UCGIS part of new National Science Foundation Convergence Accelerator Award

UCGIS is a partner in a $1 million grant from a new interdisciplinary NSF program to foster building an "open knowledge network" for spatial decision support technologies. The inspiration for this type of network comes from Tim Berners-Lee's (best known founder of the World-wide Web) vision for the "semantic web," which applies tags with relationships to information on the Internet, allowing computers to do basic reasoning for improving search results and answering questions. Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, and Google's Assistant all use these technologies.

Individuals from UCGIS’s leadership group are members of a team of 13 researchers and practitioners from 10 different institutions and organizations who are collectively focused on spatial decision support (SDS) systems, a systematic approach that improves access to tools for analyzing geographic data. Despite many successful applications, SDS contributions are limited by challenges in integrating information across complex organizational networks and across an array of data and tools developed for narrow (often disciplinary) applications. The project is being led by PI Sean Gordon, research faculty at Portland State University, which is a UCGIS member institution. "The proliferation of online mapping technologies has greatly increased access to and utility of these kinds of tools, and a logical next step is increasing our ability to find the appropriate data and tools for your problem and link these together for more complex analyses," says Gordon. Through engaging stakeholders in three applied case studies (the management of wildland fire, water quality, and biodiversity conservation), the interdisciplinary project team will develop and test participatory and automated methods for finding and sharing decision-relevant information using semantic web technologies.  

 As part of this project, content from UCGIS’s Geographic Information Science & Technology Body of Knowledge (GIS&T BoK, gistbok.ucgis.org) will be linked with existing and new networks of knowledge being designed and developed. This will extend the capacity of the GIS&T BoK to provide additional functionality and reach new audiences. UCGIS is also serving a role in the communications, organizational, and outreach component of the project, given its experiences and engagement with the national geospatial community.

 The new NSF Convergence Accelerator program is named for its focus on bringing together interdisciplinary teams to address one of NSF's 10 big ideas, specifically "Harnessing the Data Revolution." Eighteen other of these phase 1 grants were made, covering areas from molecular manufacturing to tracking potentially disruptive solar phenomena. The "accelerator" part comes from the short time frame for the proposal and its expected deliverables, and the rapid production of a phase 2 proposal for up to $5 million by March 2020.

To learn more, please visit the Spatial Decision Support Consortium website or contact Diana Sinton.

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