NSF News

NSF invests $30 million to research sustainable, equitable and resilient regional systems across the US

At a time when climate change, natural disasters, a global pandemic and inequality increasingly impact daily life, examining the components and processes of regional systems is vital to safeguarding national infrastructure and protecting national security.

Today, the U.S. National Science Foundation announced the creation of two new NSF research networks to understand and design solutions that enhance sustainability, equity and resilience of regional systems. Regional systems are interdependent human and ecological systems that interact at multiple levels, from rural to urban settings.  The $15 million investment over five years in each of two new research networks through the NSF Sustainable Regional Systems program will support NSF research networks to study different aspects of regional systems that provide critical resources to communities and to design solutions.

"We depend on complicated regional systems for food, water and other goods and services. For these systems to thrive in a changing climate, amidst new demands and while serving and benefiting everyone, communities will need to reimagine and redesign themselves. These NSF-funded networks will bring together diverse experts, community members, and multidisciplinary methods to answer critical research questions that will help make vital regional systems sustainable, resilient, and equitable in the future," said Susan Margulies, NSF assistant director for engineering.

The awardees are listed below:

  • Multiscale Resilient, Equitable, and Circular Innovations with Partnership and Education Synergies for Sustainable Food Systems Research Networkis led by American University in partnership with Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University, Ohio State University and Rochester Institute of Technology, and includes other educational institutions, governmental and non-governmental organizations and others. This network will investigate the causes of food system waste, develop sustainable solutions like rescuing and repurposing unused food, and advance systemic security and reliability. The focus will be on the Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and California -- areas that grow regional foods and have different seasonal crops -- to create typologies and generalized models that could transform food systems across the nation.
  • Transforming Rural-Urban Systems: Trajectories for Sustainability in the Intermountain West Research Networkisled by the University of New Mexico in partnership with Colorado State University, the University of Arizona and Washington State University, and includes other education institutions, non-profit organizations and others. This award was co-funded by the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research and the NSF INCLUDES -- or Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science -- program. The network will investigate headwaters and headwater-dependent systems, food-energy-water systems, and options for oversight and management that will create a more sustainable future for people and ecosystems. The focus will be on three regions -- the upper Rio Grande/San Juan river watersheds; the Colorado Front Range corridor; and the inland Pacific Northwest -- that share challenges of population growth, wildfires and shrinking water supplies.

More information about the Sustainable Regional Systems Research Networks program can be found on NSF’s website.