Contracts and Grants

Below are descriptions of recently awarded contracts and grants for the study of hazards and disasters. An inventory of contracts and grants awarded from 1995 to the present (primarily those funded by the National Science Foundation) is available from the Natural Hazards Center’s web site:

Earthquake Safety Program in India. Funding: U.S. Agency for International Development, $1.5 million, 36 months.
Earthquake Safety Program in Central Asia. Funding: Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, $900,000, 36 months.
For information, contact Janifer Stackhouse or Stephanie Engelsen; Geohazards International, 200 Town and Country Village, Palo Alto, CA 94309; (650) 614-9050; fax: (650) 614-9051; e-mail:;
        These funds will support earthquake safety initiatives in 20 major cities in India and three capital cities in Central Asia. Geohazards International will assess risk, raise awareness, improve school safety, launch self-sustaining mitigation activities, and strengthen the capacity of governments and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to prepare for and respond to future earthquakes. Both projects will collaborate with in-country experts, local populations, and established NGOs to promote self-sustaining as well as culturally and politically sensitive hazard reduction.

Optimal Structural System Design for Catastrophic Unforeseen Events. Funding: National Science Foundation, $100,000, 12 months. Principal Investigators: Benjamin W. Schafer and Roger G. Ghanem, Johns Hopkins University, 3400 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218; e-mail:
            Whether one views the behavior of the World Trade Center structure following the attacks of September 11 as a design success (because so may people were able to get to safety) or a design failure (after all, the buildings collapsed), one issue that has been lost in the resulting discussion is that the building’s response to the damage was not necessarily a direct result of building code requirements nor design methodologies. This project is based on the supposition that current design, using only component-wise reliability, ignoring redundancy, and lacking a formal decision-making framework, is inadequate. The research seeks to combine new findings in structural sensitivity, redundancy, probabilistic earthquake engineering, optimization under uncertainty, and catastrophic risk insurance. It should lead to better decision-making in the design of buildings and insure a higher level of building structural safety, within realistic economic constraints, by providing a framework for decision making regarding structural safety.

GEON: A Research Project to Create Cyberinfrastructure for the Geosciences. Funding: National Science Foundation, $1,000,000, 60 months. Principal Investigator: Dogan Seber, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853; e-mail:
            The GEOscience Network (GEON) project seeks to create a cyberinfrastructure for the solid earth geosciences. The need to manage growing amounts of diverse earth science data will be addressed through collaboration between information technology and earth science researchers. The goal of GEON is to create a national information infrastructure that enables researchers to share databases and tools for research, including data related to tectonics, mountain building, broader understanding and prediction of geologic hazards, four-dimensional reconstruction modeling of earth through time, and natural resources management.

Disruption of Independent Infrastructures. Funding: National Science Foundation, $93,303, 12 months. Principal Investigators: William A. Wallace and John E. Mitchell, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180; e-mail:
            Critical infrastructure systems, such as transportation, utilities, communications, and energy, provide services that are essential to both the economy and well-being of nations. The investigators in this project will work to ensure an efficient, effective, and equitable distribution of resources in responding to events that disrupt infrastructure systems and to aid in designing systems that are robust under disruptions caused by natural or human-caused events. They will develop definitions of critical infrastructure dependencies, model interdependencies among systems, assess vulnerabilities, and determine emergency response. If successful, the project will improve the ability to both mitigate and respond to events that cause large-scale, potentially catastrophic damage to critical infrastructure systems.

Cataclysms and Catastrophes—The Role of Science. Funding: National Science Foundation, $152,126, 24 months. Principal Investigators: Katherine K. Ellins, Sean S. Gulick, Gail L. Christeson, and Roberto Gutierrez, University of Texas–Austin, Austin, TX 78713; e-mail:
            Researchers in this project are developing and testing curricula based on the role of science in understanding catastrophes. The goal is to help high school teachers incorporate geoscience into the teaching of physics, mathematics, chemistry, and biology. This collaborative effort involves the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics (UTIG), the Bureau of Economic Geology (BEG), and 4empowerment (an Austin-based private education company). Events such as Hurricane Mitch in Honduras, the Chicxulub asteroid impact, and the klahoma City bombing serve as the basis for hands-on learning activities using data collected by UTIG and BEG scientists. In addition, activities will teach about technologies such as remote sensing, drilling, seismic reflection and refraction, geophysical information, and the Internet.

An Integrated Framework for Health Monitoring of Highway Bridges and Civil Infrastructure. Funding: National Science Foundation, $2,650,000, 60 months. Principal Investigators: Ahmed-W.M. Elgamal, Joel P. Conte, Mohan M. Trivedi, and Tony Fountain, University of California–San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92094; e-mail:
            The ability to monitor the safety and “health” of highway bridges and constructed facilities is crucial for mitigating potential disasters and recovering quickly. Detecting and assessing the level of damage to civil infrastructures caused by natural or anthropogenic events as well as environmental deterioration is crucial. In cooperation with the California Department of Transportation, computer scientists and structural engineers will develop software to integrate real-time sensor data, archived data, visualization software, probabilistic risk analysis, and decision-making procedures to create a next-generation health monitoring strategy.

Earthquake Testing Equipment Will Be Connected to National Network

Five new NSF awards will support advanced research and provide experimental equipment to evaluate the impact of earthquakes. Researchers from across the United States are studying the effects of earthquakes in relation to building design, advanced materials, and other measures that can minimize earthquake damage and loss of life.

The awards are part of NSF’s George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES). The high-speed Internet network, when completed in 2004, will remotely link researchers with tools for testing and improving the seismic design and performance of structures, utilities, and other infrastructure. NSF will invest a total of about $82 million under NEES for new and upgraded equipment and the computer network that will connect the equipment facilities.

Integration of the equipment is being managed by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The equipment and network system will be managed by a consortium to be selected at a later time.

The five new awards, totaling $15.5 million over two years, will fund construction, expansion, and modernization of equipment at five U.S. institutions—Brigham Young University, Cornell University, Lehigh University, the University of California–San Diego, and the University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign. These awards complement equipment grants announced in early 2001 (see the Observer, Vol. XXV, No. 4, p. 16) and provide new testing capabilities for large-scale structural response and soil-foundation-structure interaction.

For details about the NEES awards, see and

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