MSU group partners to harness the data revolution

Members of the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability will use $1 million to collaborate on a new NSF-funded national initiative to understand climate change and disaster risks and impacts.

NSF's Harnessing the Data Revolution graphic

A Michigan State University sustainability scholar and his colleagues are partners in a new $15 million national initiative to enable geospatial data-driven scientific discovery aimed at understanding the risks and impacts of climate change and disasters.

Jianguo “Jack” Liu, director of MSU’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, with colleagues Andrés Viña and Sue Nichols, will be part of the new Institute for Geospatial Understanding through an Integrative Discovery Environment (I-GUIDE). The institute, based at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (U of I), will receive the funding over five years as part of the National Science Foundation’s Harnessing the Data Revolution, which establishes five institutes across the United States to explore questions at the frontiers of science and engineering.

MSU’s role, funded at about $1 million, will be to apply the telecoupling framework to disentangle the complexity of globalization, climate change, and natural disasters. The framework allows scientists to examine these challenges holistically and over great distances, rather than focusing on one spot.

“The telecoupling framework has proven to be a powerful tool to uncover hidden impacts of human activities within specific places on sustainability elsewhere,” said Liu, the Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability. “Collaborations with the diverse group in I-GUIDE will open up exciting doors of discovery on impacts of climate change and natural disasters in one place such as the U.S. on sustainability in places far away such as Brazil.”

I-GUIDE aims to drive transformative advances across many fields from computer, data, and information sciences to atmospheric sciences, ecology, economics, environmental science and engineering, human-environment and geographical sciences, hydrology and water sciences, industrial engineering, sociology, and statistics.

The new institute will bring together about 40 researchers from U of I, MSU, Columbia University, Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc., Florida International University, Open Geospatial Consortium, Purdue University, University Consortium for Geographic Information Science, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Utah State University, and a variety of other partners.

“The goal of I-GUIDE is to revolutionize theories, concepts, methods, and tools focused on data-intensive geospatial understanding for driving innovative cyberGIS and cyberinfrastructure capabilities to address the most pressing resilience and sustainability challenges of our world such as biodiversity, food security, and water security,” said Shaowen Wang, head of the Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science at U of I and founding director of the CyberGIS Center for Advanced Digital and Spatial Studies (CyberGIS Center), who will lead the institute.

Collaborators and partner institutions from around the country that are part of I-GUIDE will work with the CyberGIS Center in partnership with U of I’s Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment and U of I System’s Discovery Partners Institute.

I-GUIDE “creates a novel geospatial discovery environment for synthesizing data on geographically referenced social, economic, ecological, and environmental factors to better understand the risk and impacts of climate change and disasters,” the NSF reported, in a press release. Wang added, “I-GUIDE nurtures a diverse and inclusive geospatial discovery community across many disciplines by bridging disciplinary digital data divides with broader impacts amplified through a well-trained and diverse workforce and proactive engagement of minority and underrepresented groups.”

MSU’s Viña, an assistant professor in CSIS, and an expert in remote sensing, will work to advance geospatial artificial intelligence and data science foundations. Nichols, CSIS’s assistant director who works in strategic research communication, will join the work to develop collaborative science communication space to match scientific discoveries and stories with data in partnerships with museums, television, science centers, and streaming channels.

All three are in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The project will also benefit from collaborations with international scientists, such as Mateus Batistella at Embrapa Agricultural Informatics and Ramon Felipe Bicudo da Silva at State University of Campinas in Brazil.

In all, NSF is investing $75 million to establish five new Harnessing the Data Revolution institutes as part of its “Big Idea” initiative. “NSF’s Big Ideas are a set of 10 bold, long-term research and process ideas that identify areas for future investment at the frontiers of science and engineering and represent unique opportunities to position our Nation at the cutting edge of global science and engineering by bringing together diverse disciplinary perspectives to support convergent research,” said Manish Parashar, director for the Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure at NSF.



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