are therefore quite

encouraging, particularly as the Indonesian government is also promoting

the cultural development of its regions.

Nevertheless, the question remains as to how the extensive cornucopia of

languages in Indonesia can be maintained over time. Himmelmann, who has

been president of the German Society for Endangered Languages since 2004,

believes in the development of local research expertise. Within the framework

of this project he collaborated with Leto to organize two workshops on Bali in

2006 and 2007 for 14 young Indonesian linguists who were keen to develop

their own documentation projects. In spring of 2008 the Foundation furthermore

granted funds for an additional project, by means of which amongst

other things Himmelmann hopes to support the development of a regional

center for documentation in the Indonesian province of Papua.

So far within the framework of the DobeS funding initiative, a sum of about

21 million euros has been put into the documentation of more than sixty

endangered languages. A special feature of the initiative is its structure which

allows the various disciplines involved to expand their research perspectives.

With regard to empirical methods, linguistics has hence become an exemplar

for other disciplines within the humanities. As the world’s first electronic

archive, the archive for endangered languages at the Max-Plank Institute for

Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen also sets international standards. During the

final funding phase, which ends in 2011, the Foundation wants to build on these

successes by turning the focus onto capacity building in the target regions,

as well as testing the accrued electronic documentations for their usability.

The examples introduced here, moreover, demonstrate that especially external

interest for small and barely valued speech communities can successfully

reignite people’s commitment to represent their own culture with self-confidence

– one of the most important prerequisites to keeping a language alive.

Melanie Ossenkop

Claudia Leto, a linguist from Münster, concentrates

her research on the language and

culture of the Totoli on Sulawesi above all on

the spontaneous communication of everyday

life: Our photo shows her aboard a typical

fishing boat on route to a nature reserve

north of the city of Tolitoli.

Together with a neighbor, Totoli-speaker Yulin

H. Larada (right) prepares the traditional dish

ambaa siote, a meal made from sago and

mussels. The process and the conversation

surrounding it are recorded by the linguists.

Crossing Borders 2010 57

What Distinguishes Humans from Apes

Dilthey Fellows based at the Max Planck

Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig

are investigating developmental issues.

When outstanding young researchers from the humanities and

social sciences are able to conduct independent research over a period

of five years, then they are most likely to be holders of a “Dilthey

Fellowship”. This fun ding offer aims at encouraging scholars to work

in the context of an autonomously designed project and stimulating

new approaches to research in their respective fields.

Even though it is still a relatively young grant, there are already three Dilthey

Fellows working at the Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in

Leipzig. The young institute, founded in 1997, is one of Europe’s most important

interdisciplinary research centers in this field: here geneticists, linguists,

psychologists, social scientists, evolutionary biologists and anthropologists

work closely together. Approximately 400 researchers from 25 nations have

meanwhile converged on Saxony’s largest city; one of them is developmental

psychologist, Dr. Hannes Rakoczy. “My area of research is the so-called theory

of mind”, explains the Dilthey Fellow and continues: “It revolves around the

development of social understanding. “ One of his basic questions is how

children learn to understand the social world.

Rakoczy first discovered his passion for this field of research in Manchester,

continued to pursue it in Trier, until he came to the Institute in Leipzig, which

“at the time was still very small and relatively unknown”, he reminisces. Rakoczy

turned his intellectual curiosity for the essentials of philosophy and psychology

into a professional passion. After being awarded his PhD in 2004 he continued

his research under the supervision of Professor Dr. Michael Tomasello at the

Max Plank Institute in Leipzig and started lecturing at the local university.

When he applied for the Dilthey Fellowship, his independent research commitment

– which had already become evident through an impressive list of

publications – was duly acknowledged.

The investigation into the development of social awareness was initiated

almost exactly thirty years ago. At the time a scientific article was published

overseas with the central question: Do chimpanzees possess a naïve “theory

of mind”? That means: Do they understand that they – and others – are living

beings with psychological states? Do they understand themselves as rational

Funding initiative “Focus on the


– see page 68

Dr. Hannes Rakoczy is researching important

issues concerning the development of man’s

consciousness of social being. His work en -

compasses findings from the neurosciences

and primate research.

Three Dilthey Fellows launched their projects

at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary

Anthropology in Leipzig: Dr. Hannes Rakoczy,

Dr. Henrike Moll, Dr. Sabine Stoll (from the left).

Crossing Borders 2010 59


Why do we develop such entirely individual

perspectives on the world we live in: On the

one hand perceiving or thinking about things

differently, and on the other differing in our

desires? The top photo is a snapshot of an

experimental setup studying how young

children develop their sense of social being;

the photo below shows equipment used in

the analysis of DNA samples. This type of

wide-reaching research is the hallmark of

the Dilthey Fellows at the Max Planck Institute

in Leipzig.

protagonists? This interjection triggered a fierce debate on how best to

approach such questions in an empirical manner. A new field of research was

born. “These big questions get broken down into a vast array of detail work”,

Rakoczy expands. “If one wants to understand what distinguishes humans

from other primates, for instance, one first has to examine how various

forms of intentionality are developed, i.e. the ability to relate to something,

to develop wishes and expectations from the world. It is not a matter of

behavior as such, but rather of rational, goal-driven behavior.” Simple forms

of goal-driven actions can be readily observed in the animal kingdom. But

the fact that the human knows that he knows something or knows that he

does not know it, that he has convictions, which can be correct or incorrect,

requires complex reflection on the self and others. Animals in contrast,

including the highly evolved non-human primates, are obviously not capable

of such complicated cognitive accomplishments.

Rakoczy targets his research on children. From the age of approximately four

years, children develop a reflective social awareness; that is to say an understanding

that both they and their fellow human beings have subjective convictions

and perspectives. Younger children do not yet have this capability.

“There are very complex psychological paradigms along which the paths of

apes and human children diverge”, says the scientist. “They are the basis of

‘We-Intentionality’, for social behavior per se.” He points out dysfunctions

such as autism, in which more advanced forms of social understanding and

the ability for social communication are blocked. “In the past, the parents of

these children used to be accused of holding back their love for them. But

today we know that autism has biological and neuro-cognitive origins.”

The researcher is predominantly interested in the development of empathy.

In humans, this characteristic develops during the second year of a person’s

life. Although on the one hand it forms the basis for pro-social behaviors such

as compassion, it also accounts for feelings of hatred. Rakoczy is involved in

the design of numerous studies on the subject, and he also relentlessly reviews

books, journals and internet articles in order to trace signs of early social

behavior. His mornings are generally dedicated to working from his home

office, and his afternoons are reserved for coordination and conferences at

the Institute. “The Dilthey fellowship allows me to deliberate in peace and

quiet, and to expand my collaborations with other researchers, both in this

country, and especially from Japan and Canada”, he says.

Results from studies into psychological development of adults are incorporated

into his research just as much as neuroscientific evidence and studies from

primatological research. “But most of all I enjoy thinking and reading, in order

to conceive new ideas and then to transfer them into my work with children.

That is very rewarding and entertaining work.” And what does he rather

dislike? “Having to struggle with results that are not as clear as I would like

them to be.” And sometimes even a seasoned researcher such as Hannes

Rakoczy is dumbfounded: “In children the apperception of miscellaneous

objects is very closely correlated with language development”, he recounts.

“Apes don’t have language, and for a long time they were therefore thought

to be incapable of this apperception. However, experiments with non-human

primates have demonstrated surprising results: They are actually capable of

it in the complete absence of language.”

Language and language acquisition for their part are the focus of Dr. Sabine

Stoll’s work, who also researches at the Max Plank Institute in Leipzig. Based

on the examples of Russian, English, and Chintang she investigates how children

acquire the use of these different languages. Chintang is an endangered

Sino-Tibetan language in Nepal, and therewith shares the fate of approximately

half of the 6,500 languages currently spoken worldwide. Sabine Stoll

has accompanied children aged two to four years in the presence of their

psychological parents with a video camera for an entire year, in order to

subsequently capture their utterances and verbal interaction in writing and

to analyze them grammatically. In doing so the researcher pays particular

attention to word order, the morphology, the structure and the role of the

childlike early stages of the respective languages, which differ substantially

in matters of grammar and cultural background.

In autumn 2007 Dr. Henrike Moll was also granted a Dilthey Fellowship. Like

her colleagues Sabine Stoll and Hannes Rakoczy and other “Diltheys” she is

funded with 400,000 euros securing her independent scientific work for five

years in the first instance. Henrike Moll is investigating the developmental

stages of children’s thinking and understanding. The 32-year-old Hanoverian is

investigating at what age and by means of which processes infants are capable

of putting themselves into another person’s place. Starting from philosophical

questions, which preoccupied her during her studies in Leipzig and Constance,

the postdoctoral scientist is now concerned with social cognitive capabilities

in the broadest sense, in which humans differentiate themselves from nonhuman

primates. “For instance, I have conducted several studies on ‘visual

perspective transference’ with three-year-olds”, explains the researcher. “In

one of these studies a child was shown how the color of an object changes

when viewed through a color filter. For instance, the blue image of a dog

would appear green behind a yellow colored filter.” The fascinating question

now was to see if the children would understand that another person, who

looks at the same object through the color screen, will experience the altered

color – that is green –, even though the child itself sees the object in its original

state, which is blue.

In the past it was assumed that children would not have the capacity to

negotiate such complex tasks until at least the age of four. But the astonishing

result was that even three-year-olds were able to cope with this task.

“Eighty percent of the children understood that the object appeared different

in color for the beholder than it was for themselves. They effortlessly managed

Professor Rakoczy is now working at the University

of Göttingen, the photograph shows

him in the middle auf his research team: (from

left) Kay-Denis Boom, Charlene Ketturat, Kira

Sagolla, Dana Barthel, Birgit Klingelhöfer,

Maria Gräfenhain, Hannes Rakoczy, Tanya

Behne, Marlen Kaufmann, Anja Granitza,

Karoline Lohse, Regina Zörner.

Based on such different languages as English,

Russian and Sino-Tibetan Chintang, Dr. Sabine

Stoll in Leipzig is researching the process of

language acquisition. An important background

of her project is the collection of video

recordings which document the utterances

and interactions between young children and

the persons they closely relate to.

Crossing Borders 2010 61


the transfer of perspective.” In a further experiment the scientist stepped up

the requirements and examined whether three-year-olds were also capable

of understanding that a certain spatial alignment of the various elements

created that color effect: namely that the color screen needs to be positioned

in between the beholder and the object and not behind the object, in order to

exert its effect on perception. This was also readily understood by the threeyear-olds.

The experimental design was devised by Henrike Moll herself. She also conducted

the experiments herself: At the Institute in Leipzig and also at the

University of the US state of Washington in Seattle, where leading developmental

psychologists are concerned with similar questions. “Thanks to the

Dilthey Fellowship I am able to pursue my project with a long-term perspective”,

she comments visibly content. “Next I would like to investigate when

and how children become able to put themselves into someone else’s place

in an emotional or affective manner. This touches on the fundamental prin -

ciples of altruistic behavior which humans are capable of.” In the animal

kingdom such self-sacrificing behaviors only appear in a rudimentary form,

as observed in blood relatives. But the extent and especially the form these

actions take in humans are disproportionately more impressive.

Through the fellowship Henrike Moll gained five years of time: A lot of time to

dedicate herself intensely to her project. The annual budget of 80,000 euros

allows her to venture into the unknown and to clear up misconceptions. She

can concentrate on her studies, work on publications and collaborate with

colleagues worldwide. “It is my goal to create a topography of different types

of perspective transfer – more specifically in a visuo-spatial, epistemic, conceptual

and affective respect. What are the inter-subjective basic principles

of this astonishing capability of being able to put oneself into someone else’s

place? And how does this relate to the understanding of the own person?” At

the same time, she benefits from her colleagues’ research at the Max Planck

Institute, who are conducting similar investigations with primates. “Pongo -

land”, a spacious enclosure for the observation of various great ape species at

Leipzig’s Zoological Gardens, provides excellent conditions for research into

evolutionary similarities and differences between humans and apes. Spaciovisual

change of perspective, we now know, is to a certain extent also achievable

for non-human primates. Hence, chimpanzees for instance know when

they are seen by a conspecific individual and when they remain undetected.

They also recognize when another animal sees a particular piece of food and

when not.

Comparing humans and apes Henrike Moll was able to demonstrate that

the understanding of conspecifics already differs at an early stage. From her

work on children she knows: “In humans, the adoption of another person’s

perspective is strongly correlated with the situation of shared observation

and shared attentiveness. In order to understand that other people have a

different perspective of the same object or evaluate an incident differently

from oneself, a child first has to share its perspectives with others.” And with

this it becomes clear: the shared attentiveness of parents and their children

is prerequisite for perspectivism.

At the same time, perspective is also an overriding topic for the Leipzig scientists

in quite a different respect. The many different research schemes at the

Max Plank Institute, which all share the central topic of “being human”, are

virtually crying out for synthesis, for comprehensive perspective. The Dilthey

fellowships pave the way for taking up this challenge readily: And hence

also contribute to the acceleration of the coalescence of different knowledge


Heiko Schwarzburger


Dr. Hannes Rakoczy has meanwhile left the institute in Leipzig and is continuing

his research as a professor at the Department of Developmental Psychology

at Göttingen University.

During the course of her fellowship Dr. Henrike Moll also works in the US,

where in cooperation with a colleague at the Univer sity of Washington

she investigated the ability of three-year-olds to put themselves in the

visual perspective of others. Our photos show a test setup, based on the

perception of color both with and without the use of color filters.

Crossing Borders 2010 63

The Foundation’s Funding Initiatives

The following pages contain brief descriptions

of the funding initiatives currently open for

application (as of June 2010). Updated infor -

mation can be obtained by visiting the website There, the “Infor -

mation for Applicants” on each initiative provides

details on topics and objectives as well

as application criteria and deadlines.

The funding initiatives are ordered by categories

which reflect the Foundation’s funding

profile: Persons and Structures, Challenges – for

Academia and Society, International Focus, Off

the Beaten Track.


Persons and Structures

Funding Facts

Established in 2002

Volume of funding up to

December 2009: € 39.2 million


Dr. Anja Fließ

Phone +49 (0)511 8381-374

Professor Dr. Guido Dehnhardt (third from

right) was awarded a Lichtenberg profes -

sorship in 2006. Since 2008 he has been

researching into the sensory systems and

underwater orientation of seals at a science

center located in the Rostock-Warnemünde

marina on the Baltic coast. Our photo shows

members of the research group together

with program manager Dr. Anja Fließ (second

from right), in front of the MV Lich tenberg,

which was converted into a research station

with funding from the Foundation.

Lichtenberg Professorships

The funding initiative “Lichtenberg Professorships” – named after the mathematician,

physicist and philosopher Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742 to 1799)

– aims to provide an impetus for German universities to open up alternative

ways of qualification and appointment. Its objective is to provide support to

outstanding scientists and scholars in connection with innovative fields of

teaching and research, and in so doing also to boost the profile of the very best

among the German universities. Thus, the initiative simultaneously places a

focus on promising thematic areas, as well as key aspects of structural and

research policy. Applications are also open to non-German nationals; there

are no thematic restrictions.

The main target group comprises postdocs who obtained their doctoral degrees

not more than four years prior to submitting applications. The funding initiative

is to enable them at an early stage of their careers to carry out independent

research in new areas which transcend the borders of established disciplines.

Another target group comprises scholars and scientists – above all

researchers who have recently returned from abroad or are about to do so –

who were awarded their doctorate up to seven years ago. In these cases, personal

qualifications and the significance of the research focus will be subject

to even more stringent selection requirements.

The Volkswagen Foundation provides funding subject to the condition that

a university declares itself prepared to furnish the corresponding framework

conditions. This applies to both future research infrastructure as well as to

the university’s strategy and personnel planning in the respective field. Within

the initiative, universities themselves may also apply for the provision of

a Lichtenberg Professorship, making their own choice of suitable candidates,

who would then submit their own application to the Foundation. A Lichtenberg

Professorship opens up a tenure track for innovative young researchers

– an attractive career path, since subject to positive interim evaluations the

university will offer a regular full professorship.

Schumpeter Fellowships for Future Leaders in Business Studies,

Economics, Law, and the Social Sciences

Experience gained from prior funding has revealed a considerable demand on

the part of young researchers aspiring to positions as professors and leaders

in the fields of business studies, economics, social sciences and law. Therefore,

the Foundation decided to offer long-term support for young researchers who

have completed outstanding PhDs and who display the potential for leadership

positions, both within and without the sphere of academia. The fellowship

is named after Joseph Alois Schumpeter (1883 – 1950), an Austrian-born

jurist and economist who also influenced sociology and political science.

The funding aims at supporting junior researchers who – either singly or

in small research groups – want to break new ground in their subject and

whose research projects, due to their complexity or high risk, from the outset

clearly reveal the need for longer working horizons. This may include projects

which seek to sound out and to break through the boundaries of their own

discipline from “within”. It may also include projects which depart from the

mainstream by means of collaboration beyond customary combinations of

disciplines, hence seeking to contribute in subject or methodology to a new

orientation of the respective research field.

The target group encompasses junior researchers with outstanding PhD

results (at least “magna cum laude”) and who can also be expected to be able

to make a substantial contribution to the international discourse. The PhD

should not be older than five years. Applications may be submitted either in

German or in English and must be accompanied by a firm commitment on

the part of a university or other research institution to act as host institution.

The Foundation will fund the direct costs of the project, but it expects the

host institution to make a significant contribution, for instance by provision

of infrastructure such as rooms, computers and assistance.

The width of scope covered by the initiative is amply illustrated by some of

the fellowships awarded in 2009 and 2010: “Sustainability and Financial

Markets – Institutional Arrangements and Patterns of Perception”, “Electronic

Government in an Ageing Society – Policies, Projects, Potentials”, and “Contested

Leadership from Interregional Perspective – Power Politics in South

America, South Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa”.

Funding Facts

Established in 2006

Volume of funding up to

December 2009: € 6.0 million


Prof. Dr. Hagen Hof

Phone +49 (0)511 8381-256

The topic “Contested Leadership from Interregional

Perspective – Power Politics in South

America, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa”

is at the center of Dr. Daniel Flemes’ research.

His Schumpeter Fellowship is embedded at

the German Institute of Global and Area

Studies in Hamburg.

Crossing Borders 2010 67


Funding Facts

Established in 2005

Volume of funding up to

December 2009: € 18.4 million


Dr. Gudrun Tegeder

Phone +49 (0)511 8381-289

Focus on the Humanities

“Focus on the Humanities” entails a dual commitment for the Foundation: on

the one hand, a duty to provide support to a group of disciplines which, despite

their record of outstanding achievement, have to face up to cost saving measures,

and on the other hand a commitment to cooperation with other partners

involved in promoting science and research. Together with the “Fritz Thyssen

Stiftung” the Volkswagen Foundation offers two categories of grants which

have been customized to fit the specific needs of the humanities.

Research in the humanities should be supported especially where it hovers at

the interfaces and overlaps of disciplines, and where it refers to sophisticated,

new fields of especially high-risk research that differ from mainstream thinking.

The aim of the funding initiative is both to encourage highly qualified

junior researchers to pursue careers in the humanities, as well as to make an

attractive offer to those who have already attained renown.

The funding initiative “Focus on the Humanities” comprises two components:

• Dilthey Fellowships

Outstanding young post-doctorate scholars will be able to work on themes

that open up new avenues of research in the humanities, but that – due to

their complexity or high element of risk – are known to necessitate longish

planning and time horizons. A prerequisite for eligibility is that research work

is embedded in a German university, or other recognized research facility.

The fellowship is named after the German philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey


• “Opus magnum”

Exceptional scholars who have made an outstanding contribution to research

can obtain leave of between six months and two years from their normal

duties in order to dedicate themselves to work on an expansive scholarly

treatise. The costs of deputy teaching by a young colleague will be borne by

the participating foundations.

Near the center of political power in Germany, at the Humboldt

University in Berlin, Dilthey Fellow Dr. Paula Diehl is investigating

the impact the (self)staging of politicians has on the form of representation

in modern democracies.

University of the Future

Bologna – the Future of Academic Teaching

At the time it was launched, the funding initiative “University of the Future”

was deliberately designed to be thematically open. Meanwhile, the Foundation

focuses on specific topics and targeted calls for proposals. The first of

these is dedicated to academic teaching – a joint funding scheme offered

together with the Mercator Foundation in Essen.

In order to comply with the ambitious objectives of the Bologna Process,

namely the establishment of a European University Space by the year 2010,

several European member states have had to completely redesign their university

systems. In Germany, for instance, this provides an opportunity to

define new competencies in the field of curriculum development with the

aid of educational and learning research. The funding program introduced

in 2008 aims at reinforcing the area of teaching at German universities,

encouraging them to take over responsibility for its advancement and prac -

tical improvement. Entitled “Bologna – the Future of Academic Teaching” it

encompasses three funding lines and is open to all disciplines.

• Within the context of the first funding line, the aim is to lend support to

universities in the development and introduction of new curricula for

Bachelor studies. Proposals may apply to new courses as well as pilot programs

already being taught and to Bachelor programs established across

different institutions – or even across national borders, where circumstances


• Under the second line, grants are provided to set up expert groups and

competence centers for the development of university curricula. Although

these new entities will be acting within a domestic context, they are to be

linked with international networks.

• The third funding line provides support for workshops, symposia and

international conferences.

In the medium-term, the objective is to intertwine especially the first two

funding lines. This may be accomplished by providing targeted academic

support and ongoing evaluation during the practical implementation of

curricula concepts and, on the other hand, the results of research can be

directly transferred into the practice.

Funding Facts

Established in 2004

Volume of funding up to

December 2009: € 6.0 million


Dr. Gudrun Tegeder

Phone +49 (0)511 8381-289

180 German universities submitted their ideas

for innovative educational concepts within the

context of “Bologna – University of the Future”,

a contest initiated by the Volks wa gen Foundation

in conjunction with the Mercator Foundation.

The contest resulted in nine winners,

made known at a public meeting of the jury

(top: Prof. Dr. Frank Stefan Becker and Sarina

Schäfer; below: Marius Schlienger).

Crossing Borders 2010 69


Funding Facts

Established in 2008

Volume of funding up to

December 2009: € 4.2 million


Humanities and Social Sciences

Dr. Adelheid Wessler

Phone + 49 (0)511 8381-276

Natural and Engineering Sciences

Dr. Matthias Nöllenburg

Phone +49 (0)511 8381-290

Dr. Oliver Rauhut from the Palaeontological

Museum in Munich examines the skeletal

remains of carnivore theropods in Patagonia,

South Argentina. Together with colleagues

from Berlin, and others from Portugal,

Argentina and the USA he is conducting

research in Dinosaur evolution and biogeography

across the Middle-Late Jurassic boundary.

Research in Museums

The classic task of museums is to collect, preserve, research and exhibit the

material artifacts of man and objects of the natural world. During the last

years the emphasis has often been placed on promoting exhibitions and

events; less attention has been paid to research. Research is important,

though, in order to maintain and expand our knowledge of the heritage

stored in our museums and for the sustainability of museum work.

This is the starting point of the Foundation’s funding initiative “Research

in Museums” aiming at strengthening the position especially of small and

medium-sized museums as research institutions and at supporting young

academics to engage in collection-based research. Funding will be available

along the following lines:

• Collection-based research carried out by post-docs at medium sized and

small museums: Individual post-docs embedded in university research contexts

may carry out research projects in museums. Their scientific expertise

shall provide the research basis for exhibitions. The projects may not exceed

four years and the canditates are expected to conceptualize their project in

close cooperation with the respective museum.

• Cooperative research projects at medium sized and small museums: Cooperative

projects between young researchers at doctoral and post-doc levels and

experienced museum experts are also eligible for funding. In this context

museum staff in the fields of restoration and exhibition as well as custodians

may apply for a limited release from duties in order to carry out their own

research. A cooperation between the museum and a university is obligatory.

Working groups are to be composed along flexible lines in the form of “Temporary

Young Academies”.

• International networking of large research-based museums

This funding line refers to the international networking of especially the

large museums intending to conduct cutting-edge research on the basis of

joint work on the collections. Within the framework of innovative projects,

limited funding may also be made available for the digitalization of inventories

where necessary. Funding may also be provided for museum staff to be

released from duties in order to carry out project-related research work.

• Workshops and events

Eligible for funding are meetings, workshops and events which serve to facilitate

the networking of different museums among each other as well as with

universities and other research institutions. This offer is intended to encourage

museums to develop appropriate research strategies and programs. Also

eligible for funding are targeted measures promoting the profile of museums

as research institutions in the public perception.

Symposia and Summer Schools

International networking and the exchange of ideas between researchers are

vital prerequisites for opening up promising new areas of research and for

the dissemination of knowledge beyond university curricula. The Volkswagen

Foundation has been pursuing both these goals since its beginnings within

the context of its funding program “Symposia and Summer Schools” – consequently

by far the “oldest” funding area supported by the Foundation. The

special features of the initiative are grounded on the one hand in its thematic

openness, and on the other in its interdisciplinary and international orientation,

seeking the active participation of young scholars and scientists.

In the case of symposia, workshops and small conferences support is provided

for such meetings which stand out due to their focus on forward-looking

issues and innovative research perspectives. Besides their interdisciplinary

nature, such events must also hold promise of making a significant contribution

to gaining new insights. Participants are to be carefully selected on the

basis of their expertise in the subject matter. The group size should permit

an intensive exchange of views and ensure active individual participation.

In the case of summer schools funding will be available for events where new

knowledge important for the further development of a particular research

area is imparted to selected young academics (doctoral candidates, post-doctoral

researchers and those working towards qualifications as university lecturers)

from Germans and abroad. These events do not only aim at extending

their knowledge, but also enable them – at an early stage of their career

– to develop contacts beyond national borders and disciplines.

Within this initiative the Foundation supports symposia and summer schools

with up to 80 participants. The venue should be within Germany. In exceptional

cases the event may also take place in another European country. If

the meeting is organized jointly with researchers from abroad the person

in charge should be an academic based at a German research institution.

Funding Facts

Established in 1966

Volume of funding up to

December 2009: € 27.1 million


Dr. Henrike Hartmann

Phone +49 (0)511 8381-376

A meeting organized by Professor Dr. Su san ne

Regener at the University of Siegen brought

together scholars from the fields of cultural

and media studies to debate the topic “How

do laypeople influence our visual culture?”

The researchers attempted to shed light on

the impact of photographing, filming, and

blogging media-amateurs. The participants

included experts from several different countries

and disciplines.

Crossing Borders 2010 71


Challenges – for Academia and Society

Funding Facts

Established in 2007

Volume of funding up to

December 2009: € 4.0 million


Dr. Franz Dettenwanger

Phone +49 (0)511 8381-217

Prof. Dr. Petra Schwille and Dr. Stefan Diez from

Dresden University are leading a re search

group which also comprises colleagues from

two Max Planck Institutes in Dresden and the

Columbia University in New York: They are

attempting to couple biomolecular motors

to generate macroscopic energy.

Integration of Molecular Components in Functional

Macroscopic Systems

For a number of years now, scientists have been working on the development

of new materials and components on a miniature scale and possessing outstanding

properties. The minute components measure just a few nanometers

– only a millionth of a millimeter. Up to now the focus has been predominantly

on individual components which are clearly defined and controllable;

large-scale applications based on such technology are still rare. Nanotechnology

is now about to make the transition to practical application, harnessing

the potential of molecular components and principles in the service of hightech

solutions. The Volkswagen Foundation is doing its part to support this

transition process: in 2007 it launched the funding initiative entitled “Integration

of Molecular Components in Functional Macroscopic Systems”.

Irrespective of the thematical field, the overriding intention is to promote the

development of means to integrate molecular or nano-scale units within more

complex functional systems offering macroscopic effects. The challenge,

among other things, is to create the hitherto missing interface between the

macroscopic and the nano world. With this in mind, the Foundation is prepared

to provide support along the entire research chain, ranging from the

production of tiny components, through their integration in more complex

and larger systems, from their controllability and manipulation, through

proof of functionality, up to the production of prototypes of devices or assembly

components. To be eligible for funding, proposals should include at least

two of these steps.

Funding may be made available both for outstanding individual working

groups as well as for integrative projects – also with the participation of

cooperation partners in other countries. Projects may be eligible for longerterm

funding for periods of five to six years. Beside the funding of research

projects, the new initiative encompasses additional support for meetings

which serve the purpose of scientific exchange. The Foundation also expressly

welcomes outstanding proposals for summer schools and conferences, as well

as applications for guest professorships, sabbaticals, or laboratory rotation.

New Conceptual Approaches to Modeling and

Simulation of Complex Systems

Today, classic modes of research such as theory and experiment are increasingly

complemented by computer simulation. With growing success, model

systems are tackled and solutions for specific problems have been derived,

although with limited transferability to other similar questions. Yet, there is

still a lack of conceptual approaches which are more broad-based and applicable

to more realistic problems. With its funding initiative on “New Conceptual

Approaches to Modeling and Simulation of Complex Systems” the Foundation

addresses the field of computational research on complex systems

aiming at a better understanding of complexity. Scientists are encouraged to

advance theory and methodological development in this field, with a view to

ultimately arriving at more generally applicable and systematically improved

solutions for computer simulations.

Funding will be provided both for young academics, within the context of

annually awarded fellowships, as well as for research projects referring to

calls for proposals which are published from time to time.

• Fellowships “Computational Sciences”

Outstanding young scientists can apply for the funding of their own postdoctoral

position within a self-conceived research project, enabling them to choose

the institute most suitable for the planned research.

• Research Projects

Research projects – involving an interdisciplinary approach – can only be

considered in the framework of varying calls for proposals on specific topics.

Three calls – meanwhile closed for new applications – have been published in

the past: “Complex Networks as Phenomena across Disciplines”, “Computer

Simulation of Molecular and Cellular Biosystems as well as Complex Soft

Matter” and “Extreme Events: Modeling, Analysis, and Prediction”.

Support will also be made available for symposia and summer schools

according to the prerequisites of the symposia funding program.

Dr. Christine Peter (left) at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer

Research in Mainz is investigating the highly symmetrical protein

structures which form an important protective shell for most

viruses. One member of her research group is doctoral student

Olga Bezkorovaynaya (right); their research concentrates on the

modeling of polymer structure formation.

Funding Facts

Established in 2003

Volume of funding up to

December 2009: € 13.0 million


Dr. Ulrike Bischler

Phone +49 (0)511 8381-350

Crossing Borders 2010 73


Funding Facts

Established in 2010


Dr. Ulrike Bischler

Phone +49 (0)511 8381-350

Free-Electron Laser Science:

Peter Paul Ewald Fellowships at LCLS in Stanford

Free-electron lasers for hard X-rays create entirely new research opportunities

for the natural sciences. The ultra-short and intense X-ray pulses allow

scientists to unravel the atomic structure of biomolecules, to film chemical

reactions, and to investigate matter under extreme conditions – just to name

a few examples. Aiming at an early progress of the field, the Volkswagen

Foundation offers postdoctoral research fellowships for projects carried out

at Stanford, USA, in affiliation with a home institute in Germany.

Today, the most powerful free-electron laser for X-rays LCLS is situated at

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, operated by Stanford University. An

even more powerful device is currently under construction in Germany: The

European XFEL at DESY in Hamburg and Schenefeld will be operational

around 2014.

The Volkswagen Foundation’s Peter Paul Ewald Fellowships aim at postdoctoral

researchers who want to pursue novel research ideas at LCLS or the

future European XFEL and who strive for a longer research stay in Stanford.

Initially the grants are made for three years – partly spent in Stanford, partly

at the home institution in Germany. Funds are available for the fellow’s

salary and for non-personnel costs. The candidates are expected to present a

research idea in the context of the LCLS or the European XFEL. Experiments as

well as new concepts in theory and data analysis will be considered. An active

involvement in a collaboration, which is conceiving, performing and analyzing

experiments with free-electron lasers, is a prerequisite. The cooperation

has to be agreed-upon prior to an application. Each year four to five fellowships

can be awarded.

Additionally, symposia and summer schools on free-electron laser science are

supported according to the prerequisites of the Symposia funding initiative.

Ultrafast pulses of X-rays millions of times

brighter than even the most powerful synchrotron

sources are produced by the Linac

Coherent Light Source (LCLS) at the Stanford

Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC). A comparable

device based on a free-electron laser (the

European XFEL) is under construction in

Hamburg, Germany. Scientists are offered fellowships

at Stanford to get acquainted with

the innovative research opportunities.

Evolutionary Biology

In the final analysis, all living things are a product of evolution. In the course

of the earth’s history some two million different species of organisms have

come into being, every one of them astonishingly well adapted to its respective

environment. The objective of evolutionary biologists is to explain the

development of this abundance of species and to reconstruct the temporal

sequence of the individual stages involved; today they are receiving new

impetuses via the powerful tools developed by molecular biologists. The concepts

of evolutionary biology are universal and thus transferable to different

systems: evolutionary biology is therefore capable of providing fundamental

orientation not only to the modern biological sciences.

However, this multifaceted and highly topical field is – also for historical reasons

– as yet comparably under-represented at most German universities.

Until now, students have had little chance to come to grips with evolutionary

concepts, and at present there is a lack of attractive career perspectives for

junior scientists in Germany. Reason enough for the Volkswagen Foundation

to become involved in this field. After already having launched – among other

things – a contest for innovative educational training concepts at German

universities, the Foundation is now concentrating its efforts on offering support

for postdocs. Eligible for funding are outstanding young researchers

who obtained their doctoral degree not more than five years ago and can

look back over a proven record of excellence in research. Applications must

clearly demonstrate the relevance of the proposed research for the field of

evolutionary biology. Applications are specifically invited from researchers

who wish to switch discipline and are seeking to enter the field of evolutionary

biology from a different scientific perspective, as well as from junior

researchers from abroad who intend to conduct a substantial part of their

research at a laboratory in Germany. A fundamental requirement is that

applicants are prepared to change their academic environment.

The Foundation will make funding available for symposia/series of symposia

and summer schools/series of summer schools which, besides providing further

education for junior scientists, serve the purpose of scientific exchange

and networking in the field of evolutionary biology; to be eligible for funding,

such events should exhibit a clear international orientation.

Funding Facts

Established in 2005

Volume of funding up to

December 2009: € 13.3 million


Dr. Daniela Kruschel

Phone +49 (0)511 8381-252

Among the many projects supported by the

Foundation within the context of Darwin

Year 2009 is the “European Megalab”, which

attracted support from a large number of

young people all over Europe. The objective

was to gather as many banded snails as

possible from different regions in order to

gain insights into the ongoing evolutionary

process of the widespread species.

Crossing Borders 2010 75


Funding Facts

Established in 1998

Volume of funding up to

December 2009: € 24.1 million


Dr. Vera Szöllösi-Brenig

Phone +49 (0)511 8381-218

The human being as “animal emotionale” is

the topic being researched by Dr. Susanne Erk

from Bonn University together with her colleagues

from the University of Osnabrück. In

its second stage, this interdisciplinary project

encompassing philosophy and neuroscience

will focus on those existential feelings of

humans which naturally define our relation

to the world an the whole.

Key Issues in the Humanities – Program for the Promotion of

Interdisciplinary and International Cooperation

The funding initiative “Key Issues in the Humanities” is aimed at cultural

studies and the humanities. These disciplines are encouraged to define pro -

ject themes which impact on currently debated issues of society and which,

moreover, lend themselves to interdisciplinary investigation – preferably in

an international context. Of particular interest are topics which can be

expected to attract attention beyond the realm of science.

The program primarily addresses core fields of the humanities, and here in

particular philosophy as well as the philological-historical disciplines. However,

the project teams may also encompass academics from the fields of the

social sciences and the natural sciences, provided it can be shown that the

proposed research is dedicated to key issues and that cooperation with the

humanities is foreseen.

It will be entirely up to the applicants to convince the Foundation that their

chosen topic of research can only be investigated sensibly within a framework

of interdisciplinary and international cooperation, thus complying with

the stringent requirements and criteria of the program. Within this context,

the Foundation assigns particular importance to a convincing presentation

and communication of the collated results to both academic circles and the

broader public.

Funding is available for interdisciplinary research groups working at academic

institutions in Germany. Funds may be granted for personnel costs,

especially for junior scholars, and for guest researchers (from abroad), and

also to cover non-personnel costs and travel expenses. There will be a twostage

selection process. First, an initial outline of the proposed project has to

be approved: this will be followed by an invitation to submit a more detailed

and formal application. Support is initially available for three years, rising to

a maximum of five years where considered appropriate.

European Platform for Life Sciences, Mind Sciences,

and the Humanities

The Volkswagen Foundation set up the funding initiative “European Platform

for Life Sciences, Mind Sciences, and the Humanities” to promote networking

among young researchers working at the interface between cognitive neuroscience,

the humanities, and the social sciences – with the express intention

of enhancing communication beyond the borders of disciplines and nations.

A further aim is to break down the fronts between the disciplines regarding

their respective interpretations and concepts of humankind.

Some 60 young researchers attended the first workshop, which was held in

October 2006. This resulted in the formation of eight interdisciplinary working

groups who then set about developing framework concepts for a mutual

two-year research phase to be funded by the Foundation: The program in -

cluded reciprocal visits to laboratories, workshops, and meetings with leading

researchers, as well as the implementation of a number of pilot projects

and work on co-authored publications. During a following phase, the young

researchers were given the opportunity to apply for the funding of their own

individual research projects as a stepping stone to a university career. Of the

twelve applications submitted, a total of eight were subsequently approved

for funding in a total of 3.1 million euros.

Following on the success of the first “platform generation”, in the spring of

2010 the Foundation organized a kick-off workshop to herald in a second

networking phase within the context of the European Platform. This gave a

further 46 young researchers the opportunity to join interdisciplinary groups

where, working in close cooperation with their peers, they are able to freely

develop and realize their own ideas.

In the spring of 2009 the 55 members of the first “European Platform

for Life Sciences, Mind Sciences, and the Humanities” met to

discuss eight mutually arrived at topics and to exchange the initial

findings: One member of this network is Matthis Synofzik

from the Institute for Ethics and History of Medicine at Tübingen


Funding Facts

Established in 2006

Volume of funding up to

December 2009: € 0.9 million


Dr. Thomas Brunotte

Phone +49 (0)511 8381-297

Crossing Borders 2010 77


Funding Facts

Established in 2006

Volume of funding up to

December 2009: € 1.9 million


Dr. Thomas Brunotte

Phone +49 (0)511 8381-297

The organizers of a conference on translation

processes came up with a novel idea for the

presentation of papers during a conference

held at the University of Constance: Academics

from Europe, Asia and America allowed

their contributions, which were written in

their respective mother tongue, to be translated

and read by participants from other

language backgrounds.

“Deutsch plus” –

A Program for Multilingualism in Teaching and Research

In many areas of science, and especially in the natural and engineering sciences,

it has long been commonplace to use English for publications and as

the language of conferences – even those held in Germany. Yet, there is a

growing awareness that styles of thinking and language are so inextricably

intertwined that the translation of scholarly and scientific work into another

language often proceeds at the cost of significant loss of expression, emphasis

and meaning. It is via the respective language used that specific concepts,

patterns of cognition and interpretation find their way into processes of

research and teaching, shaping their profile. These specifics of culturally

determined differentiation constitute the great wealth of nuances in all

branches of science and can only be transferred partially into another language

– this applies not only to the humanities and social sciences. Viewed

in this way, science and teaching need multilingualism.

Within this context the initiative seeks to attract more international attention

to German as one of the languages of science and to lend more weight

to research results obtained in German. The initiative encompasses four


• Calls for proposals concerning multilingual courses of study

Funding will be provided for the development and subsequent implemen -

tation of multilingual courses of study, targeting both German as well as

students from abroad. A command of at least two languages at the level of

academic debate is to be an integrated objective of the courses. Language

combinations other than English and German will be considered.

• Translation of outstanding German academic books and papers

The funding of translations will be granted on the basis of a contest. This

component aims at professional translations of important monographs, but

also shorter articles of all disciplines, into English or another world language.

Scholars and scientists may make proposals but not in favor of their own


• Research projects

Funding will be made available for research projects dealing with the linguistic

and cultural imprint – characteristic stock of concepts, patterns of

cognition and interpretation – on academic thinking and production. Priority

will be given to projects pursuing a comparative approach and which give

rise to concrete perspectives for the practice in research and teaching.

• Academic events

Conferences, lectures, disputations and panel discussions designed to focus

attention on the main aspects of multilingualism in science will also be supported.

International Focus

Knowledge for Tomorrow –

Cooperative Research Projects in Sub-Saharan Africa

In 2003, following 15 years of funding bilateral projects involving German

and African research institutions within the context of its “Partnership Program”,

the Foundation launched a new funding initiative entitled “Knowledge

for Tomorrow – Cooperative Research Projects in Sub-Saharan Africa”.

Central aims of this thematically open program are the development and

sustainable reinforcement of research expertise in Africa as well as the

development or extension of academic networks inside Africa, also extending

beyond existing language barriers.

The Foundation provides grants for projects developed and carried out in

close cooperation of African and German researchers in the framework of

specific calls for proposals. An important aspect is to provide junior scholars

and scientists in Africa with an opportunity to enhance their skills and academic

qualification and to open up long-term career perspectives in their

home countries.

The Foundation places great store on the research projects it supports being

developed and implemented in symmetrical North-South partnerships, for

instance along the so called Swiss Guidelines (Swiss Commission for Research

Partnerships with Developing Countries, KFPE, 1998). To conform to these

principles, prior to announcing calls for proposals the Foundation organized

respective thematic workshops at African venues and invited African and

German academics to jointly discuss issues and procedures. Moreover, within

the context of a two-stage application procedure, once outline proposals have

been approved the project partners can apply for seed money to fund workshops

at which detailed proposals for cooperative projects can be elaborated.

Parallel to applying within the calls for proposals it is possible at any time to

submit an application for the funding of thematically open workshops, symposia

and summer schools.

In 2008 and 2009 funding was approved within calls for proposals for “Negotiating

Culture in Contemporary African Societies” and “Resources, Livelihood

Management, Reforms, and Processes of Structural Change”, as well as for

prolongation of projects in the thematic areas “Communicable Diseases in Sub-

Saharan Africa – from the African Bench to the Field”, “Political, Economic, and

Social Dynamics in Sub-Saharan Africa”, “Violence, its Impact, Coping Strategies

and Peace Building” and “Resources, their Dynamics and Sustainability –

Capacity Development in Comparative and Integrated Approaches”. Also in

this respect, the thematic field “Livelihood Management” establishes links

between the natural and the social sciences.

In addition to the foregoing, in 2008 and in spring 2010 the Volkswagen Foundation

funded 17 postdocs from sub-Saharan Africa within the context of a

joint European initiative on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). All projects

Funding Facts

Established in 2003

Volume of funding up to

December 2009: € 18.8 million


Natural and Engineering Sciences

and Medicine

Dr. Detlef Hanne

Phone +49 (0)511 8381-389

Humanities and Social Sciences

Dr. Adelheid Wessler

Phone +49 (0)511 8381-276

Crossing Borders 2010 79


Biologist Dr. Alexander Debrah (left) will be

able to continue researching into the disease

of poverty Lymphatic Filariasis. A previous

recipient of a project grant, he has now been

awarded a fellowship within the context of

the funding program “Neglected Tropical


are based in Africa and offer additional funding opportunities for mentorships

and language and management courses. The consortium comprises the Volks -

wagen Foundation in Germany, Fondazione Cariplo in Italy, Fundação Gulben -

kian in Portugal, the British Nuffield Foundation and Fondation Merieux in

France (more information at

A number of other activities are planned for 2010 and beyond: Applicants will

be informed about funding decisions within the call for proposals on “Natural

Resources”, and there will be a new call for proposals for young postdoctoral

social scientists in Africa. Expanding the range of issues the Foundation also

offers grants for scientists from the engineering sciences in the framework of

another call. Last not least, in 2010 four status symposia take place at which

grantees from Africa and from Germany will be given the opportunity to

present their research findings as well as to expand their academic networks.

Between Europe and the Orient – A Focus on Research and

Higher Education in/on Central Asia and the Caucasus

This funding initiative is designed to stimulate interest within the German

scientific community to conduct research into Central Asia and the Caucasus

and, first and foremost, to permit capacity development of research and higher

education in the target regions. It focuses on those countries in Central Asia

and the Caucasus which became independent following the collapse of the

Soviet Union, specifically Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekis -

tan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. It also includes Afghanistan

and some parts of the Russian Federation in the lower Volga and the northern

Caucasus regions.

The initiative addresses the humanities and social sciences as well as the

engineering and natural sciences. Funding is available for co op erative

research projects which investigate the political, socio-economic, cultural or

natural characteristics of this region and the complex interplay between

these factors. The focus in this section of the program is to be on current

developments as well as transformation processes taking place.

The second section of the program is dedicated to targeted measures of support

for local researchers which are designed to improve conditions for teaching

and research in Central Asia and the Caucasus. This encompasses:

– Reintegration of young academics:

Funding is available for young scientists and scholars who have completed

their doctoral studies abroad and wish to return to an academic institution

(university or research institute) in Central Asia and the Caucasus.

– Partnership projects:

This offer is designed especially to enable young academics from

countries in the target region to carry out research, based mainly at their

home institutes, in close collaboration with their German colleagues.

– Infrastructural support:

In this context, funding may be made available for projects aimed at creating

and improving training and research capa city in the target regions.

The projects should contain exemplary measures important for the

reform process there. This may include university courses as well as programs

for the training and further education of junior scientists.

– Symposia, workshops and summer schools:

Meetings between scientists from the target regions, Germany and other

countries may help to define and discuss relevant research topics, to establish

contacts and to train young scientists in up-to-date methods. The

venue may either be in Central Asia/Caucasus or in Germany.

It is expected that the preparation and implementation of all such endeavors

be conducted in close collaboration with German institutions and that the

groundwork is laid for the cooperation to extend beyond the funding period.

Funding Facts

Established in 1999

Volume of funding up to

December 2009: € 26.7 million


Humanities and Social Sciences

Dr. Wolfgang Levermann

Phone +49 (0)511 8381-212

Natural and Engineering Sciences,


Dr. Matthias Nöllenburg

Phone +49 (0)511 8381-290

Interdisciplinary cooperation on the training

program “Land use, ecosystem services and

human welfare in Central Asia (LUCA)”:

Vladislav Riazanov from Kyrgyzstan, Boris

Gojenko from Uzbekistan und Natalya Tsychuyeva

from Kazakhstan (from the left)

represent the fields of economy, water

management and ecology.

Crossing Borders 2010 81


Funding Facts

Established in 1999

Volume of funding up to

December 2009: € 21.4 million


Dr. Vera Szöllösi-Brenig

Phone +49 (0)511 8381-218

The Bakola language is spoken by about

5,000 pygmies living in the south of

Cameroon, where their habitat is coming

increasingly under pressure. It is feared that

their language will soon die out; the Foundation

is therefore supporting a project to put

the language on record.

Documentation of Endangered Languages

Of the estimated 6,500 languages currently spoken world-wide, only one

third will survive the next 100 years. The other two thirds will fall victim to a

process which can be described with the catchphrase “cultural globalization”.

The death throws of a “small language” begin, for instance, when the first television

set appears in a remote village somewhere in the jungle, transmitting

programs only in the official language of the country – which is in effect a

foreign language. In some places the development is already well underway,

for example as the perpetual consequence of a repressive state education system

which deliberately and systematically tears the children of indigenous

peoples away from their parents, forbidding their speaking the native language.

With every language which becomes extinct, a culture dies, too, and

with it a whole “world”.

Of course, it goes without saying that the initiative “Documentation of

Endangered Languages” (Dokumentation bedrohter Sprachen, DobeS) established

by the Volkswagen Foundation is incapable of holding up this development.

Notwithstanding, what it can do and intends to do is to compile records

of these often purely verbal languages before they vanish without trace. The

aim is not merely to compile linguistic data in the narrow sense of the word,

but also to encompass the linguistic references to the culture, such as myths

and fairy tales, for instance, but also those everyday situations of all kinds

which bear testimony to the cultural peculiarities of the minority language.

The intention is not to compile grammars or lists of vocabulary, but to produce

a multimedia collection of data which will permit future science to

investigate the widest range of issues possible. For the speaking communities

themselves this may present the opportunity to become more aware of

their culture, to perceive its own value and possibly to develop teaching

resources for schools.

In the final phase of this funding initiative the Foundation will provide funding

for two different types of projects. In addition to those previously aimed

at building a corpora of individual endangered languages, the second type

will encompass projects which make use of the data contained in the DobeS

Archive in Nijmegen to carry out comparative studies and which serve to

identify new research questions in linguistics. In particular, the Foundation

wishes to encourage young researchers who were involved in the initial projects

to pursue their own careers and submit proposals for their own

research. Moreover, the Foundation will continue to fund symposia, workshops

and summer schools addressing the topic of documenting endangered


Fellowships for Post-doctoral Research in the Humanities

at the Humanities Center of Harvard University

The funding initiative “Fellowships at Harvard” was launched in 2007. The

program enables young researchers in the humanities to spend a year at the

Humanities Center of Harvard University with access to its library, archive,

and a number of other possibilities for research and communication. Participants

are given the opportunity to enhance and develop their research skills

and personal international profile in a forward-looking area of the humanities,

gain insight into the American university system, and establish new

cross-border networks.

The Humanities Center at Harvard University enjoys an outstanding reputation.

It is known especially as an informal forum for the exchange of ideas in

which joint research and creativity thrive. The Center, led by Professor Homi

Bhabha, places a special emphasis on fostering contacts and cooperation

between the humanities and the sciences. Another objective pursued by the

Center is to draw attention to and illustrate the significance of the humanities

for the political and societal developments of our times; the classical

fields of action within the humanities are confronted with contemporary


Following the first two selection rounds, which were carried out together with

representatives of the Humanities Center, five young researchers were funded

for research stays in Harvard. Their research spectrum ranges from a systematic

examination of the media and cultural history of the servant from the

18th century to the present time, up to western perspectives on the Mediterranean

in the seventh Century.

Funding Facts

Established in 2007

Volume of funding up to

December 2009: € 0.5 million


Dr. Almut Steinbach

Phone +49 (0)511 8381-370

Besides providing excellent conditions for

research, the Humanities Center at Harvard

University is also steeped in academic tradition:

The first two fellows to be supported

under the program were Dr. Markus Krajewski

from the Bauhaus University in Weimar and

Dr. Julia Wilker from the Free University of

Berlin, both of whom spent a one-year

research stay there.

Crossing Borders 2010 83


Funding Facts

Established in 2008


Dr. Alfred Schmidt

Phone +49 (0)511 8381-237

Future Issues of Society – Europe and Global Challenges

In continuation of their successful cooperation the three foundations, Compagnia

di San Paolo in Turin, Riksbankens Jubileumsfond in Stockholm, and

the Volkswagen Foundation have set up a new joint funding program entitled

“Europe and Global Challenges“. Over the next few years, the three funding

institutions will join together to provide support for up to ten research groups

of interdisciplinary and international composition from European and non-

European countries. The thematic focus will be on the “global challenges” facing

societies today which can only be dealt with via supranational action on

a world-wide level.

Problems perceived as “global challenges” range from regional conflicts,

migration, and terrorism to pandemics and financial instabilities. We Europeans

share these problems with the rest of the world, but do we also share

the knowledge base to address them through collective action? In order to

explore concrete answers to this question the three partner foundations are

encouraging transnational and transdisciplinary research groups. These

groups must comprise participants from at least two research environments

in different geographical regions (e.g. Europe and Latin America). The core of

the research groups should be based in Europe.

The disciplinary focus within each research group should be on the social

sciences in a broad sense. Inputs from other areas of knowledge, e.g. the

humanities, science or medicine, might be included to address some of the

issues under examination. The issues studied should be a shared concern for

the European Union (EU) as a global actor and for its partners in other regions

of the world. Preference will be given to proposals integrating contributions

from various disciplines being innovative and covering new ground. It is up

to the applicants to show why and how their proposals are feasible and why

this particular research formation is appropriate for the research questions


Postdoctoral researchers and early- to mid-career practitioners should play a

major role among the participants. However, more experienced and established

researchers will not be excluded. Given these limitations, the three

foundations will exercise a flexible attitude to different formations and ways

of organizing research.

Off the Beaten Track

Extraordinary Projects

Even though its funding policy is to set priorities with defined initiatives,

the Volkswagen Foundation is open for extraordinary ideas which fall outside

the normal scope of funding, i.e. individual projects which are worthy of

support due to exceptional circumstances. Two examples that qualified for

funding in 2009 illustrate the type of projects which may fall within this


For example, the Foundation provided support for a cooperation project which

links up research being done in the chemistry faculties of Bo chum University,

and the universities of Nevada and Illinois, USA. A team of scientists led by

Dr. Martina Havenith-Newen from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

at the Ruhr University is examining laser techniques which will

allow so-called Terahertz (THz) radiation to be utilized for facilitating parti -

cularly difficult observations. The researchers‘ special interest lies in the coupled

motion of water and protein molecules, in which water molecules play

an active part: The dynamics which determine the motion of water fundamentally

influence how proteins move around and, for their part, the proteins

in turn seem to exert an influence on their watery surroundings. The

researchers are hoping to shed more light on this phenomenon by examining

the anti-freeze protein (AFP), a “natural anti-freeze”, for example found

in fish living in Arctic waters.

The Foundation also supports an interdisciplinary research project which is

carrying out an examination of the west choir of Naumburg Cathedral. The

Cathedral is one of the most important religious edifices in Germany, and the

sculptural magnificence of the west choir, built in 1250, occupies a prominent

place in the history of European sculpture. What makes this cooperation pro -

ject unique is that it is being implemented in the form of an interdisciplinary

graduate school, making it possible for about a dozen young researchers to

benefit from the Foundation’s support. It encompasses a total of eleven PhD

projects within the disciplines of history, the history of art, building

research/building archeology, art technology/conservation, the natural sciences,

and economic geography/tourism research. Moreover, the young

researchers are able to learn a lot from the various other experts carrying out

practical work in the west choir: The exemplary PhD program, funded to the

tune of 1.5 million euros, thus also opens up a remarkable opportunity for

gaining practical knowledge and to become acquainted with an interdiscipinary


Funding Facts

Established in 2002

Volume of funding up to

December 2009: € 18.3 million


according to subject area

Phone +49 (0)511 8381-0

The world famous sculpted donor portraits

and the rood screen are among the items in

the focus of a project researching the West

Choir of Naumburg Cathedral: Graduate

restorers Daniela Karl (top) and Bernadett

Freysoldt are two of a dozen of young

researchers constituting the interdisciplinary

Naumburg Colleg funded by the Foundation.

Crossing Borders 2010 85


Funding Facts

Established in 2007

Volume of funding up to

December 2009: € 4.3 million


Dr. Thomas Brunotte

Phone +49 (0)511 8381-297

The process of communication between science

and the public as mediated in museums

and exhibitions is the research topic pursued

by Christine Gerlach M.A., Dr. Susan Kamel

and Dr. Susanne Lanwerd (from the left):

They focus on the depiction of Islamic art

and cultural history in museums in Europe,

Canada, and the USA.

Science, the Public, and Society

Fostering the understanding of science and scholarship, and communicating

the results of research is both a challenging and important task. The “public”,

as represented in political debate and in the media, today increasingly expects

that “science” descends from its ivory tower and seeks dialogue. The very

term “public” is multi-facetted: In this context it begins in the area of science

itself – as the expert in a neighboring discipline must already be seen as

belonging to the public – ranges through the semi-public committees, up to

science journalists and the often cited “scientifically interested layperson”.

Target groups and their expectations are manifold.

In order to cope with the challenges at the interface between science and the

public, not only must scientists themselves tread new paths – science-funding

organizations are also called upon to provide tangible support. For this reason

the Volkswagen Foundation has developed a cross-cutting, and diversified

funding initiative aimed at enhancing communication between science and

the public, in parts embracing its entire funding portfolio.

The initiative encompasses three fields of action:

• Public relations for funded research projects

The aim is to stimulate and enhance public relations efforts by the grant

holders within the framework of projects and events funded by the Volks -

wagen Foundation.

• Ideas competition

At regular intervals, the Volkswagen Foundation is organizing subject related

ideas competitions, inviting scientists and scholars to submit their ideas on

how to arrive at new concepts of communicating science to the public and

how to achieve dialogue on an equal footing beyond the borders of academia.

The last call that was launched focusing on “Extreme Events: How they

are perceived by Science and Society”.

• Research projects

This funding line provides support for research projects dedicated to the

process of interchange between science, scholarship, and the public – on a

methodologically sound basis.

Funding Principles

As a non-profit foundation organized under

private law, the Volkswagen Foundation must

ensure that the funds it spends on the support

of higher education and research are used economically

and in accordance with the rules.

Therefore, please note the following Funding



Funding Principles

The Volkswagen Foundation assumes that the funds

it makes available, subject to these principles, will be

managed in accordance with the rules and regulations

applying to the grant recipient*. In the case of universities,

these will be the principles applying to the management

of third party funds.

The grant recipient must ensure that the funding principles

along with any further communicated special

conditions are acknowledged and observed by the all

parties involved in the funding project while handling

the grant (e.g. staff members, contractors, publishers,

authors, editors, transacting cashier's offices). There are

specific Funding Principles for International Cooperation

Projects which are also available on the Foundation’s


Please notice: Those parts, which do not regularly apply to

grant recipients outside the Federal Republic of Germany

are omitted in the English translation. The grant will be

subject to the laws of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Any court action in connection with the grant comes

under the jurisdiction of a Hanover court.

A. Calling of Funds, General Principles

of Management

1. Calling of Funds

(1) The funds required shall be applied for as early as

possible, in general at least six weeks in advance (on

the form attached to the grant letter). Any changes

should be communicated without delay.

(2) The Foundation in principle remits the funds in

monthly installments at the time and in the

amount needed for the purpose for which they

* Grant recipients of the Foundation funding are principally

academic institutions where the project/subproject

is being conducted and not the legal entity

of the applicant.

have been granted. Hence, the plan under which

funds are called should provide for monthly requests.

If monthly installments are below 5,000 €,

the requirement of three months may be called in


The Foundation remits amounts called only to an

account of the institution of the recipient of the

grant; in universities and other institutions under

public law, remittances are made to the responsible

cashier's office.

(3) Funds paid out and, for the time being, not used as

expected, shall be remitted back immediately and

called again when needed. To make up for lost interest,

the Foundation shall have the right in such cases

to claim interest based on the statutory interest

rate for the time between the payment of funds and

their return remittance or use for the purpose for

which they were granted.

(4) The funds granted are not confined to budget years

and will not expire at the end of a calendar year.

2. Efficiency

(1) The recipient of a grant may defray from the funds

allocated only such expenditures as are covered by

the specific purpose defined in the grant letter.

Expenditures made before the receipt of the grant

letter cannot be covered in this way.

(2) The funds shall be used efficiently. Only in exceptional

cases (especially as a result of collective

salary and wage increases or price increases which

cannot be absorbed by cutbacks elsewhere) can the

Foundation increase those funds, and do so upon

substantiated request.

(3) Funds not consumed shall be paid back immediately,

at the latest by the time documentation of the

use of funds is supplied.

3. Deviations from Grant

(1) Consent of the Foundation

As a matter of principle the prior consent of the

Foundation will be needed for deviations from the

grant. The consent is not needed within the range

of the possibilities of reallocation and extension of

term mentioned in clauses 2 and 3.

(2) Reallocation of the granted funds

If the grant letter (or the underlying cost plan) lists

several expense items, each individual item* may be

augmented by up to 30 percent if required. However,

such reallocations presuppose that the extra expenditures

are necessary in order to achieve the

purpose of the grant, and that other items can be


Under these conditions, and within the staff complement

underlying the grant, personnel funds may

be increased by more than 30 % where this is

unavoidable due to subsequent collective wage and

salary increases or for other reasons.

The Foundation retains the right from the outset to

exclude the possibility of reallocating personnel

allowances as non-personnel costs in certain cases.

(3) Extension of term

Deviations from the running term require the previous

consent of the Foundation. However, this does

not apply to a maximum six-month deviation from

the planned funding period on the condition that

this does not cause the Volkswagen Foundation to

incur additional costs.

* Expense items for the purposes of this paragraph

are the total funds granted for scientific personnel,

additional personnel, travelling expenses, other

running non-personnel costs, equipment costs,

costs of other non-recurring purchases.

B. Principles Applying to

Specific Types of Cost

4. Personnel Funds

(1) Remunerations shall be adapted to the activity and

to local (institute) conditions. The recipient of a

grant shall be responsible for determining proper

grading (according to collective agreements).

(2) The following items may be paid out of funds earmarked

for personal expenses:

• Employer’s contribution to the statutory social security

for terms of employment according to TVöD;

• Monthly subsidy for civil servants in the case of illness

in the amount of the (notional) employer’s

contribution to the private or statutory social security;

• Costs of child care upon documentation;

• Annual special payments according to TVöD;

• Incentive bonus according to TVöD in the amount of

up to 10% of the annual salary.

The child benefit pursuant to the Federal German

Child Benefit Act can not be paid.

This applies accordingly for overall supplementary

pension benefit in view of future pension obligations

in case of resigning from civil servant office.

(3) Unless a regular employment contract has already

been concluded, the Foundation requires that a

written service contract be concluded which

equates to the project running term named in the

grant letter. In no case will the Foundation become

the employer of anybody on grants made available

by it.

(4) Personnel expenses may include scholarships for

the education and training of young researchers.

For these scholarships the “Allgemeine Richtlinien

für Stipendien zur Aus- und Fortbildung des wissenschaftlichen

Nachwuchses” (General guidelines

for scholarships for the education and training of

young researchers) additionally apply.

Crossing Borders 2010 89


5. Travelling Funds

(1) Travelling expenses shall be accounted for in accordance

with the rules of travelling cost reimbursement

applying to civil service, but not in excess of

the rates requested and appropriated. Foreign

receivers of grants shall follow the rules for travelling

expense accounting valid in their respective


(2) The Foundation may fix certain basic rates to

finance stays in Germany of foreign scientists. Travelling

and per diem allowances for foreign scholars

staying in Germany may be subject to special


6. Equipment

(1) Unless the Foundation indicates differently, the procurement

of equipment authorized is left to the

recipient of a grant. The recipient shall bear in mind

the following aspects in such procurements:

(a) All possibilities of obtaining price reductions,

especially research commissions or discounts,

shall be exploited, if necessary by working

through central purchasing agencies.

(b) Several competing bids shall be sought for

larger items; the reasons for the choice made

shall be documented.

(c) If, in the light of more recent findings other

equipment shall be bought, the prior consent of

the Foundation is needed. The consent is not

needed if only another specification shall be

purchased. In all cases the limits of 3 above

have to be observed.

(d) The prior consent of the Foundation is required

when it is intended to buy equipment or

extensive literature during the last three

months of the project duration.

(e) The decisions made on the items above shall be

described in the documentation of the use of

funds and in the final report, respectively.

(2) The recipient of a grant shall be responsible for

ensuring proper utilization, storage and maintenance

of the equipment along with taking out

insurance for the equipment. The Foundation shall

not be responsible for paying any running costs

(e.g., for power consumption, insurance, maintenance,

repair, and spare parts).

(3) The equipment shall also be available to other scientific

institutions inasmuch as this does not interfere

with the purpose of the grant.

7. Title to Movable Chattels

(1) Movable chattels (equipment, books, motor vehicles,

ect.) purchased out of the funds granted shall

become the property of the recipient institution of

the grant. If a person collaborating in a project in a

responsible position changes to another institution,

then the Foundation expects that the equipment

can be taken to the new institution. The Foundation

reserves the right, in these cases or for another

important reason, to request a transfer of title to a

third party it names or to itself. This shall apply in

particular where somebody collaborating in a project

in a responsible position changes to another


(2) These items shall be recorded in inventory lists,

unless they belong in the category of supplies or

very small items. Larger objects are to be furnished

with a clearly visible reference (legend, plate,

stamp) indicating that they were purchased from

funds made available by the Volkswagen Foundation.

Literature purchased from Foundation funds

shall be marked accordingly with a bookplate.

(Plates and bookplates can be ordered on the order

form enclosed where applicable.)

(3) The recipient of a grant has the right to sell the

items if they are no longer used for their intended

purpose or can no longer be used. The proceeds

from such sales shall be remitted to the Foundation,

unless they are needed within the purpose of the

grant or, if this purpose has been met, for other scientific


(4) The above rules shall apply accordingly to items

purchased from the proceeds of such sale.

(5) If movable chattels are acquired which are durably

attached to the ground (thus becoming integral

parts), the conditions listed under 8 below shall


8. Title to Land and Buildings

(1) The recipient institution of a grant becomes the

owner of land and buildings purchased or erected

with the funds granted. In case of use for different

purposes (deviation from the purpose outlined in

the grant letter with reference to the basis for the

grant) it shall repay to the Foundation that part of

the current value that corresponds to the grant paid

by the Foundation in proportion to the total production

costs. If the property is sold at a price higher

than the current value, the proceeds of such a sale

shall replace the current value.

(2) In general, the claim for compensation under (1)

above shall be secured by entering in the Land Register

an encumbrance in the amount of the grant

appropriated or a comparable real security.

(3) Land and buildings should be marked by a clearly

visible reference (legend, plate) in an appropriate

place indicating that they were acquired or built

with funds made available by the Volkswagen


(4) This condition shall apply accordingly to acquisitions

of titles equivalent to real properties.

9. Publication Costs

Along with the customary publication of books or

in magazines, the Foundation also subsidizes digital

publications (e.g. CD-ROM, DVD, open access). To

this end, the Foundation may make an appropriate

flat-rate funding amount available after a grant

request and estimation of the preliminary costs by

the grant recipient. The Foundation is to be presented

with a voucher copy after publication and

the final bill within the framework of the audit of

allocated funds.

C. Statement of Account, Reports,


10. Statement of Account

(1) The statement of account shall be submitted in

principle promptly after the funding measures have

been completed; partial accounts shall be rendered

on request. The recipient of a grant will be sent

printed forms for such documentation in due


(2) In projects only partly funded by the Foundation

the documentation shall include a statement of the

total expenditures and the funds available for the

whole project.

(3) Income and expenditures accounted for shall be

covered by documents capable of auditing. Vouchers

or copies of vouchers shall be kept ready for an

audit, but shall be sent to the Foundation only on

special request.

(4) The Foundation reserves the right to audit the statement

of account, or have it audited, on the spot.

11. Reports

(1) If the project extends two years or more, the Foundation

expects annual interim reports.

(2) The Foundation is to be presented with the final

report promptly after completion of the project.

The notes pertaining to the drafting of interim and

final reports are to be observed.

(3) Above and beyond these reporting duties the recipient

of the grant is required to inform the Foundation,

without being asked, of all events strongly

Crossing Borders 2010 91


influencing the project. This applies in particular, if

conditions for the implementation of the project or

its objectives appear to be jeopardized.

12. Publications

(1) In principle, all publications are to be furnished

with the annotation “Funded by Volkswagen Foundation“.

Indications to this effect should also be

made in invitations, programs (of scientific events

sponsored), or press releases.

(2) The Foundation expects the research results funded

by it not only to be published in the traditional

print media but also to be made available on the

internet via open access.

When entering into publishing contracts, scientists

participating in Volkswagen Foundation-funded

projects should reserve a none-exclusive right of

exploitation for electronic publication of their

research results for the purpose of open access.

Here, discipline-specific delay periods of generally

6-12 months can be agreed upon, before which

publication of previously published research results

in discipline-specific or institutional electronic

archives may be prohibited.

(3) The Foundation assumes that any questions concerning

publication along with exploitation and

utilization rights with respect to the copyright protected

publication, exploitation, and use of research

results will be settled by the partners involved

before the project starts in accordance with the

rules of good research practice.

(4) The Foundation requests that one voucher copy of

each publication be mailed to it as soon as possible.

(5) The Foundation moreover asks that one copy each

of research reports and similar publications not distributed

through booksellers, which are the result of

a project funded, be sent to

– the supraregional technical informations system

/ library that holds the appropriate special

subject collection

– the collection of research reports at Technische

Informationsbibliothek Hannover, Welfengarten

1 B, 30167 Hannover (,

– and to the respective university library.

13. Public Relations Activities

The Volkswagen Foundation places value on having

the grant recipient communicate the project supported

by the Foundation by means of active press

and public relations activity. All public relations activities

affecting the project must contain an indication

of the support by the Volkswagen Foundation –

where possible with incorporation of the Foundation

logo. All elaborate activities should be cleared

with the persons in charge of PR for the Foundation;

in principle, the PR Unit should be informed of all

public relations activities relating to the funded

project. The Volkswagen Foundation retains the

right to bring the grant recipient’s project and its

own funding decision to the attention of the public

eye. For this purpose, the grant recipient is to provide

the Foundation with current meaningful text

and photographic material upon request.

D. Miscellaneous

14. Withdrawal, Recall, Cancellation

(1) The Foundation may withdraw a grant if it has not

been claimed at least in part within two years (from

the date of the grant letter).

(2) The Foundation reserves the right to recall a grant

and reclaim funds paid out in cases where funding

principles or any special conditions added are not

observed, especially in cases where the funding

decision is based on incorrect statements, funds are

not used in accordance with the intended purposes,

or the use of funds is not documented.

(3) Moreover, the Foundation reserves the right to cancel

the funding of a project for important reasons.

This applies also if important conditions for the

implementation of the project have ceased to exist,

or the objectives of the project no longer appear to

be attainable. Handling of the obligations incurred

by the recipient of a grant is to be arranged at the

given time between said recipient and the Foundation

by special agreement.

(4) In order to make up for a loss of interest, the Foundation

may demand interest based on the statutory

interest rate for the period from the time of the

disbursement of the funding until the retransfer of

the funding.

15. Protective Clauses, Exclusion of Liability

(1) The recipient of a grant shall be responsible for

observing the pertinent legal rules and regulations,

official instructions and safety regulations (also in

equipment operating instructions). He undertakes

to observe all rules and conventions applying in

specific research areas (e.g., the Helsinki declaration

about planning and implementing medical and

clinical experiments on humans) or considered as

standards such as rules governing good research


(2) The Foundation shall not be liable for any damage

arising from the implementation of the project

funded. In case it were to be made liable for such

damage, it shall be held harmless by the recipient of

the grant.

16. Sharing in Economic Profits

(1) The Foundation expects that – in accordance with

the respective intellectual property regulations –

the exploitation of any potential invention that

may result from the research project will be agreed

upon between the partners before the beginning of

the project.

(2) If economic profits, cost reimbursement or other

income (including those from patents) arise directly

from the project funded without, however, any

expenses being set off, the Foundation shall be

informed as soon as possible.

(3) The Foundation may claim from such income

repayment of its grant plus reasonable interest or

an adequate share.

(4) This shall apply to income from publications (lectures,

articles, books) only if expressly stated in the

grant letter or any special conditions added.

(5) The Foundation principally assumes no costs for the

process of patent application or patent protection.

Crossing Borders 2010 93


The Board of Trustees

The Federal Government and the

government of the State of Lower

Saxony each appoint seven honorary

members for a term of office

of five years. The Trustees may be

reappointed only once. In making

its decisions, the Board of Trustees

is bound solely to the statutes of

the Volkswagen Foundation.

The Board of Trustees usually convenes

three times a year at the Foundation's

Hanover office.

Lutz Stratmann (Chairperson), Member of the State Parliament (Landtag)

of Lower Saxony, Minister of Science and Culture (2003 – 2010), Hanover

Professor Dr. Annette Schavan (Vice Chairperson), Federal Minister for

Education and Research, Member of Parliament, Bonn/Berlin

Professor Dr. Wolf Singer (Vice Chairperson), Max Planck Institute for

Brain Research, Frankfurt/Main

Professor em. Dr. Klaus J. Bade, formerly at the Institute for Migration

Research and Intercultural Studies (IMIS), University of Osnabrück

Professor Dr. Horst Bredekamp, Department of Art History, Humboldt-

University, and Permanent Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg, Berlin

Professor Dr. Martin Hellwig, Max Planck Institute for Research on

Collective Goods, Bonn

Professor em. Dr. Brigitte Jockusch, formerly at the Zoological Institute,

Cell Biology, University of Braunschweig – Institute of Technology

Professor Dr. Katharina Kohse-Höinghaus, Physical Chemistry,

University of Bielefeld

Professor Dr.-Ing. Wolfgang Kowalsky, Institute of High Frequency

Technology, University of Braunschweig – Institute of Technology

Professor Dr. Gerd Litfin, Arkadien Verwaltungs KG, Göttingen

Professor Dr. Horst Neumann, Volkswagen AG, Wolfsburg

Michael Sommer, Chairperson of the Confederation of German Trade

Unions (DGB), Berlin

Professor Dr. Ursula M. Staudinger, Founding Dean of the Jacobs Center

on Lifelong Learning and Institutional Development, Jacobs University


Professor Dr. Waltraud Wende, Department of German Literature and

Culture, University of Groningen, The Netherlands

Funding – Organization and Contact

Persons and Structures

Head of Team Dr. Henrike Hartmann / -376

Assistant: Meike Brauer / -375

Administrative Support: Monika Nesper / -224

Funding Initiatives

• Lichtenberg Professorships Dr. Anja Fließ / -374

Assistant: Regina Buch / -388

• Schumpeter Fellowships Prof. Dr. Hagen Hof / -256

Assistant: Simone Künnecke / -255

• Focus on the Humanities Dr. Gudrun Tegeder / -289

Assistant: Marion Brunk / -226

• University of the Future Dr. Gudrun Tegeder / -289

Assistant: Marion Brunk / -226

• Research in Museums Dr. Adelheid Wessler / -276

Assistant: Ute Steinert / -341

Dr. Matthias Nöllenburg / -290

Assistant: Daniela Basse / -291

• Symposia and Summer Schools Dr. Henrike Hartmann / -376

Assistant: Meike Brauer / -375

Challenges – for Academia and Society

Head of Team Dr. Franz Dettenwanger / -217

Assistant: Petra Akrami / -372

Administrative Support: Silke Aumann / -254

Funding Initiatives

• Integration of Molecular Components in Functional Dr. Franz Dettenwanger / -217

Macroscopic Systems Assistant: Petra Akrami / -372

• New Conceptual Approaches to Modeling Dr. Ulrike Bischler / -350

and Simulation of Complex Systems Assistant: Jennifer Wundenberg / -248

• Free-Electron Laser Science Dr. Ulrike Bischler / -350

Assistant: Jennifer Wundenberg / -248

• Evolutionary Biology Dr. Daniela Kruschel / -252

Assistant: Christine Schmiedeskamp / -236

• Key Issues in the Humanities Dr. Vera Szöllösi-Brenig / -218

Assistant: Kerstin Krüger / -232

• European Platform for Life Sciences, Mind Sciences, Dr. Thomas Brunotte / -297

and the Humanities Assistant: Silvia Birck / -246

• “Deutsch plus” – Knowledge is Multilingual Dr. Thomas Brunotte / -297

Assistant: Silvia Birck / -246

Further Funding Opportunities

• Off the Beaten Track - Extraordinary Projects Responsibility according to subject area

• Science, the Public, and Society Dr. Thomas Brunotte / -297

Assistant: Silvia Birck / -246

Telephone +49 (0)5 11/83 81-0

• “Niedersächsisches Vorab” Prof. Dr. Hagen Hof / -256

Assistant: Simone Künnecke / -255

International Focus

Head of Team Dr. Almut Steinbach / -370

Assistant: Stefanie Karguth / -385

Administrative Support: Dr. Justyna Schulz / -243

Funding Initiatives

• Knowledge for Tomorrow – Cooperative Dr. Detlef Hanne / -389

Research Projects in Sub-Saharan Africa Assistant: N. N. / -227

Dr. Adelheid Wessler / -276

Assistant: Ute Steinert / -341

• Between Europe and the Orient – A Focus on Research Dr. Wolfgang Levermann / -212

and Higher Education in/on Central Asia and the Caucasus Assistant: Susanne Klinge / -384

Dr. Matthias Nöllenburg / -290

Assistant: Daniela Basse / -291

• Documentation of Endangered Languages Dr. Vera Szöllösi-Brenig / -218

Assistant: Kerstin Krüger / -232

• Harvard Fellowships Dr. Almut Steinbach / -370

Assistant: Stefanie Karguth / -385

• Future Issues of Society – Europe and Global Challenges Dr. Alfred Schmidt / -237

Assistant: Katja Hawner / -208

Contact Persons According to Subject Areas


Dr. Thomas Brunotte / -297 Philosophy, Theology

Dr. Wolfgang Levermann / -212 History

Dr. Vera Szöllösi-Brenig / -218 European Languages and Literature, Art and Musicology

Dr. Adelheid Wessler / -276 Ancient and Non-European Languages and Cultures

Social Sciences

Dr. Thomas Brunotte / -297 Psychology

Prof. Dr. Hagen Hof / -256 Law, Education, Environmental Sciences

Dr. Vera Szöllösi-Brenig / -218 Communication and Media

Dr. Alfred Schmidt / -237 Economics, Political Science

Dr. Cora Ziegenbalg / -228 Sociology

Dr. Gudrun Tegeder / -289 Architecture, Town Construction, Regional Planning, Geography

Dr. Adelheid Wessler / -276 Ethnology

Life Sciences

Dr. Henrike Hartmann / -376 Neurosciences

Dr. Matthias Nöllenburg / -290 Plant Biology, Zoology, Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Daniela Kruschel / -252 Biomedicine

Natural Sciences

Dr. Ulrike Bischler / -350 Physics

Dr. Franz Dettenwanger / -217 Mathematics

Dr. Anja Fließ / -374 Chemistry, Biochemistry

Dr. Detlef Hanne / -389 Earth and Environmental Sciences

Dr. Matthias Nöllenburg / -290 Forestry and Agronomy

Engineering Sciences

Dr. Franz Dettenwanger / -217 Engineering Sciences

As of September 2010

Organization and Contact

Secretary General

Office of the Secretary General

• Assistant to the Secretary General, Support for Board of Trustees,

Cooperation with Research Organizations and Universities

• Legal Affairs, Cooperation with Foundations and Associations

Evaluation, Internal Audit, Auditing of Funds Allocated

Event Management



Member of the Executive Management Dr. Indra Willms-Hoff / -285

Assistant: Sylvia Vogler / -286

Investment Management

Member of the Executive Management Dieter Lehmann / -351

Assistant: Marion Peiß / -352


• Shares Carolin Bensch / -354

• Interest-bearing Securities, Cash Management Dr. Andreas Bodemer / -239

• Real Property Dr. Martina Pörschke / -365

Finance and Administration

Member of the Executive Management Henning Otto / -219

Assistant: Sybille Laas / -229


• Accounting and Controlling Sibylle Mitscherling / -269

Assistant: Gabriele Darge / -268

• Human Resources and Central Services Christina Fallnacker / -220

Assistant: Claudia Kruse / -371

• Information and Communication Systems Michael Maaß / -366

As of September 2010

Telephone +49 (0)5 11/83 81-0

Dr. Wilhelm Krull / -215

Assistants: Annemarie Batschko-Rühmann / -225

Claudia Behrens / -225

Antje Robrecht / -211

Assistant: Susanne Grabner / -221

Anja Stanitzke / -240

Assistant: Susanne Grabner / -221

Dr. Uta Saß / -331

Assistant: Margot Jädick-Jäckel / -206

Katja Ebeling / -284

Assistants: Bettina Seeliger / -200

Vanessa Spitau / - 292

Jens Rehländer / -380

Assistant: Birgit Rosengart-Kamburis / -381


Kastanienallee 35

30519 Hannover


Phone: +49 (0)511 8381-0

Fax: +49 (0)511 8381-344

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