University of Illinois: U of I leads new $15 million institute to understand climate change and disasters

A new national initiative to enable geospatial data-driven scientific discovery will create a $15-million institute at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to better understand the risks and impacts of climate change and disasters.

The Institute for Geospatial Understanding through an Integrative Discovery Environment (I-GUIDE) will receive the funding over five years as part of the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s Harnessing the Data Revolution, which establishes five institutes across the United States to explore questions at the frontiers of science and engineering.

“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.

Chancellor Robert Jones said the University of Illinois is pleased that the National Science Foundation has selected campus to lead efforts to better understand and address questions of sustainability.

“Through the leadership of the CyberGIS Center, in collaboration with other fantastic researchers on campus and around the country, I-GUIDE will make great strides in helping to secure the future of our communities and resources,” Jones said.

In all, NSF is investing $75 million to establish five new Harnessing the Data Revolution Institutes as part of its “Big Ideas” 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, office director for the Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure at NSF.

While I-GUIDE is the only institute led by the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, U of I researchers will be part of other institutes led by other universities. They include the Accelerated AI Algorithms for Data-Driven Discovery Institute, which will use real-time artificial intelligence coupled hardware to advance knowledge and workflow in the primary science drivers of high energy physics, multi-messenger astrophysics and neuroscience, and the Institute for Data Driven Dynamical Design, which will create new approaches and tools to design and discover dynamical materials and structures.

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