Research Goals and Areas
In the information age, computers are a major driver of progress in all areas of research, technology, economy, and society. Thus, high quality software and hardware (correct, dependable, secure, efficient, with sophisticated functionality, fair, . . . ) becomes a genuine subject of provisional research and a matter of technological sovereignty. Therefore, core informatics research (Kerninformatik-Forschung), i.e., research on generic (yet application-oriented) methods of informatics, has to become a focus of Helmholtz research.
The Helmholtz Association has already reacted on the increasing importance of informatics by making “Information” a research area by itself. However, this area is so far concentrated on only a few selected topics like security and quantum computing hardware. Beyond this, informatics methods are more and more widely applied in other research areas (Energy, Mobility, Health, Earth and Environment, Structure of Matter). There, existing informatics methods are applied or adapted to specific applications. Thus, many working groups can be categorized as bridging groups with names like Y for X with, for example Y = machine learning and X = materials science or climate science. Although this was a natural first step to strengthening “Information” research, the Helmholtz Association now has to take a broader view, realizing that informatics methods and software tools are generic in nature, i.e., can be used for a variety of applications. Even application-specific approaches are based on several generic basic components that are more efficiently discovered in a dedicated joint core. In general, adapting generic tools is often more promising than looking for an application-specific solution – often reinventing the wheel again and again.
Integrating core informatics into Helmholtz research (rather than leaving it entirely to bottom- up university research) is needed for digital sovereignty and leverages specific strengths of provisional research. For example, this allows the long-term construction and support of complex open-source software tools eventually leading to a diverse international community of users and developers. Provisional research is also highly targeted, allowing to pursue an overarching goal (e.g., dependable software) in a systematic way.
Core informatics is divided into three research areas: