National Science Foundation: Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Systems
Humanity depends upon the Earth’s physical resources and natural systems for food, energy, and water (FEW). However, both the physical resources and the FEW systems are under increasing stress. It is becoming imperative that we determine how society can best integrate social, ecological, physical and built environments to provide for growing demand for food, energy and water in the short term while also maintaining appropriate ecosystem services for the future. Known stressors in FEW systems include governance challenges, population growth and migration, land use change, climate variability, and uneven resource distribution. The interconnections and interdependencies associated with the FEW Nexus pose research grand challenges. To meet these grand challenges, there is a critical need for research that enables new means of adapting societal use of FEW systems.
The Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems (INFEWS) program seeks to support research that conceptualizes FEW systems broadly and inclusively, incorporating social and behavioral processes (such as decision making and governance), physical processes (such as built infrastructure and new technologies for more efficient resource utilization), natural processes (such as biogeochemical and hydrologic cycles), biological processes (such as agroecosystem structure and productivity), and cyber-components (such as sensing, networking, computation and visualization for decision-making and assessment). INFES is offered through the following partner agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF) and the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA/NIFA).
The overarching goal of the INFEWS program is to catalyze well-integrated, convergent research to transform understanding of the FEW Nexus as integrated social, engineering, physical, and natural systems in order to improve system function and management, address system stress, increase resilience, and ensure sustainability. The NSF INFEWS activity is designed specifically to attain the following goals:
- Significantly advance understanding of the food-energy-water system of systems through quantitative, predictive and computational modeling, including support for relevant cyberinfrastructure
- Develop real-time, cyber-enabled interfaces that improve understanding of the behavior of FEW systems and increase decision support capability
- Enable research that will lead to innovative and integrated social, engineering, physical, and natural systems solutions to critical FEW systems problems
- Grow the scientific workforce capable of studying and managing the FEW system of systems, through education and other professional development opportunities
INFEWS tracks include:
- Track 1: Social-Physical Modelling of FEW Systems: This track aims to significantly advance understanding of FEW systems with advanced modeling that investigates the functioning of coupled social, physical, biotic, abiotic, and engineered systems. The goal is to define and understand the couplings/linkages, feedback mechanisms and processes among the FEW systems components and to elucidate the factors that influence resilience, thresholds, and criticalities. Projects/models must be designed to assess (a) the model’s generalizability through either site-to-site comparisons or within site comparisons at multiple time/space scales, or (b) the model’s ability to evaluate minimization-of-risk with respect to FEW services, the components/couplings that define threshold and resilient FEW systems behavior, and the impact of mitigation and adaptation with respect to minimization-of-risk. Alternately, projects where advanced cyberinfrastructure is the focus, must assess performance and strategic potential of the new cyberinfrastructure, as well as its ability to enable INFEWS research advances.
- Track 2: Research to Enable Innovative System Solutions: Track 2 projects will develop and examine innovative solutions that address specific FEW system challenges and aim to enhance FEW systems’ resilience and sustainability. Research on innovative institutional, behavioral, and technological solutions (and the coupled-combinations of solutions) is needed. Projects must take a systems approach when researching potential solutions. Projects should demonstrate how the envisioned solution will contribute to system-wide improvements across sectors and places accounting for appropriate variabilities across temporal and spatial scales. This track encourages investments that would introduce new capabilities, advanced computation, and novel cyberinfrastructure approaches, especially with respect to: (1) fully engaging stakeholders and public outreach; (2) addressing the computational challenges; and (3) data integration challenges inherent in INFEWS research, leading to previously unattainable results.
- Track 3: INFEWS Research Coordination Networks (INFEWS-RCN): This track supports the establishment of new networks of interdisciplinary researchers from multiple organizations who will collectively and significantly advance INFEWS concepts, knowledge and new directions through active exchange of ideas, development of new directions in fundamental research and education, and other approaches. INFEWS-RCN should engage in activities that will facilitate: (1) the advancement of fundamental INFEWS research ideas across diverse research communities; (2) building of coordinated, new and novel networks of innovation that go beyond the scope of funded activities conducted by the members of the INFEWS-RCN; and (3) communication with stakeholders on INFEWS concepts and research.
Amount: A total of $34,000,000 is available to be distributed as follows:
- Tracks 1 and 2: Awards will range up to $2,500,000 and will last for three to five years. A total of 10-20 awards will be made for track 1 and 2 (5-10 awards for each track).
- Track 3: Awards will range up to $750,000 and will last four or five years. A total of 5-10 awards will be made.
Eligibility: Proposals may only be submitted by the following:
- Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) – Two- and four-year IHEs (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in the US, acting on behalf of their faculty members.
- Nonprofit, non-academic organizations: Independent museums, observatories, research labs, professional societies and similar organizations in the U.S. associated with educational or research activities.
- For proposals to be considered for funding under USDA/NIFA: (1) State agricultural experiment stations; (2) colleges and universities (including junior colleges offering associate degrees or higher); (3) university research foundations; (4) other research organizations; (5) Federal agencies, (6) national laboratories; (7) private organizations or corporations; (8) individuals who are U.S. citizens, nationals, or permanent residents; and (9) any group consisting of 2 or more entities identified in (1) through (8). Eligible organizations do not include foreign and international organizations. Award recipients may subcontract to organizations not eligible to apply provided such organizations are necessary for the conduct of the project.
Note: To be considered as an NSF proposal, federal agencies and federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) can participate only as subawardees or unpaid collaborators. FFRDC and federal agency scientists cannot serve as lead PI to be eligible for NSF funding. Non-NSF sponsored FFRDCs are required to provide a letter of support from their agency.
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