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Source: Volkswagen Foundation17. Dec 20The COVID-19 pandemic also poses major challenges and new questions for science. The foundation responded in May with its “Corona Crisis and Beyond” funding offer and offered support to researchers in all disciplines. 102 projects have now been approved – 1,105 applications have been received. The foundation provides a total of 11.7 million euros.

Almost half of the approved projects (49) come from the social sciences, 18 each from the life, engineering and natural sciences, and 17 from the humanities. The researchers each receive up to 120,000 euros for max. 18 months. With these “small grants” it will be possible to work on many of the questions that arise as a result of the pandemic for science and society in individual or collaborative projects. The spectrum of approved projects ranges from new procedures for rapid tests to linguistic investigations into conspiracy theories. Around 60 young scientists were recruited for the assessment and recommendation. 21 of them are members of the Junge Akademie, three come from the Zukunftskolleg of the University of Konstanz, the rest were freely chosen, but were mostly in a similar career phase. “This procedure offers opportunities for both sides: The young researchers have the opportunity to gain experience in the review and can contribute their perspective – and we see projects from a fresh perspective,” says Dr. Georg Schütte, Secretary General of the Volkswagen Foundation. “This one-time promotion offer should not only be used to gain knowledge that will directly contribute to overcoming the pandemic. Some projects promise impetus to tackle major societal challenges in the medium to long term that are only slowly emerging ”, said Dr. Henrike Hartmann, Head of the Funding Department. “We have obviously hit a nerve with this tender. Due to the large number of applications received and their high quality, we have increased the originally planned funding of four million euros to the now approved 11.7 million euros. ”In the following, four projects are presented as examples: Rapid and Sensitive Sars-CoV -2 test with a smartphone (120,000 euros) Dr. Irene Fernandez-Cuesta, Prof. Arwen Pearson, both Institute for Nanostructure and Solid State Physics, University of Hamburg; Dr. Neus Feliu, Center for Applied Nanotechnology and University of Hamburg; Prof. James Holton, School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco (USA) Rapid tests play a major role in containing a pandemic with asymptomatic spread, as is currently the case with SARS-CoV-2. However, the large number of tests required harbors many risks: Conventional sampling is associated with a risk of infection for medical personnel, the administrative effort is high, the production is complex and expensive, and in developing countries there is no infrastructure for the dissemination of the tests. That is why the project team wants to develop a fast and sensitive test system based on a cheap plastic chip, the sensor of which uses fluorescence energy transmission. The result should be readable via smartphone; Even untrained users should be able to use the test after watching a short explanatory video: Inductively Heatable Protective Films to Combat COVID-19 (120,000 euros) Prof. Dr. Karl Mandel, Department of Chemistry and Pharmacy, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg In order to avoid smear infections with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, contact surfaces in public spaces are treated with disinfectants. Critical points here are the proper application of the agents, the protection of the cleaning staff and the professional disposal of the materials used. Viruses can also be rendered harmless by heat. That is why Prof. Dr. Karl Mandel developed an alternative method that makes use of induction. To do this, he wants to develop a silicone layer with synthetic magnetic particles that can be attached to surfaces such as door handles with little effort. In the process to be tested, a mobile inductor is passed over this appropriately prepared surface in order to locally heat the magnetic particles contained therein for a fraction of a second and thus kill the viruses on the surface, while the underlying material remains undamaged. Transforming the “Grammar of Schooling”: Hybrid Learning Environments for the Digital Knowledge Society (120,000 euros) Jun.-Prof. Dr. Britta Klopsch, Institute for Vocational Education and General Education, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology; Prof. Dr. Anne Sliwka, Institute for Educational Sciences, Heidelberg University The corona-related school closings during spring have shown that the German school system has not yet been adapted to the digital knowledge society, despite development plans. The “grammar of the school”, the way schools work, is still lived as a closed environment. However, research shows that learning environments are more conducive to knowledge acquisition when digital and real spaces outside of school are incorporated into classroom learning, creating “hybrid learning environments”. The aim of the project is to develop a model that schools can use as a tool in the transition to a hybrid learning environment. To do this, the researchers lead i.a. Interviews with school principals and educational scholars from New Zealand, Australia and Canada who have extensive experience in hybrid learning environments. Values ​​in Crisis – a Crisis of Values? Moral Values ​​and Social Orientations under the Imprint of the Corona Pandemic (119,500 euros) Prof. Dr. Jan Delhey, Institute for Social Sciences / Sociology Department, Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg; Dr. Franziska Deutsch, Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences, Jacobs University Bremen; Dr. Jan Eichhorn, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh (Great Britain) Moral values ​​and social orientation are considered to be relatively stable constructs that change only slowly. How they are expressed is of great importance for how individuals feel about democracy or populism, for example. The corona pandemic offers the opportunity to check what effects a sudden and profound event has on moral values ​​and social orientations. To this end, the project team uses a long-term study to compare the attitudes of 2,000 respondents in Great Britain and Germany. The two countries were selected because they are easily comparable due to their economic parameters, but differ greatly in their handling of the pandemic and its consequences. Background: Corona funding offers of the Volkswagen Foundation In addition to the enormous challenges for the health system and society, the SARS-CoV opens 2 pandemic unanticipated prospects for new, cross-disciplinary research. The “Small Grant” call is part of a larger initiative with which the Volkswagen Foundation is supporting research in this context. For example, researchers were able to apply for an additional module including additional funds for projects currently funded by the foundation, provided that Corona as a research subject represented a useful addition to the existing project. This offer ends at the end of 2020. In addition, the tender “Viral Zoonoses – Innovative Approaches in the Development of Active Substances” was initiated; the first deadline for submitting applications was December 10, 2020. Further information on the “Corona Crisis and Beyond – Perspectives for Science, Scholarship and Society” initiative of the Volkswagen Foundation


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