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Press Release 14-137

Computing innovations for a sustainable society

NSF awards $12.5 million to advance the science of sustainability through innovations in computing and communication technologies

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Seastar predators reaching for their mussel and barnacle prey at Yachats Bay in Oregon.
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October 15, 2014

Developing a sustainable society requires an all-hands-on-deck effort, one in which computer science and information technology have an important role to play.

Today, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced $12.5 million in grants to 16 projects spanning 15 states through the Cyber-Innovation for Sustainability Science and Engineering (CyberSEES) program. The awards aim to advance the science of sustainability in tandem with advances in computing and communication technologies.

The two-to-four-year grants, ranging from $100,000 to $1.2 million, bring together teams of researchers from computer science and other disciplines to develop new tools, technologies and models that advance sustainability science.

"Computing plays a central role in understanding and promoting sustainability science in a range of areas from climate models to managing watersheds. At the same time, work on these problems can fuel advances in computing, for example, in optimization, modeling, simulation, prediction, decision-making and inference," said Suzi Iacono, acting assistant director for Computer & Information Science & Engineering at NSF.

The CyberSEES program aims to advance interdisciplinary research in which the science and engineering of sustainability are symbiotically advanced through innovations in computing, and where computational innovation is grounded in the context of sustainability problems.

"The first two years of the program have proved instrumental in aligning innovations in computing with the natural sciences for mutual benefit in areas that include renewable energy, smart buildings, transportation, coastal biology, carbon cycles and agriculture," said Phillip Regalia, a program officer at NSF overseeing the CyberSEES program. "It is imperative that the science we support leads us to better understand, anticipate and respond to the challenges that lie ahead."

One example of an area where CyberSEES has the potential to have significant impact is in the harvesting of energy from ocean waves. Ocean waves have the potential to economically deliver more than one quarter of the nation's electricity needs, yet to date, they are a largely untapped energy resource.

An interdisciplinary research team from Lehigh University was awarded a CyberSEES grant to study and optimize the operations of future wave farms, which will test the production of electricity across an array of wave energy conversion devices.

"We hope to validate the economic and environmental feasibility of wave power and drive forward the significant research and development efforts currently underway to bring the potential of wave energy conversion to fruition on the power grid," said Shalinee Kishore, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Lehigh University and the principal investigator on the project. "Efficient and economic harvesting of the energy in ocean waves offers an electricity future with a more diverse supply portfolio, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and higher sustainability impacts."

Understanding the relationship between climate change and critical ecosystems is another area where NSF hopes innovations in computing can spur game-changing advances.

A project led by Jennifer Dy, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Northeastern University, seeks to advance the understanding of how near-shore marine organisms may cope under extreme temperature stress with innovative mathematical and computer science methods.

"By improving our ability to forecast the ecological effects of climate change, the methods and results from this project will allow us to devise new spatial management strategies to maximize the resilience and sustainability of exploited coastal ecosystems," Dy said.

For instance, by identifying how 'hot spots' of ecosystem vulnerability move in space and time, Dy's framework will inform scientists and policy makers to shift their monitoring efforts and harvesting regimes in order to avoid overburdening climate-stressed ecosystems.

Other CyberSEES projects range from efforts to develop advanced cryptography to support the sharing of product life-cycle information by corporations to studies exploring the relationship between climate change and extreme weather events.

The CyberSEES program is one component of NSF's Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) activities, a Foundation-wide effort aimed at addressing the challenge of sustainability through support for interdisciplinary research and education. In the SEES context, a sustainable world is one where human needs are met equitably without harm to the environment or sacrificing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

2014 NSF CyberSEES Awards:

Ocean Wave Energy and the Power Grid: Optimization and Integration
Principal Investigator: Shalinee Kishore, Lehigh University

Data-driven approaches to managing uncertain load control in sustainable power systems
Principal Investigator: Johanna Mathieu, University of Michigan Ann Arbor

Sustainably Unlocking Energy from Municipal Solid Waste Using a Sensor-Driven Cyber-Infrastructure Framework
Principal Investigator: Dimitrios Zekkos, University of Michigan Ann Arbor

Collaborative Research: Connecting Next-generation Air Pollution Exposure Measurements to Environmentally Sustainable Communities
Principal Investigator: Robert Dick, University of Michigan Ann Arbor

Collaborative Research: Connecting Next-generation Air Pollution Exposure Measurements to Environmentally Sustainable Communities
Principal Investigator: Qin Lv, University of Colorado at Boulder

Integrative Sensing and Prediction of Urban Water for Sustainable Cities
Principal Investigator: Dong-Jun Seo, University of Texas at Arlington

Collaborative Research: Building Informatics: Utilizing Data-Driven Methodologies to Enable Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Planning of Urban Building Systems
Principal Investigator: Rishee Jain, Stanford University

Collaborative Research: Building Informatics: Utilizing Data-Driven Methodologies to Enable Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Planning of Urban Building Systems
Principal Investigator: Rishee Jain, New York University

Collaborative Research: Learning Relations between Extreme Weather Events and Planet-Wide Environmental Trends
Principal Investigator: Arindam Banerjee

Collaborative Research: Learning Relations between Extreme Weather Events and Planet-Wide Environmental Trends
Principal Investigator: Claire Monteleoni, George Washington University

Collaborative Research: Learning Relations between Extreme Weather Events and Planet-Wide Environmental Trends
Principal Investigator: Timothy Delsole, George Mason University

SEA-MASCOT: Spatio-temporal Extremes and Associations: Marine Adaptation and Survivorship under Changes in extreme Ocean Temperatures
Principal Investigator: Jennifer Dy, Northeastern University

Collaborative Research: Infrastructure and Technology Supporting Citizen Science Data Usage and Distribution for Education and Sustainability
Principal Investigator: Christian McKeon, Smithsonian Institution

Collaborative Research: Infrastructure and Technology Supporting Citizen Science Data Usage and Distribution for Education and Sustainability
Principal Investigator: Andrea Wiggins, University of Maryland College Park

Cyber-Enabled Water and Energy Systems Sustainability Utilizing Climate Information
Principal Investigator: Sankarasubraman Arumugam, North Carolina State University

Collaborative Research: Real-time Ambient Noise Seismic Imaging for Subsurface Sustainability
Principal Investigator: Yao Xie, Georgia Tech Research Corporation

Collaborative Research: Real-time Ambient Noise Seismic Imaging for Subsurface Sustainability
Principal Investigator: WenZhan Song, Georgia State University Research Foundation

Collaborative Research: Real-time Ambient Noise Seismic Imaging for Subsurface Sustainability
Principal Investigator: Fan-Chi Lin, University of Utah

Fostering Non-Expert Creation of Sustainable Polycultures through Crowdsourced Data Synthesis
Principal Investigator: William Tomlinson, University of California, Irvine

Collaborative Research: Combining Experts and Crowds to Address Challenging Societal Problems
Principal Investigator: Thomas Malone, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Collaborative Research: Combining Experts and Crowds to Address Challenging Societal Problems
Principal Investigator: Jeffrey Nickerson, Stevens Institute of Technology

Collaborative Research: Tenable Power Distribution Networks
Principal Investigator: George Michailidis, University of Michigan Ann Arbor

Collaborative Research : Tenable Power Distribution Networks
Principal Investigator: Xiuzhen Cheng, George Washington University

Collaborative Research: Tenable Power Distribution Networks
Principal Investigator: Georgios Giannakis, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

Meghdoot: A Multi-Cloud Infrastructure for Enhancing Sustainability via Effective Monitoring of Inland Waters and Coastal Wetlands
Principal Investigator: Lakshmish Ramaswamy, University of Georgia Research Foundation

A New Reliability-Assuring Computational Framework for Grid Operations under High Renewable Penetration
Principal Investigator: Xiaojun Lin, Purdue University

Preserving the Privacy of Life Cycle Inventory Data in Distributed Provenance Networks
Principal Investigator: Brandon Kuczenski, University of California, Santa Barbara

Interdisciplinary Research on Introducing Heat-Tolerant Wheat to Bolster Food Security
Principal Investigator: Meha Jain, Stanford University

-NSF-

Media Contacts
Aaron Dubrow, NSF, (703) 292-4489, adubrow@nsf.gov

Program Contacts
Phillip Regalia, NSF, (703) 292-8910, pregalia@nsf.gov

Related Websites
Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability NSF-Wide Investment (SEES): http://www.nsf.gov/sees
Cyber-Enabled Sustainability Science and Engineering (CyberSEES): http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=504829
National Academy of Sciences Publication: Computing Research for Sustainability (2012): http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=13415&page=1

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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