ERC Consolidator Grants

Associate professor Ingunn Kathrine Wehus

Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics 

Project: Cosmoglobe -- mapping the universe from the Milky Way to the Big Bang



Duration: Start date: 2019-06-01, End date: 2024-05-31

Call: PE9, ERC-2018-CoG

Summary: In the aftermath of the high-precision Planck and BICEP2 experiments, cosmology has undergone a critical transition. Before 2014, most breakthroughs came as direct results of improved detector technology and increased noise sensitivity. After 2014, the main source of uncertainty will be due to astrophysical foregrounds, typically in the form of dust or synchrotron emission from the Milky Way. Indeed, this holds as true for the study of reionization and the cosmic dawn as it does for the hunt for inflationary gravitational waves. To break through this obscuring veil, it is of utmost importance to optimally exploit every piece of available information, merging the world's best observational data with the world's most advanced theoretical models. A first step toward this ultimate goal was recently published as the Planck 2015 Astrophysical Baseline Model, an effort led and conducted by myself. Here I propose to build Cosmoglobe, a comprehensive model of the radio, microwave and sub-mm sky, covering 100 MHz to 10 THz in both intensity and polarization, extending existing models by three orders of magnitude in frequency and a factor of five in angular resolution. I will leverage a recent algorithmic breakthrough in multi-resolution component
separation to jointly analyze some of the world's best data sets, including C-BASS, COMAP, PASIPHAE, Planck, SPIDER, WMAP and many more. This will result in the best cosmological (CMB, SZ, CIB etc.) and astrophysical (thermal and spinning dust, synchrotron and free-free emission etc.) component maps published to date. I will then use this model to
derive the world's strongest limits on, and potentially detect, inflationary gravity waves using SPIDER observations; forecast, optimize and analyze observations from the leading next-generation CMB experiments, including LiteBIRD and S4; and derive the first 3D large-scale structure maps from CO intensity mapping from COMAP, potentially opening up a new window on the cosmic dawn.

Professor Torkild Hovde Lyngstad

Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology and Human Geography

Project: OPENFLUX: Societal openness, normative flux, and the social modification of heritability



Duration: Start date: 2019-07-01, End date: 2024-06-30

Call: SH3, ERC-2018-CoG

Summary: In this project, we will use social modifications of heritability as measurement devices for assessing how social conditions shape opportunity structures, and how human potential is either constrained or enabled. Major themes in family demography and social stratification such as equality of opportunity in the age of mass education, changing family
structures in the 20th century, development of life courses and careers, and intergenerational transmission processes all motivate an important role for human genetics. Up to recently, little of these efforts have directly engaged with genetic research. A common criticism of genetic methods is that they are silent on social context and environmental interactions.
We turn these criticisms into tools, by assessing how genetic effects vary across contexts and environments. First, we study social change across cohorts, as influential theory suggests heritable dispositions will increase in importance when opportunity structures expand or social norms are in flux. We will test these ideas on the recent decades of family and fertility changes, and the expanding opportunity structures in education and labor markets. Second, we ask whether genetic and environmental influences on social stratification and family demographic outcomes change over the life course as the
consequences of individual choice and social structures accumulate. Third, we will examine the similarity in outcomes of parents and their offspring from a genetically informed standpoint. A synergy combining state-of-the-art techniques from molecular and behavior genetics with high-quality population register data and strong theorization and measurement of socio-environmental factors from the social sciences is highly innovative cross-fertilization of research that will yield major new Insights.

Professor Veronique Pouillard

Faculty of Humanities, Department of Archeology, Conservation and History

Project: CREATIVE IPR: The History of Intellectual Property Rights in the Creative Industries



Duration: Start date: 2019-09-01, End date: 2024-08-31

Call: SH6, ERC-2018-CoG

Summary: CREATIVE IPR aims to study the rise of intellectual property rights in the creative industries, from the international treaties of the late nineteenth century to the present day, with a focus on Europe in the global world. CREATIVE IPR examines the consequences of this development for the creators. What did intellectual property rights mean to a musician, or to a fashion designer in twentieth century Europe? Who captured economic value or failed to do so? In order to answer these questions, CREATIVE IPR proposes an original bottom-up approach, examining from the ground the macro and the micro aspects of the rise of intellectual property rights in the creative industries. CREATIVE IPR pursues the questions in three arenas. The first arena is the formation and impact of national and international institutions and organizations for intellectual property. The second and third arenas are the role of authors’ rights societies in the music industries, and the management of creativity in the fashion industries. For each arena, crosscutting themes are pursued: authorship and creativity, firms, technological change, legal frameworks, and the role of the commons – the public domain. In recent years, intellectual property rights have, due to technological and economic change, attracted significant scholarly interest. Yet attention has not been paid to their impact on creators in a historical perspective. By analyzing the micro histories of the creators who negotiated the growing legal regime in the light of a transnational context CREATIVE IPR will fill a significant knowledge gap, help refine our ideas about the impact of intellectual property rights on creators, and open paths for future research. Ultimately it will help us understand how societies can foster rich and diverse creative industries.

Professor Henrik Daae Zachrisson

Faculty of Educational Sciences, Department of Special Needs Education

Project: EQOP: Socioeconomic gaps in language development and school achievement: Mechanisms of inequality and opportunity



Duration: Start date: 2019-06-01, End date: 2024-05-31

Call: SH3, ERC-2018-CoG

Summary: As inequality increases in most developed countries, children from socioeconomically disadvantaged families are at exceptional risk for academic underachievement with lasting consequences for individuals, their communities, and society
at large. Among policy makes, early childhood education and care (ECEC) is considered a key to remedy this risk. Yet the science on ECEC effectiveness at a national scale lags behind the excitement. Exploiting unique Norwegian data, we first seek to identify how and why socioeconomic disadvantage undermines children’s language skills and school achievement. Second, we will investigate whether ECEC can improve opportunities for disadvantaged children to excel. Third, to clarify the policy relevance of these inquiries, we will estimate costs of socioeconomic achievement gaps and the economic benefits of ECEC at scale. We take an investigative approach that is unprecedented in scope—from population level trends down to nuanced assessments of individual children’s growth. Throughout the 2000s, Norway’s child poverty rates increased from about 4% to 10%, while the coverage of public ECEC for toddlers increased from 30% to 80%. Across this unique window of time, we have access to rich survey data on language skills and home environment for 100,000 children, and genetically informative data, linked with administrative records on community- and family level socioeconomic risks and opportunities, and on national achievement test scores. These data allow us powerful analytic opportunities, combining state-of-the-art statistical, econometric, psychometric, and genetic epidemiological Methods.

Professor Kristine Beate Walhovd

Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology

Project: Set to change: early life factors restricting and promoting neurocognitive plasticity through life



Duration: Start date: 2018-10-01, End date: 2023-09-31

Call: SH4, ERC-2017-CoG

Summary: Cognitive function in old age can be predicted from how you functioned when you were young. This is remarkable, as there are substantial cognitive age changes. Are we neurodevelopmentally set to change through life in certain ways? The objective of Set-to-change is to test whether and how early life environmental factors and genetic makeup interact to regulate neurocognitive plasticity through the lifespan. Neurocognitive plasticity; i.e. changes in brain and cognition in response to environmental demands over time, shows huge individual variability, for unknown reasons. Neurodevelopmental origins of functional variation through the lifespan are acknowledged, but the pathways need to be identified. As individual constitution and environment are intrinsically correlated, to make progress beyond state of the art, this can only be tested in an experimental setting.

The novelty and ground-breaking nature of the project lies in the synthesis of a targeted experimental approach testing differences in neurocognitive plasticity by training of younger and older adult mono- (MZ) and dizygotic twins (total n = 400 individuals), with varying degrees of prenatal environmental variance, as indexed by their extent of discordance in birth weight (BW). BW discordance in MZ twins enables me to disentangle early environmental and genetic influences on neurocognitive plasticity. I will employ a novel ecologically valid memory intervention utilizing navigation with true locomotion and prospective memory in virtual reality. Twins will be assessed with brain MRI, cognitive, health and epigenetic measures at multiple time points spread across 2.5 years pre- and post- 3 months intervention in a AB/BA crossover design, to investigate neurocognitive plasticity and age change longitudinally, as well as possible lifestyle and epigenetic mediators. I hypothesize that early life environmental influences will interact with genetic makeup in determining neurocognitive plasticity in adulthood.


Professor Hans Kristian Kamfjord Eriksen

Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Institute of Teoretical Astrophysics

Project: Bits2Cosmology: Time-domain Gibbs sampling: From bits to inflationary gravitational waves



Duration: Start date: 2018-04-01, End date: 2023-03-31

Call: PE9, ERC-2017-CoG

Summary: The detection of primordial gravity waves created during the Big Bang ranks among the greatest potential intellectual achievements in modern science. During the last few decades, the instrumental progress necessary to achieve this has been nothing short of breathtaking, and we today are able to measure the microwave sky with better than one-in-a-million precision. However, from the latest ultra-sensitive experiments such as BICEP2 and Planck, it is clear that instrumental sensitivity alone will not be sufficient to make a robust detection of gravitational waves. Contamination in the form of astrophysical radiation from the Milky Way, for instance thermal dust and synchrotron radiation, obscures the cosmological signal by orders of magnitude. Even more critically, though, are second-order interactions between this radiation and the instrument characterization itself that lead to a highly non-linear and complicated problem. I propose a ground-breaking solution to this problem that allows for joint estimation of cosmological parameters, astrophysical components, and instrument specifications. The engine of this method is called Gibbs sampling, which I have already applied extremely successfully to basic CMB component separation. The new and ciritical step is to apply this method to raw time-ordered observations observed directly by the instrument, as opposed to pre-processed frequency maps. While representing a ~100-fold increase in input data volume, this step is unavoidable in order to break through the current foreground-induced systematics floor. I will apply this method to the best currently available and future data sets (WMAP, Planck, SPIDER and LiteBIRD), and thereby derive the world's tightest constraint on the amplitude of inflationary gravitational waves. Additionally, the resulting ancillary science in the form of robust cosmological parameters and astrophysical component maps will represent the state-of-the-art in observational cosmology in years to come.

Associate professor Lee Hsiang Liow

Natural History Museum/Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis

Project: Abiota, Biota, Constraints in Macroevolutionary Processes



Duration: Start date: 2018-01-01, End date: 2022-12-31

Call: LS8, ERC-2016-CoG

Summary: To what degree do microevolutionary processes that happen on a generational time scale matter for macroevolutionary patterns recorded on time scales of millions of years in the fossil record? To answer this fundamental question in evolutionary biology, we need a model system in which we can overcome the conceptual and empirical boundaries imposed by disparate timescales. will develop bryozoans as the Drosophila of macroevolution, integrating molecular, fossil, phenotypic, ecological and environmental data to shed light on the currently inaccessible “Dark Time Scale” (thousands, to tens of thousands of years), spanning the chasm between microevolution studied by population geneticists and evolutionary ecologists and macroevolution studied by paleontologists and comparative phylogeneticists. Using bryozoans, a little-known but uniquely ideal study group for evolutionary questions, I will generate, then crossintegrate, (i) empirical time series of intra- and interspecific biotic interactions; (ii) phenotypic data describing variation within genetic individuals, variation among contemporaneous individuals in both extinct and living populations; (iii) robust estimates
of abundance shifts in fossil populations; and (iv) speciation and extinction rate estimates from molecular phylogenies and the fossil record. The new bryozoan model evolutionary system will provide answers to previously intractable questions such as “do ecological interactions crucial for individual survival matter for group diversification patterns observed on geological time scales” and “why do we have to wait a million years for bursts of phenotypic change”?

Professor Anders Martin Fjell

Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology

Project: AgeConsolidate: The Missing Link of Episodic Memory Decline in Aging: The Role of Inefficient Systems Consolidation



Duration: Start date: 2017-05-01, End date: 2012-04-30

Call: SH4, ERC-2016-CoG

Summary: Which brain mechanisms are responsible for the faith of the memories we make with age, whether they wither or stay, and in what form? Episodic memory function does decline with age. While this decline can have multiple causes, research has focused almost entirely on encoding and retrieval processes, largely ignoring a third critical process– consolidation. The objective of AgeConsolidate is to provide this missing link, by combining novel experimental cognitive paradigms With neuroimaging in a longitudinal large-scale attempt to directly test how age-related changes in consolidation processes in the brain impact episodic memory decline. The ambitious aims of the present proposal are two-fold: (1) Use recent advances in memory consolidation theory to achieve an elaborate model of episodic memory deficits in aging (2) Use aging as a model to uncover how structural and functional brain changes affect episodic memory consolidation in general The novelty of the project lies in the synthesis of recent methodological advances and theoretical models for episodic memory consolidation to explain age-related decline, by employing a unique combination of a range of different techniques and approaches. This is ground-breaking, in that it aims at taking our understanding of the brain processes underlying episodic memory decline in aging to a new level, while at the same time advancing our theoretical understanding of how episodic memories are consolidated in the human brain. To obtain this outcome, I will test the main hypothesis of the project:
Brain processes of episodic memory consolidation are less effective in older adults, and this can account for a significant portion of the episodic memory decline in aging. This will be answered by six secondary hypotheses, with 1-3 experiments or tasks designated to address each hypothesis, focusing on functional and structural MRI, positron emission tomography data and sleep experiments to target consolidation from different angles.

Researcher Sven Wedemeyer

Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics

Project: SolarALMA: ALMA – The key to the Sun’s coronal heating problem.



Duration: Start date: 2016-09-01, End date: 2021-08-31

Call: PE9, ERC-2015-CoG

Summary:How are the outer layers of the Sun heated to temperatures in excess of a million kelvin? A large number of heating mechanisms have been proposed to explain this so-called coronal heating problem, one of the fundamental questions in contemporary solar physics. It is clear that the required energy is transported from the solar interior through the chromosphere into the outer layers but it remains open by which physical mechanisms and how the provided energy is eventually dissipated. The key to solving the chromospheric/coronal heating problem lies in accurate observations at high spatial, temporal and spectral resolution, facilitating the identification of the mechanisms responsible for the transport and dissipation of energy. This has so far been impeded by the small number of accessible diagnostics and the challenges with their interpretation. The interferometric Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) now offers impressive capabilities. Due to the properties of the solar radiation at millimeter wavelengths, ALMA serves as a linear thermometer, mapping narrow layers at different heights. It can measure the thermal structure and dynamics of the solar chromosphere and thus sources and sinks of atmospheric heating. Radio recombination and molecular lines (e.g., CO) potentially provide complementary kinetic and thermal diagnostics, while the polarisation of the continuum intensity and the Zeeman effect can be exploited for valuable chromospheric magnetic field measurements. I will develop the necessary diagnostic tools and use them for solar observations with ALMA. The preparation, optimisation and interpretation of these observations will be supported by state-of-the-art numerical simulations. A key objective is the identification of the dominant physical processes and their contributions to the transport and dissipation of energy. The results will be a major step towards solving the coronal heating problem with general implications for stellar activity.

Professor Bård Harstad

Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Economics

Project: CONSERVATION: The Economics and Politics of Conservation



Duration: Start date: 2016-08-01, End date: 2021-07-31

Call: SH1, ERC-2015-CoG

Summary: The UN’s approach to climate policy is to focus on national emission caps for greenhouse gases. Most of the economic theory on environmental agreements is also studying such a demand-side approach, even though it is well known that such an approach has several flaws, including carbon leakage and the incentive to free ride. Recent theory has suggested that a better approach may be to focus on the supply-side of the equation, rather than the demand-side. While this recent theory is promising, it is only indicative and has several shortcomings that must be analysed. The goal of this project is to investigate in depth how to best use conservation as an environmental policy tool. The project aims at integrating the theory of emissions and pollution with a model of extraction and thus the supply of exhaustible resources in a coherent and dynamic game-theoretic framework. I will apply this framework to analyse negotiations, agreements, and contracts on extraction levels, and how such policies can interact, complement or substitute for agreements focusing on consumption/emissions. It will also be important to develop and apply the tools of political economics to investigate which (second-best) agreement one may expect to be feasible as equilibria of the game. For highly asymmetric settings, where the possessors of the Resource are few (such as for tropical forests), side transfers are necessary and contract theory will be the natural analytical tool when searching for the best agreement. However, also standard contract theory needs to be developed further once one
recognizes that the “agent” in the principal-agent relationship is an organization or a government, rather than an individual.

Associate professor William E. Louch

Faculty of Medicine, Institute of Clinical medicine

Project: CARDYADS: Controlling Cardiomyocyte Dyadic Structure



Duration: Start date: 2015-07-01, End date: 2020-06-30

Call: LS4, ERC-2014-CoG

Summary: Contraction and relaxation of cardiac myocytes, and thus the whole heart, are critically dependent on dyads. These functional junctions between t-tubules, which are invaginations of the surface membrane, and the sarcoplasmic reticulum allow efficient control of calcium release into the cytosol, and also its removal. Dyads are formed gradually during development and break down during disease. However, the precise nature of dyadic structure is unclear, even in healthy adult cardiac myocytes, as are the triggers and consequences of altering dyadic integrity. In this proposal, my group will investigate the precise 3-dimensional arrangement of dyads and their proteins during development, adulthood, and heart failure by employing CLEM imaging (PALM and EM tomography). This will be accomplished by developing transgenic mice with fluorescent labels on four dyadic proteins (L-type calcium channel, ryanodine receptor, sodium-calcium exchanger, SERCA), and by imaging tissue from explanted normal and failing human hearts. The signals responsible for controlling dyadic formation, maintenance, and disruption will be determined by performing high-throughput sequencing to identify novel genes involved with these processes in several established model systems. Particular focus will be given to investigating left ventricular wall stress and stretch-dependent gene regulation as controllers of dyadic integrity. Candidate genes will be manipulated in cell models and transgenic animals to promote dyadic formation and maintenance, and reverse dyadic disruption in heart failure. The consequences of dyadic structure for function will be tested experimentally and with mathematical modelling to examine effects on cardiac myocyte Calcium homeostasis and whole-heart function. The results of this project are anticipated to yield unprecedented insight into dyadic structure, regulation, and function, and to identify novel therapeutic targets for heart disease patients.

Walter Salzburger

Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis

Project: CICHLIDX: An integrative approach towards the understanding of an adaptive radiation of East African cichlid fishes


Duration: Start date: 2014-03-01, End date: 2019-02-28

Call: LS8, ERC-2013-CoG

Summary: More than 150 years after the publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species, the identification of the processes that govern the emergence of novel species remains a fundamental problem to biology. Why is it that some groups have diversified in a seemingly explosive manner, while others have lingered unvaried over millions of years? What are the external factors and environmental conditions that promote organismal diversity? And what is the molecular basis of adaptation and diversification? A key to these and related questions is the comparative study of exceptionally diverse yet relatively recent species assemblages such as Darwin’s finches, the Caribbean anole lizards, or the hundreds of endemic species of cichlid fishes in the East African Great Lakes, which are at the center of this proposal. More specifically, I intend to conduct the so far most thorough examination of a large adaptive radiation, combining in-depth eco-morphological assessments and whole genome sequencing of all members of a cichlid species flock. To this end, I plan to (i) sequence the genomes and transcriptomes of several specimens of each cichlid species from Lake Tanganyika to examine genetic and transcriptional diversity; (ii) apply stable-isotope and stomach-content analyses in combination with underwater transplant experiments and transect surveys to quantitate feeding performances, habitat preferences and natural-history parameters; (iii) use X-ray computed tomography to study phenotypic variation in 3D; and (iv) examine fossils from existing and forthcoming drilling cores to implement a time line of diversification in a cichlid adaptive radiation. This project, thus, offers the unique opportunity to test recent theory- and data-based predictions on speciation and adaptive radiation within an entire biological system – in this case the adaptive radiation of cichlid fishes in Lake Tanganyika.

Published Dec. 9, 2015 12:31 PM - Last modified May 6, 2019 2:45 PM