By Noé Taborda Kansas Reflector
TOPEKA — A new research initiative is providing Kansas universities and colleges with $24 million to research how the state can better support residents before and after disaster emergencies.
The Adaptive and Resilient Infrastructures Driven by Social Equity, or ARISE, project is a federally funded program through the National Science Foundation. The five-year initiative will partner 17 institutions ranging from universities to business leaders, medical professionals and other community actors to advance the resilience of the state’s infrastructure.
The project involves $20 million in federal funding and an additional $4 million from the state.
“The project not only builds academic research that converges computer science, engineering, and social sciences, but the project will support community-engaged research across Kansas to create lasting relationships between universities and communities” said Belinda Sturm, a professor at the University of Kansas. and ARISE Principal Investigator.
Through this collaboration, Sturm and other institutional leaders hope to be able to create tools to ensure that vulnerable communities – both rural and urban – have access to critical emergency needs such as water, energy and transport. The project also aims to create a line of communication between community leaders and policy makers to ensure the community better invests its infrastructure resources in the future.
“The ARISE Project makes the case for infrastructure and community resilience to be guided by principles of social equity and active collaboration between government, industry, non-profit organizations and communities,” said Sturm.
The National Science Foundation administers these funds under the Program Established to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), which supports research and development that historically receives smaller shares of federal funding.
A bipartisan group of federal lawmakers, including U.S. Representatives from Kansas Sharice Davids, Jake LaTurner, and Tracey Mann, Senator Jerry Moran, and Senator Roger Marshall, signed a letter in September 2021 advocating for increased funding for EPSCoR.
“We are thrilled with NSF’s confidence in the interdisciplinary research and collaboration we will conduct alongside ARISE to build stronger, more resilient communities in our state,” said Rick Muma, president of Wichita State University. .
ARISE will analyze threats to create a decision support tool used to improve disaster resilience in Kansas. The tool will enable faster decision-making in these emergencies that ensures equity-focused outcomes.
The new research project aligns with the ideas of a science and technology plan developed in 2021 and approved by the Kansas Board of Regents. Education officials hope the award can serve as a springboard for the board to seek additional funding in this 2021 initiative to make Kansas a so-called “smart state.”
“Kansans are rightly proud of their ability to recover from natural disasters, but the state is dealing with disasters of a kind and with a frequency that we have never seen before,” said Simon Atkinson, vice chancellor for research at the University of Kansas. “The factors that determine resilience are complex and can only be addressed by working across traditional disciplines and leveraging the intellectual resources of all of the state’s research universities.”