The Deutsches Geodätisches Forschungsinstitut (DGFI-TUM; German Geodetic Research Institute) is a research institute of the Technical University of Munich (TUM). It is part of the Department of Aerospace and Geodesy (ASG) within the TUM School of Engineering and Design (SoED).
The institute was established in 1952 as an independent research institute at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Munich. Since 2015 the DGFI is part of the TUM. Over seven decades the institute has performed notable and internationally recognised geodetic basic research, and today the acronym DGFI is well-known in the geoscientific community all over the world. The institute is strongly cross-linked with other institutions and has continuously been involved in various national and international activities. Intensive collaborations exist in particular in the frame of the international scientific organisations IUGG (International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics), IAU (International Astronomical Union) and IAG (International Association of Geodesy).
DGFI-TUM recognises the outstanding role of the IAG services for science and practice, and co-operates in these services as data, analysis and research centres. Scientists of DGFI-TUM have taken leading positions and supporting functions in IAG's Commissions, Services, Projects, Working and Study Groups, and in the Global Geodetic Observing System (GGOS). Furthermore, DGFI-TUM staff is prominently involved in the management of international scientific organisations, e.g., in the European Geosciences Union (EGU) and in the International Astronomical Union. DGFI-TUM also participates in research programmes and bodies of the European Union (EU) and the European Space Agency (ESA) and co-operates in several intergovernmental institutions and activities.
On national level, DGFI-TUM has been a member of the Forschungsgruppe Satellitengeodäsie (FGS) since several decades. The FGS is a follow-on co-operation of the former DFG-Sonderforschungsbereich SFB 78, closely affiliated with the Geodetic Observatory Wettzell in the Bavarian Forest. In the frame of the FGS, DGFI-TUM is co-operating with other units of the TUM (Institut für Astronomische und Physikalische Geodäsie [IAPG], Forschungseinrichtung Satellitengeodäsie [FESG]), the Bundesamt für Kartographie und Geodäsie, Frankfurt/Main (BKG) and the Institut für Geodäsie und Geoinformation of the University of Bonn (IGG).
Through new technological achievements in Earth observation systems, in particular in satellite technology, and in the field of scientific computing geodesy has developed towards an important discipline for Earth system research during the last decades. In the context of global change geosciences are facing new challenges. Large-scale changes in the Earth system come along with implications on environment and living conditions, and catastrophic consequences of natural disasters become more frequent. Research of processes and interactions in the system Earth is of increasing importance. This fundamentally requires reliable observations of changes on various spatial scales over long time-spans. Geodesy contributes to Earth system research in particular by providing highly precise geometrical and physical parameters from terrestrial, air-borne and satellite-based observation systems. Time-series of a variety of geodetic parameters have been determined for many decades. As geodynamic processes and environmental change map into their temporal variations, the analysis of these parameters provides valuable information of long-term changes in the Earth system. The fundamental backbone for referencing the observations and thus for enabling a reliable interpretation over long time-spans is a consistent global and long-term stable reference system.
DGFI-TUM possesses unique competence on several geodetic research fields, in particular in the fields of Reference Systems and Satellite Altimetry. The institute takes a leading position in the realisation of global and regional horizontal and vertical terrestrial reference systems and of the celestial reference system from a combined analysis of various geometrical space-geodetic observing systems.
As "ITRS Combination Centre" DGFI-TUM takes the responsibility for providing realizations of the International Terrestrial Reference System (ITRS) in regular intervals. An up-to-date ITRS realization at best possible accuracy and long-term stability is the prerequisite for the use of global navigation and positioning systems and surveying. For its realisation IAG requires an accuracy of 1 mm for the positions of worldwide distributed observing stations and 0.1 mm for their linear velocities. This accuracy is necessary in order to detect very small changes in the Earth system (e.g. global mean sea level rise of about 3 mm per year) reliably. In the field of Satellite Altimetry DGFI-TUM computes global and regional variations of the sea-level on different time-scales from all altimetry missions since 1992 and investigates variations of ocean currents. Via its Open Altimeter Database (OpenADB) DGFI-TUM distributes various altimetry products free of charge. Furthermore DGFI-TUM operates the Database for Hydrological Time Series of Inland Waters (DAHITI) in which it provides time series for hundreds of lakes, rivers and reservoirs from multi-mission altimetry. Further prominent research topics of DGFI-TUM include theoretical and applied aspects of Atmosphere Research and Regional Gravity Field determination.