IU investing $7 million for new complexity institute

Indiana University Network Science Institute logo

Indiana University Network Science Institute logo

IU has announced the establishment of the Indiana University Network Science Institute, or IUNI. The $7 million initiative will bring together many of the university’s top minds to explore and embrace the challenge of understanding complex networks that underlie large-scale systems, including the environment, economics, technology and human health.

“Today, more than ever before, exploring the connections and relationships among our most complex networks — from the biological to the economic, political and social — is paramount to solving humankind’s most critical and challenging questions,” IU Vice President for Research Jorge José said. “Through the formation of this new interdisciplinary, university-wide institute, which will reflect all of the major sectors of scientific research and will be supported by the university’s robust technological infrastructure, Indiana University has positioned itself to become the leading global center for understanding the complicated structure and evolving dynamics of the systems that drive our society.”

Complex networks are at the core of an ever more interconnected social, economic and technological planet, and their connectivity and dynamics underpin nearly all aspects of how these systems function. Networks can be associated with topics as diverse as cancer, schizophrenia, even the spreading of rumors, innovations or social unrest.

Echoing the late IU Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom, who said, “When the world we are trying to explain and improve … is not well-described by a simple model, we must continue to improve our frameworks and theories so as to be able to understand complexity and not simply reject it,” José said that focusing on the interactions between huge numbers of system components — be it in the brain or the global economy — places the university at the forefront of shaping new paths for research and innovation.

Three faculty members named as founding co-directors helped lead the effort to create the institute: Distinguished Professor Bernice Pescosolido, Department of Sociology; Distinguished Professor Olaf Sporns, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences; and Andrew Saykin, professor of radiology and imaging sciences and director of the Indiana Alzheimer Disease Center at the IU School of Medicine.

The institute will be unique in a number of ways: Affiliated researchers will represent multiple IU campuses and will come from medicine, the natural sciences, the social sciences and the humanities; in addition to being focused on networks, every project supported by the institute is required to be a collaboration, a reflection of the institute itself. Four research hubs currently form the core of IUNI — Health and Health Care, Network Neuroscience, Science of Science and Social Network Science — each with the capacity to engage and share data and other resources with one another. Outreach activities, workshops and conferences and efforts toward online network science education will add to the scope of IUNI activities.

The three-year initiative — with an opportunity to renew for another three years — will be supported by IU President Michael A. McRobbie’s office, the offices of Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel and Vice President for Research José, the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Informatics and Computing, and the School of Medicine.

“This new institute recognizes that we are all part of networks, and that these networks, ever evolving and changing, are inherently complex systems that present challenges to scientists across all fields,” Robel said. “With a contingent of over 100 scientists spanning all disciplines, the ties among network science researchers that already exist in the IU system are ripe for encouragement, with many new ones inevitable through support of IUNI.”

To date, affiliated faculty from 26 different schools, departments and centers have either participated in development of IUNI or expressed an interest in participating in collaborative research through the institute. Faculty participating in the institute represent one of the broadest and deepest cadres of researchers studying networks, including the College of Arts and Sciences departments of physics, psychological and brain sciences, statistics, sociology and geography; the School of Informatics and Computing at IU Bloomington; the School of Medicine; the School of Public Health-Bloomington; the Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI; and centers already focused on different aspects of complex networks, such as the Indiana Center for Systems Biology and Personalized Medicine at IUPUI and the Digital Science Center at IU Bloomington.

The three co-directors applauded the announcement.

“IUNI will provide novel concepts, tools and training to address tomorrow’s challenges,” Saykin said. “We appreciate the university’s vision in supporting team science to elucidate the complex networks that comprise the human genome, brain interconnectivity, health care systems and society — creating a truly exciting and unprecedented opportunity.”

Pescosolido described the nature of the institute as a reflection of the very work that will be conducted there, an exercise in synergy.

“We live in a world where society and the problems we face represent a web of interconnections,” Pescosolido said. “When we think we have fixed one part of it, unforeseen complications arise elsewhere as unintended consequences. These are complex, connected interactions that demand a transdisciplinary approach that brings the expertise across the landscape of science to the table.”

Sporns added that the new institute recognizes the natural strengths already present at IU.

“By design, when it comes to our expertise in complex systems, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts,” he said. “With the new synergies that will be created through IUNI, we have the unique opportunity to break the mold and approach the many challenges we face in science and society from a fresh and broad perspective.”

 

by Steve Chaplin

IUPUI center serves up science lesson with students’ lunch

392504_w296INDIANAPOLIS — Food, with a helping of science, is being offered this week to youngsters at an Indianapolis school.

The initiative pairs the Southeast Neighborhood School of Excellence charter school, known as SENSE, and the Center for Earth and Environmental Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

The school, 1601 Barth Ave., is where children go for free breakfasts and lunches through Summer Servings, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Summer Food Service Program. Once they’ve finished lunch, a Center for Earth and Environmental Science education coordinator and two interns will lead students in a two-hour-a-day scientific exploration of Pleasant Run Creek, which runs nearby through the heart of the SENSE community where the children live. The programming is part of what Kate Voss, outreach coordinator at SENSE, is calling Ecocamp.

The Center for Earth and Environmental Science will equip the children with technology and knowledge to judge by the end of the week the quality of water flowing in the stream and make recommendations for further improving the stream ecosystem.

The center was established by the Department of Earth Sciences in the School of Science at IUPUI in 1997. Among its research and educational outreach programs, the center operates Discovering the Science of the Environment, an inquiry-based and interactive science education program for Central Indiana third- through ninth-graders and education professionals. Thanks to the generosity of Dow AgroSciences, CEES is able to offer this summer science programming.

SENSE is the third Indianapolis school the Center for Earth and Environmental Science has worked with this summer, said Pam Martin, center director and an associate  professor in the School of Science and School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. “We are providing outdoor science education to go along with the healthy meals provided by the Summer Servings program and school staff.

“It’s a bonus for everyone involved,” Martin said. “The science we provide gives parents another reason to bring kids for a meal and gives us the opportunity to give these kids a little science they might not otherwise get.”

While coordinated programming efforts and effective campaigns by groups such as the Indy Hunger Network have increased participation, Summer Servings participation is still low. According to a summer nutrition report, only 18 percent of qualifying children participated in July 2013. At the same time, Indiana needs to build its future workforce in science, technology, engineering and math fields and that begins with taking – and maintaining – an interest in science.

The summer Discovering the Science of Environment program is primarily about enthusiasm for science and developing a good experience with it, Martin said. “We want kids to have the experience of discovery; that is what science is all about. And while they are developing an appreciation for science, they are also developing an appreciation for the environment.”

Beginning today,  youngsters will learn about watersheds and investigate their own watershed using Google Earth satellite imagery. They will also play a water cycle board game to learn about how water changes states as it cycles through their watershed. On Tuesday, they will learn about energy flow through a food chain and investigate the biodiversity of the land along Pleasant Run. Children will then assess the stream’s physical parameters on Wednesday to determine overall stream stability and health. The stream’s discharge will be calculated as well.

A chemical assessment of water quality will be conducted Thursday, including measurements of dissolved oxygen levels, cloudiness, iron, chlorine and nitrate concentration. The week concludes with the collection of water bugs and a calculation of a pollution tolerance index.

The program at SENSE is “bringing the science home” by connecting it to everyday life, said Elizabeth Johnson, education outreach coordinator at the Center for Earth and Environmental Science, who will lead the children in the watershed exploration. “Anytime you can connect education to something familiar, it is easier to grasp.”

Johnson will be assisted by two IUPUI interns: Kenzie Whitener, a psychology major who is focusing on child psychology with the aim of working with children with behavioral problems; and Doaris Medina, an elementary education major.

Editor’s note: Reporters who would like to visit the school while students are engaged in science exploration may do so. The children will begin their science exploration about noon each day and stop at 2 p.m. Please contact Diane Brown at 317-274-2195.

New IU ethics consortium announces funding for research projects

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The Indiana University Consortium for the Study of Religion, Ethics and Society is offering funding for research proposals from IU faculty that explore the theme of wonder, especially as it intersects with nature and the environment.

The IU Consortium for the Study of Religion, Ethics and Society is an interdisciplinary association of scholars, academic programs and research centers from the eight campuses of Indiana University. The consortium was launched in January 2014 to leverage IU’s strengths in the interdisciplinary study of religion and advance research in key thematic areas.

This is the first call for research proposals from the new consortium. The research proposals are part of the first phase of a two-year thematic initiative — “Wonder and the Natural World” — sponsored by the consortium.

rachel carsonThe approaching 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s book “The Sense of Wonder” in 2015 makes the IU consortium’s theme especially timely, said Lisa Sideris, associate professor of religious studies in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington, who is also the inaugural director of the consortium.

“Wonder has played a key role in the environmental movement since that movement’s inception,” Sideris said. “We’re seeking proposals that ‘push the envelope’ in exploring the intersecting themes of wonder and nature, such as war and nature (‘shock and awe’), children’s natural spirituality, cinematic or fictional representations of wonder, even areas such as genetic engineering and wonder in artificial environments, like theme parks.”

Funding of up to $5,000 for individuals and up to $10,000 for teams is available. Full-time, tenure-track IU faculty members from any IU campus are eligible to apply, with proposals that cut across disciplines, units or campuses especially welcome.

The deadline for proposals is Sept. 1, 2014. Funding awards will be announced at the end of October. Recipients will present their preliminary findings and works-in-progress at a daylong symposium at IU Bloomington in May 2015.

The full call for proposals may be found online on the Department of Religious Studies website. Proposals should be emailed to Abby Gitlitz at agitlitz@indiana.edu. For additional information on the consortium or the funding awards, contact Sideris at lsideris@indiana.edu.

Conference at IUPUI explores transdisciplinary approach to problems with earth’s river systems

Since the dawn of civilization, access to freshwater, especially in river environments, has helped determine where human populations have flourished on planet Earth.

Over the past two centuries — an age that many geologists are now calling the Anthropocene — humans have reshaped the planet’s biophysical systems, threatening the availability of freshwater and consequentially the stability of ecologies.

This situation has created one of the most important and complex problems that humans will face in the 21st century, according to an international group of researchers convening in Indianapolis this month to launch a seven-year study of how to mitigate the threat of water insecurity.

The researchers will hold the Rivers of the Anthropocene Conference on Jan. 23 and 24 in the Klipsch Theater, on the lower level of the Campus Center at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in downtown Indianapolis.

The conference, which brings together 25 scientists, humanists, social scientists, artists, policy makers and community organizers from five countries, is open to the public and is the kickoff event for The Rivers of the Anthropocene Project, a long-range research effort. Leaders say the project will take a transdisciplinary approach to help us better understand the complex dynamics between humans and their river environments. Faculty from IUPUI are partnering with faculty from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom as project leaders. The IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute is organizing the event.

“The majority of the world’s population is threatened by water insecurity and biodiversity loss,” said Jason M. Kelly, IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute director and a Rivers of the Anthropocene Project director. “Even here in Indianapolis, we face potential water shortages in the next decades. We can solve these problems, but the solutions are not simply technological; they are cultural, social and political. They require experts from across the disciplines working hand-in-hand with communities and policy makers.”

By mapping the ecological, geographical, cultural, social, political and scientific histories of river systems, the Rivers of the Anthropocene Project will provide insight on issues of relevance to public policy, environmental conservation and heritage management.

For the January 2014 conference, presenters will offer case studies from around the globe, with particular emphasis on the Ohio and Tyne rivers. Topics for discussion and papers presented at the conference include human geography and river environments; the challenge of Anthropocene rivers; rivers on a human scale; earth systems; and the relationship between human systems and river systems.

Speakers include Bill Werkheiser, acting deputy director of the U.S. Geological Survey; and environmental artist Mary Miss.

Support for the conference comes from Keramida Inc., the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute, Indiana Humanities, IUPUI School of Science, IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, the Center for Earth and Environmental Science at IUPUI, the Center for Urban Ecology at Butler University, the IUPUI Center for Urban Health, Newcastle University, the Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability, IU Office of the Vice President for Research, IUPUI Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and IUPUI Office of the Chancellor.

Admission is $45. Registrants may purchase lunch. Discounted parking will be available on the ground level of the adjacent Vermont Street Garage.

Rivers of the Anthropocene Featured in IUPUI Center for Research and Learning Newsletter

CRL Feature: A MURI Team

This month, the CRL would like to feature a Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Institute (MURI) team.  We are very excited to have a team led by Dr. Jason M. Kelly, Dr. Phil Scarpino and Dr. Owen Dwyer.  The students are working on “Rivers of the Anthropocene – Stage 1: A Comparative Study of the Ohio River and Tyne River Systems Since 1750” 

The team will create a methodological and conceptual framework that better integrates Earth Systems Science with the human sciences and the humanities.  Secondly, it will provide a model for interdisciplinary and comparative studies of Anthropocene rivers systems.  Students will create:

  • a 3-day academic symposium/workshop
  • open-source data sets of historical GIS data relating to the Ohio and Tyne River Systems
  • an open-access, peer-reviewed edited volume featuring articles, revised from papers given at the symposium
  • a co-written research paper submitted to a major academic science journal

The students participating on this project are: Anthony Bozzo (Anthropology), Jeremy Maxwell (History), Keenan Salla (History), Lynette Taylor (History) and Andrew Townsend (History).  Andrew Townsend said “I joined the MURI team to get experience working in a group doing real world work.  Also, I thought it would look good on my resume for grad school. We are researching the human impact on the Ohio River system and compiling information that will be made available to future researchers investigating human efforts to purposely transform their environment according to culturally dictated plans.”

Lynette Taylor went on to describe the project, “Our overall project is addressing the needs for interdisciplinary communication between humanities and sciences in regard to the human influence on the environment and climate change with a special focus on the riverine systems of the world. The current narrow focus is on a comparison of the River Tyne and the Ohio River as these two rivers are somewhat similar in geographic latitude, weather, and use. This first phase of the project is concerned with creating a searchable metadata database that contains a comprehensive collection of available data on the river watershed foci. This database will be incredibly helpful to people in nearly every discipline from history through geology in providing a one-stop repository of information.”

Jeremy Maxwell stated, “The mentors that I’m working with are great. Dr. Scarpino is experienced and really knows his stuff Dr. Dwyer is really chill and great to work with. Dr. Kelly is a genius. He also wears colorful socks, so he has that going for him.”

First Friday Exhibition at SpaceCamp Gallery (funded, in part, by the IAHI)

Eco-Logic: Artists’ Take on Environmental Changes
SpaceCamp Gallery, 1043 Virginia Avenue, Indianapolis
March 1, 2013
About the Artists

Michele Brody was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1967, she received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College in 1989 and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1994. Utilizing her strong background in the liberal arts, she creates site-specific, mixed media installations and works of public art that are generated by the history, culture, environment, and architecture of a wide range of exhibition spaces. While living and working in such places as France, Costa Rica, California, the Midwest, Germany, and her home of New York, her art career has developed into a process of working in collaboration with each new community as a means towards developing an interpretation of the sense of a place as an outsider looking in. For Eco-Logic, Brody shows the life cycle of palm oil trees in Costa Rica. Palm oil production has been documented as a cause of substantial and often irreversible damage to the natural environment.

Caleb Charland received his MFA in Photography from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL under a Trustees Fellowship. He got his BFA in Photography with Departmental Honors from Massachusetts College of Art. He mixes a language of science and art to create photographs that shock and awe. He states “The way we understand the world relies so much on our ability to measure it. Given that many measurements are based on the proportions of the human body its clear we measure stuff to find our place amongst it all and to connect with it in some way. By exploring the world at hand, from the basement to the backyard, I have found a resonance in things. An energy vibrates in that space between our perceptions of the world and the potential the mind senses for our interventions within the world. This energy is the source of all true art and science, it breeds those beloved “Ah Ha!” moments and it allows us to sense the extraordinary in the common.” For this exhibition, Charland shows photographs of LED lights powered completely by the fruits and vegetables in the images.

Born in a suburb of Washington, DC and raised in the small town of Poolesville, Maryland, Jason Ferguson moved to Baltimore to study art at Towson University and continued his studies at the University of Delaware where he received his MFA. To complete his projects, Jason solicits assistance from professionals working in a diverse range of scientific disciplines. Collaborating with practitioners in various branches of study gives his work a level of authenticity that he cannot provide on his own. The results are large sculptural objects, installations, video works, and photographic documentation that highlight the unique relationship between art, science, and philosophy. He has exhibited his work internationally including group exhibitions in Kolderveen, the Netherlands; Berlin, Germany; Brooklyn, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Baltimore, MD; Kansas City, MO; Alexandria, VA; and Detroit, MI. For Eco-Logic, he is creating a new version of Koe. Koe is a response to the agricultural landscape throughout the Netherlands’ northeastern province of Drenthe. The Netherlands’ landscape is divided into a series of dikes created to defend against the increasing threat of floods due to the regions relation to sea level.

Carsten Schneider and Suzanne Hensel are elusive Berlin based artists who mostly work in theater and with sound. They regularly create work for Berlin public radio and create interesting plays that alter the landscape and your expectations. For this exhibition, they are showing Vogeltrommel (Birdy Drum). For two years, they slowly trained wild birds to be comfortable with them, finally coming inside the studio to eat and raise their young on the musical instruments. The songs in the exhibition are therefore birdsong, but not in the way you’d expect as they are playing human instruments, albeit without their full knowledge. This project talks about small scale human created environmental change.