Which is a successful person or plant

Successful network research is extended

With the launch of three inter-faculty research cooperations (IFK), the University of Bern broke new ground in research funding in 2018: IFKs are network projects that each unite 8 to 13 research groups from various faculties and are based on the five strategic focus areas of the University of Bern. In a competitive process, the three projects “One Health”, “Religious Conflicts and Coping Strategies” and “Decoding Sleep” were selected for funding of 1.5 million francs per year each.

Impressive certificate of achievement

"All three projects have done high-quality scientific work in the last two years," says Daniel Candinas, Vice Rector Research at the University of Bern. The university management has therefore decided to extend all three IFKs for a further two years. “The IFK's impressive performance certificate confirms our decision to specifically promote interdisciplinary research. Complex, current problem areas can only be tackled in an interdisciplinary manner, ”says Candinas. Funding for IFK by the University of Bern is limited to a total of four years.

“One Health”: focus on the health of the environment, people and animals

The IFK “One Health” has set up a new, unique interdisciplinary research network within a short time to investigate the influence of various environmental chemicals on the health of food chains and their microbial communities. Various research successes have already been recorded. "For example, we were only recently able to show in detail for the first time how agricultural practice affects pesticide pollution in the ecosystems of the lake floors in the long term," says Matthias Erb, head of IFK "One Health". In addition, the IFK was also very active in teaching (e.g. with the summer school "Hidden Players in the Food Chain"), promoting young talent and acquiring third-party funding.

“In the long term, our efforts should contribute to sustainable agriculture that is as free of pesticides as possible. The first two years have shown the great potential and enormous benefits of this inter-faculty network. We want to build on that ”, says Matthias Erb.

The interdisciplinary “One Health” approach is also catching on internationally. Every year on November 3rd with the “One Health Day”, the researchers draw attention to the great importance of interdisciplinary research to maintain and promote the health of the environment, humans and animals - this year this topic is more topical than ever.

"Religious Conflicts and Coping Strategies": Model for analyzing religious conflicts

Since the beginning of the project, the IFK “Religious Conflicts and Coping Strategies” has developed a model for the analysis of conflicts with religious dimensions with the involvement of all disciplines involved. “The model can be used in science as well as in politics, in religious communities, in international peace work. Media professionals can also use the model to achieve a differentiated portrayal of conflicts with religious dimensions in their reporting, ”explains IFK director Katharina Heyden.

Since 2018, the members of the IFK have published a total of 83 scientific articles or submitted them for publication and organized numerous scientific conferences and workshops. In addition, an interactive explanatory video on the IFK topic was released this year. There is also a lot planned for the future in research and teaching: “In 2021 there will be a doctoral school, a conference in cooperation with the platform versoehnt.ch and of course our own annual conference under the title Gender Religion Conflicts”, says Heyden.

“Decoding Sleep”: What constitutes healthy sleep

The IFK “Decoding Sleep” has used the last two years to realign sleep research with the inclusion of various disciplines at the local level and also to network it internationally. Of the numerous research successes from the Bern consortium, reports recently attracted attention that people can learn new vocabulary of a foreign language in deep sleep and that in animal models, recovery after a stroke can be promoted by influencing sleep. In addition, the IFK is heavily involved in promoting researchers at all academic career levels. "In the future, we want to make the IFK even more international and establish the University of Bern among the world's leading centers for interdisciplinary sleep research," says Claudio Bassetti, head of the IFK "Decoding Sleep".

Sleep-wake disorders can be the first signs of illness - such as Parkinson's and dementia or depression. “We contribute to a deeper understanding of what constitutes healthy sleep and how this can improve physical, psychological and mental well-being, performance and quality of life. Not only patients, but also the general public should be able to benefit from the findings of our research ”, says Bassetti.

Information on the three projects in detail:

IFK "One Health: Cascading and Microbiome-Dependent Effects on Multitrophic Health"

Head: Prof. Dr. Matthias Erb, Research Group Biotic Interactions, Institute for Plant Sciences
Co-leader: Prof. Dr. Andrew Macpherson, Department for BioMedical Research, Gastroenterology / Mucosal Immunology Research Group
Participating faculties: Philosophical and scientific, medical and Vetsuisse faculties.
Participating groups: 9 research groups with expertise in microbiology, environmental sciences, plant and animal health, human medicine and bioinformatics.
Web: https://www.onehealth.unibe.ch/

From the soil to plants and ruminants to humans

The project “One Health: Cascading and Microbiome-Dependent Effects on Multitrophic Health” deals with an increasingly important research area in which the relationships between the health of the environment, animals and humans are examined. The 9 research groups examine in particular the influence of environmental changes on food chain systems - from soils to plants to ruminants and finally mice as model organisms for human health. For the first time, a comparative analysis can be made of how the microbial communities at different interfaces in the food chain react to factors such as heavy metals, pesticides and secondary plant substances, and what influence these changes have on the health of the individual links in the food chain and the entire system. By combining their expertise, the research groups can, among other things, observe cascading health effects within the food chain, which they would otherwise not be able to do. This is a new approach within the One Health research area. The researchers expect that the knowledge gained will help to better understand and remedy the effects of environmental chemicals on the health of food chains.

IFK "Religious Conflicts and Coping Strategies"

Head: Prof. Dr. Katharina Heyden, Institute for Historical Theology
Co-leader: Prof. Dr. Martino Mona, Institute for Criminal Law and Criminology
Participating faculties: Faculty of Theology, Faculty of Law, Faculty of Human Sciences, Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences, Faculty of Philosophy and History and Interdisciplinary Center for Gender Studies (IZFG)
Participating groups: 12 interdisciplinary research groups from theology, law, religious studies, Islamic studies, Jewish studies, political science, history, social anthropology, psychology, media and communication studies, German studies and philosophy.
Web: https://www.religious-conflicts.unibe.ch/

Religious conflicts and strategies for dealing with them

Although conflicts with religious dimensions shape the past and present, the importance of religion in social and political conflicts has not yet been convincingly captured and explained. The debate so far has focused primarily on the question of whether religions are only instrumentalized for other interests, such as economic interests, or whether they themselves contain conflict-promoting or pacifying components. The research cooperation aims at a differentiated understanding of the ambivalent role of religions in conflicts in order to be able to develop adequate strategies for dealing with them. The main aim of the project is to create analytical models that identify the various economic, social, psychological, cultural and political factors that contribute to conflict and describe their connection to religious beliefs, religious rhetoric, religious motivations and actors. To this end, the 12 groups research past and current religious conflicts and strategies for dealing with them. They combine cultural and social science methods with internal religious perspectives. The content and the methodology of this IFK should make a substantial contribution to two strategic focal points of the University of Bern: intercultural knowledge and sustainability.

IFK "Decoding Sleep: From Neurons to Health & Mind"

Head: Prof. Dr. med. Claudio Bassetti, Director and Chief Physician of the University Clinic for Neurology at Inselspital Bern and Dean of the Medical Faculty, University of Bern.
Co-leader: Prof. Dr. Fred Mast, Head of the Department of Cognitive Psychology, Perception and Methodology at the Institute for Psychology.
Participating faculties: Medical, Philosophical and Human Sciences and Natural Sciences Faculties
Participating groups: 13 research groups from neurology, psychology, physiology, psychiatry and psychotherapy, pulmonology, infectious diseases and computer science.
Web: https://www.sleep.unibe.ch/

Deciphering sleep: importance for health and quality of life

Sleep remained almost unchanged over the course of evolution, which indicates its fundamental importance for survival. Sleep research in humans and animals indicates that sleep serves both to save energy and to regenerate and repair processes in the brain and in various organs. In addition, it has been shown that mechanisms associated with sleep promote the ability of the brain to regenerate and restructure itself, the maturation of the brain and cognition. The research cooperation aims to achieve a better understanding of the mechanisms of sleep, consciousness and cognition by means of the three areas of "brain - mind - body". After all, sleep-wake disorders can be the first signs of illnesses - such as Parkinson's and dementia or depression. For this purpose, molecular and neurophysiological processes of sleep and sleep disorders and their connection with brain damage, pain and infections are examined. In addition, new insights into cognitive and neuroplastic processes should be gained with the help of sleep. To this end, the importance of sleep for mental health, for brain functions and for physical performance in a healthy and sick state in animals and humans is being investigated. New model calculations of sleep phases are to be developed from the “big data” of the individual project groups - with the aim of determining new biomarkers for sleep and sleep disorders. The IFK can rely on the nationally networked "Bern Network for Epilepsy, Sleep and Consciousness (BENESCO)", internationally established networks and highly specialized infrastructures such as the "Sleep-Wake Epilepsy Center Bern (SWEZ)", the "Center for Experimental Neurology ”(ZEN) or the“ Swiss Institute for Translational and Entrepreneurial Medicine ”(sitem-insel AG). With its focus on personalized medicine and biomedical technology, it contributes to strengthening Bern as a medical location.