How will we foster human potential and well-being across the life course in a diverse and changing world?

Forum: Oct. 13 | 10:00 a.m.–11:30 a.m. | Rec & Wellness Ctr. Room MP5

Relocating and Redefining Expertise in Educational Equity

Lead Submitter: Heidi Barajas, Organizational Leadership, Policy & Development; Executive Director, UROC
Co-Submitters: Generation NEXT-UROC Fellows: Michele Allen, Family Medicine and Community Health; Peter Demerath, Organizational Leadership, Policy & Development; Jigna Desai, Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies; Michael Goh, Organizational Leadership, Policy & Development; Ross VeLure Roholt, School of Social Work, Youth Studies; Catherine R. Squires, Communication Studies

Our idea seeks to realize Horace Mann’s 1848 vision of education as “The Great Equalizer.” Our approach pivots on a reconceptualization of the causes of educational equity. We understand predictable achievement gaps as originating largely in what we refer to as relationship gaps in classrooms, schools, communities, and between universities and the communities they serve.

It is imperative for a land grant institution like the University of Minnesota to be deeply engaged with communities to solve the complex issues that undermine educational equity. Every scholar on this interdisciplinary team has deep ties to school partners and their communities. Accordingly, our approach is guided by an innovative ground-up framework: First, reciprocal engagement in our research partnerships; and second, a commitment to “scale down” research to capture innovation at the local level. This approach emphasizes local collaborations that yield practice-based evidence which can produce new models and interventions for achieving educational equity.

Understanding Language Communities in Minnesota

Lead-Submitter: William O. Beeman, Anthropology
Co-Submitters: Kendall King, Second Language and Cultures, Curriculum & Instruction; Carol Klee, Spanish and Portuguese Studies; Amy Sheldon, Communication Studies; Polly Szatrowski, Institute of Linguistics; Elaine Tarone, Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition; David Valentine, Anthropology

We propose concentrated interdisciplinary research studying the social and cultural dynamics of the diverse language communities of the Twin Cities metropolitan area and the state of Minnesota. Minnesota is one of the most linguistically complex states in the United States—a natural laboratory for the study of language communities, which are poorly understood “vibrant communities” in our midst. As seasoned researchers in linguistic anthropology, sociolinguistics, communication studies, second language instruction, cultural studies, and geography, we know language to be a basic component of personal identity and community social organization. No language community exists in isolation. Interactions of members of linguistic communities with each other are fundamental in structuring the nature and quality of the larger comprehensive society.

A high-quality research program in this area will capitalize on Minnesota’s rich human environment, add to human knowledge, bring distinction to the University and serve as a model for similar research elsewhere.

Let’s Get Along! Community, Workplace, Law and Policy Interventions to Enhance Positive Effects and Reduce Negative Effects of Increased Cultural Diversity

Lead Submitter: Avner Ben-Ner, Center for Human Resources and Labor; Claire A. Hill, Professor, Law School

Everyone has multiple identities; societies can influence which identities an individual experiences as salient, and how these identities are constructed. We think an interdisciplinary perspective that incorporates evolutionary factors, economics, law, sociology, political science and cognitive and social psychology can elucidate critical features of identity, explaining the pathologies we observe but also providing hope for improvement. What evolutionary functions has identity served? When might an in-group become less cohesive? When is the need to define an in-group stronger or weaker than the need to define an out-group? What causes particular identities to be more or less oppositional—that is, to be defined in part by opposition to other identities? What (community, workplace, legal and other societal) interventions could affect the salience or construction of particular identities?

Our University has outstanding faculty with interests in related topics and can make exceptional contributions to this vexing global challenge.

Institutional Transformation through Grand Challenges: Understanding How We Are and Need to Change

Lead Submitters: Lynne Borden, Professor and Chair, Family Social Science; Geoffrey Maruyama, Professor and Chair, Educational Psychology

U.S. universities need to transform themselves to address Grand Challenges (GCs) of today and tomorrow. This idea is a meta-grand challenge to rigorously study our transformation process. UM possesses great researcher capacity to study its transformation. Faculty from six colleges will evaluate processes of choosing areas, factors influencing success and longevity of GC groups, impacts on participating faculty scholarship, and impacts on the University community.

We propose (a) integrating existing knowledge from multiple disciplines about the processes and institutional transformations that need to occur in order to effectively mobilize/transform to address challenges, (b) determining the implications of the information with respect to engagement and problem-focused initiatives for research, teaching (particularly graduate education), and service and outreach, and (c) building and implementing a mixed method evaluation model and approach to track the impacts of the GC process and initiatives on an array of proximal and more general institutional outcomes.

Optimizing Research around Planning for Aging

Lead Submitter: Marilyn J. Bruin, Professor, Housing Studies and Community Development
Co-Submitters: Sauman Chu, Graphic Design; Lin Nelson-Mayson, Goldstein Museum of Design; Juanjuan Wu, Retail Merchandising

We propose a program of engaged interdisciplinary aging research around the multiple and interrelated perspectives of design, health, human services, and public policy. Team members have expertise in public engagement partnering with marginalized communities and global networks. We can leverage these connections to lead a global effort of engaged interdisciplinary research focused on the design and planning of apparel, communication, and residential, retail, and public spaces. We propose a rigorous collaborative rigorous program of research to influence public policy, infrastructure, and services to promote physical and spiritual well-being across the life course.

The University of Minnesota, a large comprehensive urban public-engaged land grant university, is well-positioned to compete for external funding for aging research with applications for diverse and global populations. Furthermore, we have unique opportunities to translate discovery and disseminate through undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education courses, museum exhibitions and symposia, and outreach activities.

Improve the Health and Wellbeing of Children, Particularly Those Growing Up in Conditions of Risk

Lead Submitters: Dante Cicchetti, McKnight Presidential Professor and William Harris Professor of Child Development, Psychology, & Psychiatry, Institute of Child Development; Abigail Gewirtz, Professor, Family Social Science & Institute of Child Development & Director, Institute for Translational Research in Children’s Mental Health; Gerald August, Professor, Family Social Science
Co-Submitters: Gerald August, Family Social Science; Sonya Brady, Epidemiology; Dante Cicchetti, Child Development, Psychology, & Psychiatry; Meredith Gunlicks-Stoessel, Psychiatry; Megan Gunnar, Institute of Child Development; Traci LaLiberte, Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare; Rich Lee, Psychology; Ann Masten, Institute of Child Development; Faith Miller, Educational Psychology; Carolyn Porta, Nursing Academic Programs; Timothy Piehler, Family Social Science; Aaron Sojourner, Work and Organizations; Alisha Wackerle-Holman, Educational Psychology; Lindsay Weiler, Family Social Science

Violence, poverty, and related family stressors increase the likelihood of mental health problems, interfering with children’s wellbeing and their capacity to form healthy relationships, learn, and participate in society. Fortunately, advances in basic and applied research have resulted in effective prevention programs and laid the groundwork to potentiate their optimization, and large-scale dissemination. Currently, however, the gap between research and practice—i.e., the use of a research finding in the practice community—is vast, estimated at almost 20 years.

This Grand Challenge idea will harness the unique talents of faculty across the University of Minnesota to accelerate research into practice in order to improve the lives of our most vulnerable children. Bridging research and practice requires interdisciplinary teams of basic (biological, genetic, psychological) and intervention/prevention researchers, and partnerships for a continuous feedback loop to practice and policy; the University of Minnesota is well positioned to lead these efforts.

Language, Cognition and Society

Lead Submitter: Jeanette Gundel, Professor, Linguistics
Co-Submitters: Claire Halpert, Linguistics; Apostolos Georgopoulos, Neuroscience; Serguei Pakhomov, Pharmaceutical Care and Health Systems

It is widely agreed that the formal properties shared by all human languages are rooted in the human cognitive capacity for thought and language. At the same time there exist almost 5,000 mutually unintelligible linguistic systems used by humans around the world. Both the universality and diversity of human language are linked to a number of societal problems and scientific questions. We will investigate some of these, focusing on the unique linguistic landscape in the Twin Cities with its large number of speakers and learners of endangered indigenous languages, (e.g., Dakota and Ojibwe) as well as significant populations from East Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America, who have brought with them a large number of different languages more recently.

Our investigations will draw on expertise from faculty and student researchers in colleges across the University of Minnesota who approach questions related to language, cognition, and society from distinct disciplinary perspectives.

The Digital Turn: A Grand Challenge for the University of Minnesota

Lead Submitter: Michael Hancher, English
Co-Submitters: Douglas Armato, University of Minnesota Press; Lucy Fortson, Physics and Astronomy; Laura Gurak, Writing Studies; Daniel Keefe, Computer Science and Engineering, Interactive Visualization Lab; Wendy Pradt Lougee, University Libraries; William McGeveran, Law School Academic Programs; Thomas J. Misa, Charles Babbage Institute; and Claudia Neuhauser, Informatics Institute

A Grand Challenge for the University is to define and especially to design “the digital turn”; that is, the computer- and network-based transformation that has renewed all scholarly, administrative, and creative enterprises in the last quarter century and that will continue to remake them in the decades to come. We propose that the University bring its attention and expertise from all corners to understand and embrace this technological shift, so as to maximize benefits for society. Nothing is more interdisciplinary than this fundamental change, which shapes the advancement of learning and discovery in our time. All the other Grand Challenges depend on it in one way or another.

The University brings to this challenge particular strengths in computer science (e.g., data mining, recommender systems), behavioral sciences (group behavior and collaboration), geography (GIS), and law (intellectual property), as well as special expertise with information management and data curation (Informatics and Libraries).

Innovation for All: In an Increasingly Automated World, Ensuring that the University of Minnesota's Research Benefits the Common Good

Lead Submitter: Brent Hecht, Computer Science & Engineering
Co-Submitters: Loren Terveen, Computer Science & Engineering

Recently, technical innovation has begun to eliminate significantly more jobs than it creates. Consider the driverless car. Its use likely will eliminate over 8 million truck driving-related jobs in the United States. This includes the jobs of tens of thousands of Minnesotans; truck driving is the No. 1 job in our state. This situation poses an existential challenge to our University’s mission of serving the common while continuing our strong tradition of innovation. However, we believe we are well positioned to address this challenge.

Scholars from the Humphrey School, the School of Law, and Economics can develop new policies suitable for a world where the amount of work and type of available work has changed; social and political scientists can trace the implications for individuals, families, social organizations, and politics; and computer scientists and engineers can develop technologies that empower individuals to engage in new types of work and non-work activities.

Theorizing Diversities

Lead Submitter: Maki Isaka, Asian Languages and Literatures

By maximizing a potential of the University as a research university, I propose that we further theorize diversities--pertinent concepts, mechanism, logic, etc.—in a most interdisciplinary way possible, in which theory and praxes, together in tandem, help us contemplate the subject matter. One theoretical challenge—especially in possible theory-praxes collaboration—lies in a formidable relation between two principles: fairness, which relies on consistency, and diversity, which presupposes multiplicity. There must be numerous approaches to this problem across disciplines; two examples from my own background are the possibility of co-existence of plural epistemes in a society and that of manifold somatic grammar in one body.

On many levels, issues related to diversity must be relevant to many of us at the University, which houses, for example, a pioneering department on American Indian Studies; an ambitious RIGS initiative; and the Disability Resource Center, whose collaboration with faculty is deemed pioneering nationwide.

Living Better, Living Longer: Addressing the Global Challenge of Health & Wellness Across the Lifespan

Lead Submitter: Li Li Ji, Kinesiology

How can we effectively marshal our world-class resources to transform the issues facing an aging population across the lifespan, addressing the challenges of aging while a person ages (proactive) instead of taking an end-of-life approach (reactive)?

The School of Kinesiology is uniquely positioned to answer and illuminate solutions aimed at meeting this Grand Challenge. With myriad and diverse expertise, the School of Kinesiology can cohesively create —and proposes to establish—a Center for Research on Active Aging (CRAA), aligning University faculty, our local healthcare industry, and international collaborators to address this global challenge of aging well. The center’s distribution of research can be transferred across systems and will seek applications in healthcare industry, education, and government and will provide service locally through outreach, education, and testing. Our financial model is based upon research funding and discovery-to-market opportunities, including partnership with corporate enterprises and subscription services.

Educational Equity, Transnational Youth, and Local Solutions to International Challenges

Lead Submitter: Kendall King, Professor of Second Language Education, Curriculum & Instruction
Co-Submitters: Martha Bigelow, Curriculum & Instruction; Elaine Tarone, CARLA

Minnesota is home to the largest population of East African immigrant and refugee youth in the country. A central challenge is to ensure educational equity and opportunity for these transnational youth through research, curriculum and policy that lead to effective integration and productive future lives for this group. This proposal will research, harness, coordinate, and further develop existing resources at the University to meet the challenge of providing educational equity and post-secondary opportunities for transnational youth, thereby providing local solutions to international problems.

This challenge builds on current faculty strength and leadership assets. In addition to extensive faculty research, the presence of East African communities here has inspired many students to engage in research. Presently, much of this work happens independently. This GC allows for expanded synergy across research, curriculum development, and teaching efforts. This initiative is sustainable because it is built upon faculty strengths, developed over years of engagement.

Digital Wayfinding: Understanding, Exploring, and Engaging for Everyone

Lead Submitter: Joseph A. Konstan, Distinguished McKnight Professor and Distinguished University Teaching Professor, Computer Science and Engineering
Co-Submitter: Lana Yarosh, Computer Science and Engineering

In the physical world, wayfinding is figuring out where you are in your environment, where you want to be, and how to get there from here. We define “digital wayfinding” as the process of understanding your context, identifying your goals, and achieving those goals in a digital terrain. Most people today are inadequately prepared for challenges such as evaluating digital content and context, personal science and engineering, and moving from digital consumers to digital actors demand that we develop and broadly disseminate digital wayfinding skills.

The U of M is particularly well-positioned to address this Grand Challenge. We have faculty strength in the diverse disciplines of communication, computing technology, innovative digital humanities, personal health, and other application areas. The U has made significant recent investments in design, social computing, and informatics. Minnesota’s medical device industry embraces the “quantified self” and Minnesota has a tradition of community engagement and action.

Fostering Successful Transitions to Adulthood Locally and Globally

Lead Submitter: Deborah Levison, Social Policy
Co-Submitters: Ragui Assaad, Global Policy; Laura Bloomberg, Humphrey School of Public Affairs; Liz Boyle, Sociology; Karen Brown, ICGC; Emily Bruce, UM-Morris; MJ Maynes, History; Joan DeJaeghere, OLPD; Barb McMorris, Nursing; Ann Meier, Soc; Jeylan Mortimer, Sociology; Roozbeh Shirazi, OLPD; Fran Vavrus, OLPD; Rob Warren, Sociology

Successful transitions to adulthood are the linchpin to the future security of local and global communities. Negotiating successful transitions requires positive future orientations (optimism, efficacy, goal setting), acquiring relevant education, defined pathways to work, and the resources needed for family formation; however, large numbers of youth lack requisite personal and social resources.

The University of Minnesota is particularly well positioned to examine inequalities in this multifaceted issue through its cutting-edge ongoing research about youth transitions—including many aspects of learning, working, and family formation—across its colleges and disciplines. The Youth Development Study (Life Course Center, CLA), the Learn-Earn-Save initiative (CEHD), Partnering for Healthy Student Outcomes (Nursing-Pediatrics), and work by Assaad and Levison on youth employment (HHH) exemplify this research. Connections among these efforts were fostered by two recent interdisciplinary collaborations sponsored by IAS and ICGC, creating synergies primed for further development in a Grand Challenges research strategy.

Images of “Humanity” for the 21st Century

Lead Submitter: Alan C. Love, Associate Professor, Philosophy
Co-Submitters: Mark Borrello, Program in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine; Michael Travisano, Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior

A characteristic feature of the 20th century was the growing gap between scientific images of humanity and those traditionally found in different cultures and societies. Many complex societal problems derive from blurred images of humanity that encourage an overreliance on technological solutions or increasing tribalism. We need stereoscopic images that combine perspectives from across cultures, societies, and the sciences. This requires organizing expertise from multiple disciplines to generate a balance of perspectives that have local relevance and global impact.

The University of Minnesota is poised to lead from its signature research strengths in identifying images of humanity for the 21st century that address societal problems, such as by marshaling psychology, nutrition science, and metabolic genetics to combat obesity. These efforts must be sustained over time through diverse avenues of funding because they touch a nerve close to each and every one of us—what does it mean to be human?

Sound Studies

Lead Submitter: Matthew Rahaim, Music
Co-Submitters: William Beeman, Anthropology; Michael Gallope, Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature; Sumanth Gopinath, Music; Elliott Powell, American Studies; Diane Willow, Art

Over the past century, new technologies have profoundly changed both what we hear and the way we listen. Recording, radio, amplification, portable music players, smart phones, and streaming audio have dramatically broadened the scope of sonic life worldwide. Drawing from the arts, humanities, and the sciences alike, the expanding interdisciplinary field of Sound Studies is centrally concerned with understanding the complex nature of these changes. It is especially poised to address the new ways that powerful phenomena like political chatter, religious oratory, and collective musical expression can be understood to connect Minnesota’s communities to larger global social, political, and cultural movements.

The University of Minnesota is unique in its existing faculty strengths in Sound Studies. In recent years, it has gathered nearly 40 tenure-line faculty in 22 different units across the University whose research engages sound. Several members of the faculty are emerging intellectual and creative leaders in this interdisciplinary field.

Going Up North, A Northern I-35 Research Corridor

Lead Submitter: Paul L. Ranelli, Professor, Social Pharmacy, Pharmacy Practice & Pharmaceutical Sciences

Start a vibrant research corridor, moving north from the Twin Cities campus, with the Duluth campus and city as the northern anchor. Focus on all areas of research, especially where there is strong rural and community needs, including health care services, the business of health care, engineering and related fields, the environment, basic sciences, and tourism. The northern corridor is ripe for research and development initiatives. It’s a Grand Challenge.

Going Up North is a win-win on several fronts. The Twin Cities campus is metro-centric, as maybe it should be; however, the University System needs to develop strong corridors of research and development for the entire state, including the Northland. Expansion of a statewide vision will enhance the University’s reputation publically and privately. Nothing will help state legislative initiatives and national grant initiatives more than evidence of statewide coverage by including other campuses and communities up-front.

Educational Equity and Achievement Gaps

Lead Submitter: Michael C. Rodriguez, Campbell Leadership Chair in Education & Human Development; Professor, Educational Psychology

Educational equity (addressing achievement gaps) is a Grand Challenge. At the UofM, we take a cradle-to-career view of educational equity in access, opportunities, and outcomes. We work on larger issues of equity through the lens of evidence, focused on the production of knowledge, linking theory and research to practice to inform practice and policy. Evidence is the unique contribution of the University in this arena, including expertise from supporting policy scholarship on health, housing, transportation, and economic development. As a Grand Challenge, educational equity is a local, state, and national issue. Minnesota faces some of the largest achievement gaps in the country.

As we move away from “What works” to “What works for whom, under what conditions and contexts,” the notion of tailoring evidence-based practices and policies to meet local needs is powerful, including areas of significant expertise—Experts@Minnesota identifies over 140 faculty and researchers with relevant expertise.

Social Conflict

Lead Submitter: Terry Roe, Applied Economics

The Arab Spring, the massive movement of migrants to Western countries, and social conflict in our own society reflect the failure of institutions to help arbitrate social differences in beliefs and to deal with growing imbalances in wealth within and between countries. These changing economic conditions are broad based. Globalization of the world economy affects the returns to resources and income streams in all countries. It confronts entrenched social beliefs with those of other societies on a scale never seen before and skews the income stream to selected elements of society.

The University is well placed to address social conflict and its sources if it were better able to coordinate its strengths in the social sciences, including but not limited to the School of Public Affairs and the departments of Political Science, Economics, and Applied Economics. This multidisciplinary effort might best be coordinated by the Graduate School. These units also have various international connections and activities which suggests the possibility of making such a thrust to have an international dimension.

Transforming STEM Education through Research Partnerships Spanning Kindergarten to the PhD

Lead Submitters: Karl Smith and Kathleen Cramer, Co-Executive Directors, STEM Education Research Center
Co-Submitters: Robin Wright, College of Biological Science; Mike White, Greg Cuomo, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; Frank Symons, College of Education & Human Development; and Mos Kaveh and Paul Strykowski, College of Science and Engineering; and Kris Gorman, Center for Educational Innovation.

Numerous reports call for transformational change in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in the U.S. in order to increase the number and quality of STEM graduates. Our proposal advocates for a University-wide research and innovation center to (1) develop the body of knowledge of evidence-based teaching practices that prepare a broad range of STEM graduates, and (2) to foster a culture of innovation to help transform the practices of STEM faculty.

This approach will allow the University of Minnesota to enhance our own educational practices while impacting practices preK-PhD nationally. We have faculty across the institution who are passionate about delivering high quality evidence-based education and we are an emerging international leader in STEM education research and innovation. These strengths span multiple colleges; however, currently there is little coordination or collaboration. Working together we can advance the state of the art of STEM education.

Multilingualism and Knowledge Discovery in a Globalized Century

Lead Submitter: Elaine Tarone, Distinguished Teaching Professor, CARLA (GPS Alliance)
Co-Submitters: Carol Klee, Spanish & Portuguese; Charlotte Melin, German, Scandinavian and Dutch; Dan Soneson, CLA Language Center

Global knowledge-creation depends on the ability to engage effectively in multilingual, multicultural contexts; the goal of this GC is to foster knowledge creation in deeper and more inclusive ways across disciplines, languages, and cultures. The University community needs to better understand and find ways to improve the multilingual and multicultural skills of faculty, students, and decision-makers. Interdisciplinary research is needed to better understand the cognitive and social dimensions of developing multilingual minds, and applied research befitting the University of Minnesota’s land grant mission is needed to use that growing knowledge base to improve the quality of multilingual education in Minnesota’s K–12 and postsecondary contexts.

This proposal capitalizes on current faculty strength and leadership assets in world languages and cultures, and would create synergy across faculty and graduate student research initiatives, building on headway already established by CARLA, the Language Flagship Proficiency PACE project, and C&I faculty in second language education.

Creating a Community of Ethical Agents

Lead Submitter: Valerie Tiberius, Philosophy

Solving any major problem, whether it’s climate change, poverty, or cancer, requires people who are motivated to solve it. What motivates people to make ethical, socially desirable choices and how can these motives be cultivated? This is a challenge that lies behind efforts to tackle other grand challenges. It is also a challenge for any diverse community of individuals with competing interests, and one that raises particular questions for the University: What ethical obligations and constraints does the university face with respect to encouraging students to make ethical and socially desirable choices? What form should ethics training in professional schools take?

The University of Minnesota is an ideal place to investigate these questions because of faculty expertise in ethics, character, and volunteer motives; numerous professional schools with a genuine interest in the ethics of their graduates; and widespread concern about the ethical role of the University in light of some recent events.

Revolutionizing Mathematical Understanding

Lead Submitters: Sashank Varma, Associate Professor, Educational Psychology; Michèle Mazzocco, Professor, Institute for Child Development; Kathleen Cramer, Associate Professor, Curriculum and Instruction

The proposed challenge has the goal of making rapid progress towards understanding both what mathematics is and how best to teach it. Faculty in mathematics, philosophy, educational psychology, developmental psychology, and mathematics education are already engaging in innovative research. The proposed challenge will organize their efforts across four strands: Conceptual foundations. What are the philosophical and historical foundations of mathematics? Mental and neural mechanisms. What mental representations and processes underlie mathematical thinking, and what are their neural correlates? Mathematics education. How can we apply this understanding to increase mathematical achievement in Minnesota schoolchildren? STEM training. How can we extend this application to improve STEM training of University students?

The proposed implementation will marshal faculty from across the U; spur new collaborations that attract external funding; initiate a new Mathematical Studies interdisciplinary graduate minor; and produce robust, sustainable institutional structures for supporting research and community outreach.


Lead Submitter: Christophe Wall-Romana, French and Italian

Global culture, and academic culture too, now favors a one speed fits all: rapid changes, urgent challenges, quick results, accelerated profits, expedient postures, immediately applicable outcomes. Slower practices are becoming invisible: threatened species. How historical wrongs can be mitigated or repaired is a burning geopolitical question (Syrian refugees) without quick fix. Chronodiversity cultivates and studies the variety of time scales of human processes, natural processes, and their interactions.

Humanities, art, faith, personal development, cosmology, ecosystem analysis, epidemics, social justice, and, yes, research and education, take their own time, cannot be summoned. The result-driven ethos minoritizes practices at multiple time frames. This sustainable and distinctive grand challenge recruits sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities to foster and publicize exchanges between dancers, lexicographers, astronomers, theologians, genome researchers, and social planners as a platform for thoughtfully reappraising time as our multifaceted resource, whether as individuals, communities, knowledge seekers, or the global commons.

In an Era of Abundant Data, Are Communities’ Essential Information Needs Being Met?

Lead Submitter: Brendan R. Watson, Assistant Professor, School of Journalism & Mass Communication
Co-Submitter: Seth C. Lewis, Journalism & Mass Communication

Information needs are defined as a gap between existing knowledge and knowledge needed to address more fundamental community needs like housing and safety. While data and information are abundant, according to the Federal Communication Commission, the decline of local news reporting and the rise of dubious online sources have exacerbated gaps in access to local information that people need to address fundamental community needs. In this “Grand Challenge,” we propose evaluating whether communities’ information needs are being met, the University’s role in fulfilling those needs, and the impact that closing information gaps has on improving public life.

These questions engage diverse disciplines in addition to mass communication: psychology (information search/processing); sociology (community and institutions); political science (civic/political engagement); computer science (information systems/retrieval); and law and public affairs (communication policy). They also capitalize on outreach centers, such as the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs and the Minnesota Journalism Center.

Digital Data Health Collaborative

Lead Submitter: Rebecca Wurtz, School of Public Health

Only a small proportion of health takes place within the confines of the health care system. A much larger proportion of our health is determined by who we are and what we do. Huge amounts of data about an individual’s exposures and activities are generated in the course of daily life in the digital age: data from commercial interactions (e.g., the purchase of groceries or outdoor equipment); activity data recorded by smart phones; Facebook and blog posts, etc. This “life course” data is more structured and more accessible than electronic medical data.

We propose a University-community collaborative to capture digital life course data generated by a cohort of Minnesotans over the next 30 years. Opportunities for scholarship—and impact beyond the University—abound. A few examples: Computer Science: advanced techniques for complex data storage; Mathematics: de-duplication and de-identification; Economics: the relationship between income and health; Public Health: epidemiology of individuals and populations; Design: visual display of data; CFANS: nutrients and cancer prevention on an individual-by-individual basis; and the Medical School’s Program in Translational Genomics.