NCN to spend over EUR 5 million on interdisciplinary research

Monday, 25 July 2016

The NCN has concluded the fourth edition of the SYMFONIA call for proposals targeted at applicants wanting to conduct interdisciplinary research. Within this call, experts selected 5 projects worth over EUR 5 million.

SYMFONIA applicants must be PhD holders who have already led the implementation of a minimum of 2 research projects selected within domestic or international calls for proposals. The proposed research must involve at least two research domains: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Life Sciences and Physical Sciences and Engineering.

- Excellent interdisciplinary research makes a significant contribution to each of the areas concerned, it is however a big challenge and a rare phenomenon in research today - explains prof. Zbigniew Błocki, director of the NCN. - Interdisciplinary projects can of course be submitted to the NCN under regular calls, but past experience shows that it is not easy to convince experts to select such research from a pool of projects put forward to research panels including narrow research fields within which such proposals are usually evaluated. The SYMFONIA funding scheme caters to the needs of researchers who want do carry out large, truly interdisciplinary, high-calibre research projects.

It is expected that research performed within SYMFONIA will constitute more than just using tools or data from one research field in order to develop another field, and it will contribute to the development of both fields in which the project is embedded. The stringent demands of the SYMFONIA scheme means there is usually a small number of applications. Under this edition, the NCN received 38 proposals, out of which 5 were selected. The proposed research brings together Humanities with Life Sciences and Life Sciences with Physical Sciences and Engineering.

The research team from Jagiellonian University led by prof. Jonathan Heddle will investigate the principles of protein structure formation. The discoveries of this research project may be used in the future to create nanoobjects which will allow for the delivery of drugs directly to the cell.

Dr hab. Agnieszka Surma will coordinate the efforts of a research team involving researchers from various Institutes of the Polish Academy of Sciences – the Institute of Organic Chemistry and the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry. The scientists will strive to build 3-D supramolecular frameworks which will facilitate the formation of protein crystals – necessary in the process of drug design.

Prof. Przemysław Urbańczyk from Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw will conduct research about the cultural and natural resources of the Polish section of Białowieża Forest. The researchers will employ new, non-invasive methods such as airborne laser scanning. Thanks to the cooperation of both archeologists and life scientists, we will be able to better understand the heritage of Białowieża Forest.

This research team brings together scientists from the University of Warsaw and Jagiellonian University and will be led by prof. Robert Moszyński. The researchers will work on developing methods of “photographing” chemical reactions on the scale of femtoseconds, i.e. one thousand of one million of one millionth of a second. The results of this research will facilitate more precise observations of the countless phenomena playing a role in chemical, bio-photonic and biological processes.

And last but not least – prof. Andrzej Cichocki together with scientists from Nicolaus Copernicus University, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Physiology and Pathology of Hearing will seek to investigate the Electroencephalogram (EEG) signal and the way it represents the activity of specific parts of the brain. New analytical tools developed through their research may allow for more effective use of electroencephalography.