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News Release 98-002

NSF Selects New York University to Operate Institute for Civil Infrastructure Systems

January 20, 1998

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

New York University (NYU) will establish and operate an Institute for Civil Infrastructure Systems (ICIS) through a five-million-dollar cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation (NSF).

NSF has chartered NYU's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service to manage the new institute for five years. The ICIS will form an alliance with partner institutions Cornell University, Polytechnic University of New York and the University of Southern California to consider solutions to challenges posed by the need to rebuild and maintain the nation's physical infrastructure - its roads and bridges, water systems, sewage pipes, power distribution systems, and telecommunication connections. A Cornell University study has valued the U.S. civil infrastructure at more than $20 trillion.

Largely unnoticed and taken for granted, the civil infrastructure, which includes public and private structures, basic installations and facilities needed for everyday living, is the bulwark of societal stability and quality of life. Investment decisions on infrastructure involve the users, owners (public and private), managers, designers and planners, constructors and rehabilitators as well as lawmakers and other community influencers and policy making bodies.

The new NSF-funded institute will focus on five areas: assessing research needs; sustaining and renewing the nation's civil infrastructure; developing life-long educational approaches to produce a public and professional community with a broader scope of integrated skills; developing community awareness and participation; and measuring and assessing progress.

"Our civil infrastructure systems have become increasingly complex and difficult to manage, due to population growth, demographic changes, increased expectations for service from deteriorating systems, and new communication and information needs," said Priscilla Nelson, acting senior engineering coordinator and head of the civil infrastructure systems working group at NSF. "To overcome these limitations, we need a coordinated, integrated approach to engineering and science research with partnerships among industry, government, academe and the public."

NSF selected the NYU proposal for its strong and demonstrated commitment to integrating the social sciences with natural sciences and engineering. "NYU had the best broad and integrated vision for how ICIS needs to work," said Nelson.

Institute director Rae Zimmerman and associate director Roy Sparrow say they will create "an incubator for ideas and a marketplace for information" on the needs of the civil infrastructure and solutions developed through combining technical and social science expertise.


ICIS--Institute for Civil Infrastructure Systems


Priscilla Nelson, NSF program officer

Josh Plaut, PR officer at NYU
Tel (212) 998-6797
Fax (212) 995-4021

PIs at NYU's Wagner Institute of Public Service (Wagner Grad School):

Prof. Rae Zimmerman, ICIS Director and Principal Investigator
Phone: (212) 998-7432

Prof. Roy Sparrow, co-Principal Investigator
Phone: (212) 998-7505

ICIS e-mail

Media Contacts
Beth Gaston, NSF, (703) 292-8070, email:

Program Contacts
Priscilla P. Nelson, NSF, (703) 292-8000, email:

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) 2018, its budget is $7.8 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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