01.01.2015 Open end
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Funding phase

Junior Research Groups Social-ecological Research

Sustainability research needs well qualified young researchers, who are able to contribute to solutions for complex societal problems such as climate change or the energy transformation. For that reason, the BMBF is funding interdisciplinary junior research groups in the field of Social-Ecological Research.

In order to further strengthen transdisciplinary sustainability research, the funding concept of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for Social-Ecological Research (SOEF) includes structural funding formats besides topically orientated funding measures (such as "Sustainable Economy" or "Sustainable Transformation of Urban Areas"). Enhancing the skills of young researchers to work in an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary manner is regarded as being especially important in this area. So far, the German scientific system is still very much organized in a disciplinary manner. Interdisciplinary and especially transdisciplinary approaches are not sufficiently recognized. On this basis it is rather difficult for young researchers working transdisciplinary to build scientific careers, even though past funding within Social-Ecological Research has led to some progress regarding this issue. The evaluation carried out in 2012/2013 shows that funding results are leading into the right direction, however not sufficiently so as of yet.

The funding measure „SOEF-junior research groups" aims at further developing both institutional as well as individual capacities, which are direly needed to implement interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary sustainability research. Young researchers shall receive the opportunity to further qualify in the interlinked fields of natural sciences, engineering and social sciences, thus improving their academic qualification and career opportunities in interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research, in the economy and in civil society. While working on a self-chosen topic, the junior research groups are encouraged to focus - beyond the research results themselves - on developing and cultivating an interdisciplinary research culture. Furthermore, the funding measure aims at encouraging universities in particular to open up further to interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research approaches. The projects are due to run for five years. This fairly long project duration is meant to be sufficient to cope with the special challenges of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research and at the same time ensure the academic qualification of junior researchers.

From 2002 to 2014, 21 junior research groups were funded in two funding phases with a total funding volume of €37 million. Over 100 young scientists were able to further qualify themselves. The extensive experience was collected during the project duration using questionnaires and was also analyzed in various workshops. Based on the knowledge gained, the promotion of junior research groups in social-ecological research was further developed and re-advertised in 2015 with regular submission dates. The submission deadline for project proposals will be suspended in 2020. Therefore, project proposals can be submitted again in April 2021.

The completed projects of the second funding phase can be found here.

The 19 groups currently running are dealing with the following topics: biodiversity, sustainable management, sharing economy, rebound effects, digitization, crop production, nature-based solutions, mobility, energy transition and environmental migration. Five more groups will start in May 2020.

The current junior research groups are briefly outlined below.

Research projects (available in German)

Number of entries: 19

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