How are historical events, cultural change and major migratory movements interrelated? Where do the origins of historical pathogens lie? Which factors led to the spread and diversification of the major language families? How have the development of crops and transformation of human societies affected each other? Which factors promote the spread and adoption of new technologies? The interdisciplinary research programme of the Institute focuses on the development and application of novel scientific methods with a view to establishing an integrated science of human history. Biologists, historians, linguists and social scientists work together on the development of innovative language documentation methods, global linguistic and cultural databases, and analytical processes that link evolutionary theories and modern computational methods. They use state-of-the-art methods from the field of biomolecular science, such as, for example genome-wide DNA sequencing, to obtain detailed information from minute samples about genetic relationships, geographical origins, selection processes, and the genetic structures of extinct human, plant, animal and even pathogenic organisms.
With the realignment of the Institute, two decades of economic research at the former Max Planck Institute of Economics come to an end. The interdisciplinary International Max Planck Reserach School on Adapting Behavior in a Fundamentally Uncertain World (IMPRS Uncertainty) continues its work and is already affiliated with the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods in Bonn.