Exploring Synergies with other NSF-Funded Centers and Networks

CompSustNet is a big investment for NSF, as are other NSF-funded sustainability-oriented centers and networks. Even as we further the depth and breadth of research within our own network, there are opportunities for understanding our place in the larger set of sustainability centers and networks, and building and exploiting relationships with them. These need not be tightly-coupled relationships, and probably will not be, at least not initially. Loosely-coupled interactions with other centers and networks include (a) trading wisdom and plans about managing big network/center operations, to include outreach and education plans (e.g., by attending other-center workshops); and (b) using our (CompSustNet’s) computational methods to analyze data that are generated by these other centers.

Large NSF-funded centers for which there are synergies with CompSustNet include those that attend to decision making and human behavior, the natural environment, energy efficiency, and materials. Indeed, large centers will typically cross some of these broad areas. The list below, with mission statements, may seem long, but its only a start.

  • Transdisciplinary Research Network for Sustainable Climate Risk Management : “… SCRiM links a transdisciplinary team of scholars … to answer the question, “What are sustainable, scientifically sound, technologically feasible, economically efficient, and ethically defensible climate risk management strategies?
  • National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center : “The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) is dedicated to accelerating scientific discovery at the interface of human and ecological systems. We support new interdisciplinary collaborations that pursue data-driven solutions to pressing socio-environmental problems.
  • AirWaterGas: A NSF Sustainability Research Network : “AirWaterGas is a team of scientists, engineers, public health experts, educators, policy analysts, economists, and lawyers working together to address a single driving question: How can we better integrate information about the environmental, economic, and social tradeoffs of oil and gas development into policy guiding development and regulations governing development?”
  • Water and Environmental Technology Center : “The mission is to develop methods/technologies to detect, understand, mitigate and/or control contaminants, including emerging contaminants of concern, that can adversely impact water quality and the environment. The vision of the WET Center is to minimize any potential adverse effects of contaminants on human health and/or the environment.”
  • Center for Energy Efficient Electronics Science“To enable a radical reduction in energy consumption in electronic devices: Research to lead to fundamentally new science; Educate a diverse generation of scientists, engineers, and technicians; Promote the application of the Center’s research outcomes.”
  • Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and the Environment : “The mission of CAICE is to transform our ability to accurately predict the impact of aerosols on climate and our environment by bringing real-world chemical complexity into the laboratory.”
  • Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry : “Conduct curiosity-driven and use-inspired research to enhance the sustainable chemistry toolbox with new methods and new techniques that will advance the scientific enterprise and transform the next generation of products, while preparing students to become the next generation of green chemists.”
  • Center for Sustainable Polymers“The mission of the Center for Sustainable Polymers (CSP) is to transform how plastics are made and unmade through innovative research, engaging education, and diverse partnerships that together foster environmental stewardship.”
  • The Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology“We aim to understand, predict, and control the specific chemical and physical interactions between nanomaterial surfaces and living systems via a molecular level, chemistry-centered approach.” 

Some NSF centers may have little in common thematically with CompSustNet, but may nonetheless present opportunities for new applications of computational approaches.

  • Mid-InfraRed Technologies for Health and the Environment
    “MIRTHE’s goal is to develop Mid-Infrared (λ – 3-30 µm) optical trace gas sensing systems based on new technologies such as quantum cascade lasers or quartz enhanced photo-acoustic spectroscopy, with the ability to detect minute amounts of chemicals found in the environment or atmosphere, emitted from spills, combustion, or natural sources, or exhaled.”

There are other centers that CompSustNet would complement with a sustainability focus. For example, the Center for e-Design reveals no explicit concern with sustainable design, an area in which some CompSustNet members are deeply interested, so interactions across networks may increase the scope of each.

  • Center for e-Design : “The coalition was established to create new design paradigms and electronic design tools that will assist in generating high quality products and systems at a reduced cost while also reducing the time associated with designing complex engineered products and systems.”

Finally, there are many centers  and networks that are funded by sources other than NSF, which CompSustNet will also undoubtedly connect with.

  • Center for Water and the Environment :  “To foster the economic development of Minnesota’s Natural Resources in an environmentally sound manner to promote private sector employment.”

Enumerating the conceptual and social connections — existing and potential — between large centers could be a great benefit to NSF. It is probable that no such map exists in the corridors of NSF or elsewhere, primarily for reasons of NSF staff workload (e.g., as discussed under posts on NSF Program Director experience and  implementations of NSF broader impacts). The CompSustNet synthesis team will be working to produce an easily visualized map across centers and networks, as well as building on existing visualizations created for within-CompSustNet relationships.

Douglas H. Fisher is CompSustNet’s Director of Outreach, Education, Diversity, and Synthesis. The opinions expressed herein are Doug’s and not necessarily those of Cornell University. Contact Doug at douglas.h.fisher@vanderbilt.edu.