University of Jena in the final round of the Excellence Competition

A flag with the slogan ’Light, Life, Liberty’ in front of the main u
A flag with the slogan ’Light, Life, Liberty’ in front of the main university building. Image: Jens Meyer (University of Jena)

The Friedrich Schiller University Jena has reached the final round of the Excellence Competition with one new project and the existing Cluster of Excellence, as announced today by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the German Council of Science and Humanities. The University had submitted three new proposals for so-called Clusters of Excellence, of which the "Imaginamics" project may now be developed into a full application. A Cluster of Excellence is an association of outstanding scientists who are jointly researching a socially relevant topic. In addition, the  Jena Cluster of Excellence "Balance of the Microverse" , which has existed since 2019, can apply for further funding in the competition officially known as the "Excellence Strategy of the German federal and state governments". Full proposals must be submitted by mid-August. Which large-scale research projects will be realized and can expect to receive millions in funding will be announced in May 2025.

"This is a first major success in the current round of the Excellence Strategy for the scientists involved, but also for the University of Jena and its partners," says Georg Pohnert, Interim President of the University and Vice-President for Research. "The project was able to compete against many first-class submissions and I congratulate all those involved. The university management will now provide its full support so that the scientists can put all their energy into developing the full proposal. We see enormous potential here for science and society."

Improving our understanding of social conflicts

Current debates, whether on climate change, democracy, or the pandemic, create the impression that people live in different, barely reconcilable worlds of imagination. However, these "social imaginations" are rarely set in stone, but rather struggle for validity and dominance in dynamic processes. Such "struggles for meaning" reveal the fundamentally open, conflictual character of social coexistence that requires negotiation. They will be analysed in the project "Imaginamics. Practices and Dynamics of Social Imagining".

The artificial word "Imaginamics", made up of imagination and dynamics, indicates that it is about fluid, dynamic processes. These dynamics also always have a practical side; they are "made" and driven by social and political actors. This is why the Imaginamics project is not only dedicated to social imaginations as such, but also to the practices of "social imagining" from which they emerge.

"We are delighted that the panel of experts considers our project outline to be forward-looking and recognizes our particular strengths in this field of research. We will now dedicate ourselves to the challenge of further developing our ideas - together with many partners locally, in the region and worldwide - in a full proposal. The importance of gaining a better understanding of social imaginations and their very own dynamics is highlighted not least by the many discussions and demonstrations of recent weeks," says art historian Johannes Grave, who together with science historian Christina Brandt and historian Joachim von Puttkamer forms the Imaginamics spokesperson team.

Cluster of Excellence "Balance of the Microverse" in the second application round

Existing Clusters of Excellence can submit a full application directly. And so the Cluster of Excellence "Balance of the Microverse", which has been based at Friedrich Schiller University Jena since 2019, will apply for further funding. The large-scale research project is dedicated to microorganisms. These tiny creatures play a crucial role in our coexistence, as they are found in all habitats on Earth and interact with plants, animals and humans. If this coexistence is thrown out of balance, this leads to diseases, crop failures and disrupted ecosystems.

The aim of the Cluster of Excellence is to research the dynamic balances of microbial communities from the molecular level through to complex ecosystems. Based on this, new technologies are being developed that can specifically maintain and restore these balances. The current spokesperson for the Jena Cluster of Excellence is Professor of Aquatic Geomicrobiology, Kirsten Küsel.