Double Success – Funding Extension for the DFG Collaborative Research Centers at the University of Potsdam

The German Research Foundation (DFG) positively reviewed the two Collaborative Research Centers at the University of Potsdam and approved their extension. While researchers in CRC 1294 are working at the interface of mathematics, physics, geosciences, computer science, and psychology on “Data Assimilation,” cognitive scientists in CRC 1287 are exploring the “Limits of Variability in Language.” The two CRCs established in 2017 will continue their work with further research questions from July 1, 2021, and will receive funding for another four years. “The fact that the DFG is extending the two Collaborative Research Centers shows that excellent research work is being done here,” says Prof. Oliver Günther, PhD, President of the University of Potsdam. “This is a confirmation of our chosen path and also an important signal for the federal state. After all, this important success shows that Brandenburg’s investments in the academic landscape were worthwhile. Because top-level research brings top-level people and ideas to the state, which also has a lasting impact on the economy and society.”

Human language is used for interaction and communication in a variety of situations and often between very different people. Is this why languages often offer us so many different ways to express the same message – and how does our mental linguistic system deal with this? How do such variations come to be and pass within evolving languages? And why is it that we do not always understand the utterances of different people to the same extent, even though we speak the same language? Is variability disruptive or even beneficial to language acquisition? CRC 1287, entitled “Limits of Variability in Language,” will work on such questions from cognitive, computational, and grammatical perspectives in its second funding phase. “To gain further important insights into the structure and functioning of the mental linguistic system, projects in the CRC explore the limits of variability in language from language acquisition in infants to foreign language acquisition in adulthood to impaired language processing after a stroke; ranging from language historical and cross-linguistic research to neural network models; from speech motor control in the articulation of individual syllables to eye movement control while reading texts; in the laboratory, in virtual worlds, via the internet, or worldwide in the field,” explains the CRC’s spokesperson, Prof. Dr. Isabell Wartenburger from the Department of Linguistics at the University of Potsdam. “Variability in the data we observe is generally regarded by us as a potentially valuable source of knowledge rather than a confounding factor.”

The interdisciplinary CRC 1287 consists of 14 scientific sub-projects, including a transfer project with two partner companies from Berlin, and an integrated research training group. In addition, the project includes a scientific service project that supports researchers with statistical data analysis and data management, as well as a central administrative project. The 21 researchers (12 female and 9 male) who submitted the proposal work almost exclusively at the University of Potsdam – at the Departments of Linguistics and Psychology, at the Department of German Studies, and at the Potsdam Research Institute for Multilingualism – only one researcher is now contributing to the CRC from the Ruhr University in Bochum.

CRC 1294, entitled “Data Assimilation: the Seamless Integration of Data and Models,” focuses on the integration of large amounts of data into complex computer models with the aim of better understanding the underlying processes and enabling more accurate predictions. Data assimilation techniques are already being used very successfully in meteorology, hydrology, and resource exploration. “Having achieved many of the goals we set at the beginning, we will focus on new applications from geosciences, cognitive sciences, pharmacology as well as biophysics in the second phase of the CRC and advance them by developing and analyzing novel algorithms,” said CRC spokesperson Prof. Dr. Sebastian Reich from the Institute of Mathematics at the University of Potsdam.
CRC 1294 consists of 13 scientific sub-projects, a data infrastructure project, and an integrated research training group. In addition, the CRC is working on a central administrative project. Out of the 18 researchers involved, one is from Helmholtz Center Potsdam – German Research Center for Geosciences, one is from Weierstrass Institute Berlin, one is from Humboldt Universität Berlin, two are from Technische Universität Berlin, and 13 are from the University of Potsdam from the Institutes of Mathematics, of Physics and Astronomy, of Computer Science as well as from the Department of Psychology.

The Collaborative Research Centers on the web:


CRC 1287: “Limits of Variability in Language: Cognitive, Computational, and Grammatical Aspects”
Prof. Dr. Isabell Wartenburger, Cognitive Sciences, Department of Linguistics,
E-mail: isabell.wartenburgeruni-potsdamde
Phone: +49 331 977-2928

CRC 1294: “Data Assimilation: the Seamless Integration of Data and Models”
Prof. Dr. Sebastian Reich, Institute of Mathematics,
E-mail: sreichmath.uni-potsdamde
Phone: +49 331 977-1859

Media information 25-05-2021 / No. 037