'Exceptional and fruitful' DFG Research Training Group 'Privacy' gains approval for the next funding period

The German Research Foundation (DFG) will continue to fund the Research Training Group 1681 'Privacy' of the University of Passau with some 3.7 million euros; the funding period runs from 2016 to 2021. The University will use these funds to finance posts and fellowships for early career researchers working on fields related to privacy and digitalisation.

The current members of the RTG 'Privacy' with Co-ordinator Martin Scherer (left) and postdoctoral researcher Martin Hennig (right) in front of the entrance to the University's Institute Building.
The current members of the RTG 'Privacy' with Co-ordinator Martin Scherer (left) and postdoctoral researcher Martin Hennig (right) in front of the entrance to the University's Institute Building.

The DFG Research Training Group (RTG) 1681 was established in 2012, adopting 'Privacy: Forms, functions, transformations' as the guiding theme for the current funding period, which runs out in September this year. Within the RTG, a cross-disciplinary group of doctoral and postdoctoral researchers from a number of different academic disciplines analyses phenomena touching on aspects of State, Culture, Mass Media and Law.

For the next funding period, which starts in October, the RTG will take ‘Privacy and Digitalisation’ as the focus of its research. Here, the frame of reference encompasses the surveillance debate, which was recently re-ignited by the Edward Snowden affair, the discourse on the end of privacy spelt out by the social media and careless use of internet services, and ethical boundary issues opened up by the ability to describe persons in their entirety using with Big Data, e-Health and health-monitoring self-tracking devices. 'Digitalisation is a boon to society as long as it is used with care’, explained Professor Dirk Heckmann, who holds the Chair of Public Law, Security Law and Internet Law and is the Speaker for the Research Training Group. ‘While continuous generation and processing of personal data may serve very useful purposes, this must not infringe upon privacy, personal space, informational autonomy and personal confidentiality. Our intention is to develop protective concepts to safeguard personal privacy by working together across the boundaries of the involved academic disciplines. We believe that the only way to tackle this academically and societally relevant topic is by adopting an interdisciplinary approach. That the German Research Foundation continues to support our research shows that we are on the right track with our "Passau approach".'

This interdisciplinary approach is fostered by the exceptional collaboration across two faculties – Law on the one hand and Arts and Humanities on the other. The explanation of the decision by the funding committee, published after a multi-stage evaluation process, made direct relevance to this, stating that 'this co-operation between far-removed disciplines for the theme of "Digitalisation and Privacy" is highly fruitful.'  

Moreover, the Research Training Group profits not only from the University's infrastructure and manifold academic connecting factors at its Chairs and institutes, but also from being embedded in regional networks such as the East-Bavarian Internet and Digitisation Network (INDIGO), which is maintained by the universities of Passau and Regensburg and the universities of applied sciences in Deggendorf, Landshut, Regensburg and Amberg-Weiden.

President Carola Jungwirth was delighted at the news of the continued funding for the RTG: 'The funding re-approval for the interdisciplinary Research Training Group “Privacy” also sets out an excellent motivational basis for us to pool our efforts for the Excellence Initiative in a strongly interdisciplinary project which we have been pursuing intensively for the past year, titled "Blurring Boundaries".'

What is a Research Training Group?

Research Training Groups ('Graduiertenkollegs' in German) are institutions which promote early career researchers by complementing their innovative, excellent research with a targeted, structured support programme. This programme is designed to train doctoral researchers within a thematically-focused research programme and a structured qualification concept. The RTG at the University of Passau, which is deployed at two faculties – the Faculty of Arts and Humanities and the Faculty of Law, gives German and international doctoral researchers a basis for their research and ongoing training for their research career. The members of the RTG undergo a rigorous selection process, in which they have to demonstrate their academic prowess and present an outstanding, cross-disciplinary research concept with an international scope. 

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| 10.08.2016