$20 million headed to Kansas to research better natural disaster responses

FILE - A sherriff's vehicle is seen covered in debris in Marysville. A confirmed tornado hit 12...
FILE - A sherriff's vehicle is seen covered in debris in Marysville. A confirmed tornado hit 12 miles north of town Saturday evening.(Damon (submitted))
Published: Jun. 14, 2022 at 11:47 AM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - About $20 million in federal funds is headed to 17 Kansas institutions to research how the Sunflower State’s infrastructure can better support residents before and after a natural disaster.

On Tuesday, June 14, U.S. Congresswoman Sharice Davids (D-KS) says the U.S. National Science Foundation awarded $20 million to support a new 5-year statewide initiative to ensure Kansas’ infrastructure can support all communities before and after a disaster.

“This award is monumental. It brings together researchers from 17 institutions across our state who will work together to create real change that we all will benefit from,” Davids said. “I am proud to have helped bring this federal funding home to build on the strong tradition of research at our nationally-recognized colleges and universities and create safer, more resilient infrastructure for all Kansans.”

Representative Davids said the project is called Adaptive and Resilient Infrastructures Driven by Social Equity and is a collaboration between 17 universities and colleges in the Sunflower State, as well as business leaders, emergency planners, health professionals, and community-based partners.

“The ARISE project lays out a case for infrastructure and community resilience to be guided by principles of social equity and active collaboration between government, industry, not-for-profits, and communities,” said Belinda Sturm, professor at The University of Kansas and ARISE principal investigator. “The project not only builds academic research that converges computer science, engineering and social science, but the project will support community-engaged research across Kansas to create sustaining relationships between universities and communities.”

Rep. Davids noted that the project will also benefit from nearly $4 million in funding from the State.

“With this funding, Kansas’ brightest minds will be able to conduct research on how our rural and urban communities can be better prepared for natural disasters,” Kansas Governor Laura Kelly said. “I’m looking forward to learning from our state’s universities and community colleges about how we can continue making smart investments in our infrastructure to make Kansas more resilient in the face of extreme weather.”

Davids said the research will mostly take place at three sites - the University of Kansas, Kansas State University and Wichita State University.

“This multi-university, cross-discipline collaboration to address very real challenges for Kansas families demonstrates the innovation and commitment of our research institutions,” said David Rosowsky, Vice President for Research at Kansas State University. “Advancing fundamental and theoretical research to practical application can have a very positive impact here in Kansas and beyond.”

The Congresswoman also said researchers from three institutions in Kansas’ Third District will join the project - Kansas City Kansas Community College, Johnson County Community College, and Donnelly College.

“Kansas City Kansas Community College is proud to be a part of the ARISE project,” said Dr. Mosier, President of Kansas City Kansas Community College. “Working with the National Science Foundation, and partnering with colleges and universities across the state, ARISE helps provide additional educational opportunities, in interdisciplinary data science projects, for our summer Kids on Campus program that serves over 100 children from historically vulnerable and underrepresented communities.”

Davids said the NSF’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research - the parent program to the ARISE project - supports competitive research and development in states which have historically received a smaller share of federal funds - including Kansas. She said she has long advocated for the State to get these federal dollars and recently joined a bipartisan group of colleagues to advocate for increased EPSCoR funds in the Senate-passed supply chain and manufacturing bill.

“As Kansas’ only urban, public research university, Wichita State’s partnership with ARISE is supported by the university’s overall efforts to create a more equitable and prosperous Kansas,” said Rick Muma, President of Wichita State University. “We are thrilled with the NSF’s confidence in the interdisciplinary research and collaboration we’ll be doing alongside ARISE to build stronger and more resilient communities in our state.”

After EPSCoR funds were threatened in the House version of the supply chain and manufacturing bill, Davids said she also fought to bring the federal research funds home to Kansas.

“Donnelly College, the most diverse college in the Midwest, is committed to social equity,” said Monsignor Swetland, President of Donnelly College. “We enthusiastically are partnering with NSF, KU, K-State, Wichita State, Baker University, and others to help address the inequities in our state’s infrastructure. Such attention will allow our communities to access and integrate new technologies that will make our area less vulnerable and more resilient, especially when facing increasing weather extremes.”

Davids said ARISE seeks to advance the resilience of infrastructures that all Kansans depend on - water, energy and transportation systems - through the creation of tools that ensure support for the most vulnerable communities in both rural and urban areas. She said the project will also create a pipeline of community leaders who will transform how a community invests in and manages human and physical infrastructure.

“Kansans are rightly proud of their ability to recover from natural disasters, but the state faces disasters of a kind and at a frequency we’ve not 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 tackled by working across traditional disciplines and leveraging the intellectual resources of all the state’s research universities. That’s why this award from NSF is so important.”

The Congresswoman said ARISE will consider hazard threats in urban and rural regions of Kansas to produce a one-of-a-kind decision-support tool that will enhance disaster resilience in the state. She said it will enable decisions to be made with measurable impacts on equity-driven resilience and provide the fundamental steppingstone for Kansas Board of Regents institutions to seek more federal research funds to transition the state to a Smart State as envisioned in the Kansas Science & Technology plan.

Davids noted that the project will align with the plan, which was developed in 2021 and endorsed by the KBOR who provided matching funds for the NSF proposal.

Davids said Kansas NSF EPSCoR will mark its 30th anniversary in 2022 with ARISE as its eighth Track-1 program. For every dollar NSF EPSCoR gives to research, she said Kansas gets back more than twice that in non-EPSCoR funds for research.

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