The Global Resilience Institute (GRI) at Northeastern University is an initiative involving all nine of its colleges, making Northeastern the first university to establish resilience as a university-wide focus.
GRI is underwritten by a major internal investment that positions it to undertake resilience-related initiatives that will contribute to the safety, security, sustainability, health and well-being of individuals, communities, systems, and societies. Northeastern is uniquely positioned to undertake this effort because of its pursuit of research that focuses on discovering solutions to the global challenges in health, sustainability and security. Additionally, it is home to professors and research centers that have been making widely recognized contributions to resilience scholarship and public policy.
The FY19 submissions period has closed and the 2018 seed funding awards are detailed below!
2018 Funded Teams
Interrogating resilience: An analysis of inequality and vulnerability in pre-Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico
Disasters reveal the vulnerability, inequality, and power embedded within the fabric of any society. Hurricane Maria exposed Puerto Rico’s inherent vulnerability to climate change as an island territory. The widespread power outages in the wake of the storm also revealed deep inequalities with respect to the distribution of resources around the territory. Moreover, the hurricane uncovered ways in which Puerto Rico’s unique positionality as a colonial territory of the United States creates barriers to a rapid recovery. In the face of disasters such as Hurricane Maria, a resilience discourse inevitably emerges as a critique of pre-disaster preparation. Resilience narratives inform both ex ante approaches to policymaking in advance of extreme events and ex post facto recovery efforts. Proponents often argue that policymakers must increase community or energy system resilience without questioning the normative nature of resilience. The project asks whether a reliance on existing conceptions of resilience unwittingly creates blind spots that exacerbate vulnerability, harden unequal social structures, and perpetuate power imbalances. By interrogating resilience in the context of pre-Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico, this research fills important gaps in both the energy justice and climate adaptation literatures, where pre-existing vulnerability, inequality, and power are not adequately addressed.
Establishing the Center on Crime and Community Resilience
Northeastern University is in the process of establishing the Center on Crime and Community Resilience. As described below, the Center will collaborate with the City of Boston to understand and address persistent public safety problems. The establishment of this research infrastructure will better position Northeastern to acquire external funding to support action-oriented research on crime and community resilience issues in other cities across the U.S. and internationally. The requested seed funding will support the hire of an Executive Director and one PhD student during the Center’s first year of existence. We anticipate making a “soft launch” of the Center during spring 2018 and formalize its operations at Northeastern over the course of the 2018-2019 academic year. The Co-PIs will work with the Executive Director to develop meaningful research partnerships with faculty and students across the nine colleges, work with City of Boston officials to initiate specific action research projects, and create external funding opportunities for projects in other cities. The Co-PIs will work with the GRI-supported PhD student on a specific Boston-based action research project during summer 2018. The Center will become a key GRI partner to support its university-wide interdisciplinary effort to advance resilience-related initiatives at Northeastern and beyond.
Creating a resilient Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet-of-Things (IoT) revolution promises a future defined by pervasive computing. The integration of networked computers and everyday objects and artifacts creates new opportunities for entrepreneurship, innovative services, and efficiencies. The development of IoT, however, also creates significant resilience challenges. Creating a resilient IoT is an open and pressing challenge that calls for research that crosses traditional disciplinary boundaries and joins engineering, computer science, and the social sciences. The project views the emerging IoT as a socio-technical system: a set of technologies and practices that are embedded within larger economic, legal, political institutions. The embedded approach highlights the ways in which resilient IoT practices can be alternately supported or dampened by these larger currents. The proposed project convenes an interdisciplinary team of Northeastern faculty and researchers to investigate the ways in which resilient practices can be encouraged through technical innovation and institutional design. The project is both diagnostic and normative: it examines the current state of play—exploring why and how resilient IoT practices are or are not currently being adopted and deployed; and it investigates the sorts of technical and institutional changes that can help to achieve a resilient IoT.
Developing a social-media based methodology for measuring and observing the social resilience of communities
We will develop a set of methods that leverage social media data—specifically Twitter activity—to quantify the social networks and processes of geographically-based communities. Social networks and processes are central to the question of resilience, but they are often measured using surveys, which are both expensive to conduct and take extended periods of time. This greatly limits our ability to track them over time or to observe the activation during disruptive events. Our project will provide a novel vantage point on social resilience that is both cheaper and potentially capable of observing the social dynamics of communities in real time. It will enable original research and policies that seek to understand and support communities under both long-term and acute duress. The interdisciplinary team, which features representatives from the Colleges of Social Sciences and Humanities, Engineering, and Computer and Information Science, combines ways of thinking about the social organization of urban neighborhoods, networks and resilience, the proper use and interpretation of modern digital data, and computer-scientific gathering and processing of such information.
Maximizing resilience for people living with physical disability
Stroke is the leading cause of disability. The fastest rising stroke population is younger individuals, <55 years-old, who are still in the “prime” of their lives, contributing to the global workforce, and serving as family providers. Little is known about the post-stroke needs of younger individuals, who, unlike older individuals, must continue to serve as caregivers despite their own disability. Long-term disability resulting from young onset stroke therefore represents a global challenge, with little information to support the development and implementation of comprehensive resilient solutions. We are requesting seed funding to measure and model the key physical, cognitive, and affective factors that impact functional capacity of younger and older individuals with stroke in a home-based setting. We will utilize the NU Home Laboratory, specially designed for behavioral monitoring in a realistic home environment, to gain insights about functional capacity that cannot be revealed in a traditional laboratory setting. This multifactorial assessment of the specific impairment characteristics that most strongly influence function status requires an interdisciplinary team with skills in movement and cognitive analysis, remote sensing, and predictive modeling. This project represents a first step toward creating resilience to the burden of young onset stroke on individuals, families, communities and society.
Resilience media: Reporting on coastal cities and climate change
In this project, we examine the dynamics of news media ecosystems on coastal cities as they relate to climate change and resilience. We analyze how news organizations are reporting on the threats posed by climate change to coastal cities, assessing national outlets like the New York Times, National Public Radio, the Guardian, and Washington Post; major urban outlets such as the Houston Chronicle, Vancouver Sun, Miami Herald, and Boston Globe; and specialized outlets such as ProPublica, the Texas Tribune, and Climate Central. We demonstrate why high quality public affairs journalism is essential to collective decisions about coastal resilience, identifying best practices and weaknesses in coverage. To do so, we synthesize available scholarship, assess patterns in coverage, and conduct interviews with journalists and experts. In partnership with the Boston Area Research Initiative (BARI), we develop models for more data-driven, forward-thinking news coverage, and we explore uses of open data in public communication. We also interview philanthropists who are investing in new models of non-profit journalism such as ClimateCentral. Our research will result in a report released jointly by the Global Resilience Institute and Harvard’s Shorenstein Center; a special issue of the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Communication; and other studies and commentaries. We will define an agenda for externally funded research and position GRI to become a national leader at the intersection of media, communications and resilience, laying the groundwork for a potential Resilience Media Lab
Coastal flooding prediction and mitigation: Integrating high-fidelity computer models with field observations
The rapid growth of coastal cities and communities is increasing the vulnerability of people and infrastructure to flood hazard. Developing social and civil infrastructure that is resilient to flooding, storm surge, and accelerating sea-level rise remains a monumental challenge that requires us to leverage large datasets and state-of-the-art computer simulations, but we currently lack an integrated framework for the prediction and assessment of coastal flood hazard that takes advantage of modern computational resources. Here, we propose to develop a unified and standardized flood hazard assessment system that integrates high-fidelity computer models with field observations. We will focus on two urban mega-regions, Boston and New York, where we will (i) develop state-of-the-art storm surge, wind wave and sediment transport models and validate against field observations, and (ii) apply data mining and deep learning technology to both field and simulation data to improve our understanding of coastal flood hazard and test adaptation strategies. The proposed research develops an innovative and interdisciplinary approach that will transform coastal flood hazard assessments, and improve societal preparedness and resilience to flooding. We will use this collaborative framework to seek external funding from federal (NSF, NOAA, FEMA, USACE) and state agencies.
Community resilience to combat opioid addiction crisis
In recent years, the addiction and abuse of prescription opioids has reached an epidemic level in the U.S. , as the number of drug overdose-related deaths has quadrupled since 1999. This epidemic worsens health, drains productivity, and procreates crime; communities suffer significant direct and indirect losses. Given this public health emergency, immediate actions are required to make communities resilient against the opioid addiction epidemic. To that end, we aim to strengthen community resilience to combat the opioid crisis through a two-pronged approach entailing – 1) developing a risk assessment tool to help physicians generate personalized opioid prescriptions for patients, which will help reduce the flow of opioids and minimize a patient’s probability of addiction and overdose, and 2) designing an incentive distribution model for prescription opioid users to return unused pills and minimize the use of prescription opioids by secondary users. Our agenda is to initially implement this approach in Massachusetts and later expand it to other highly afflicted states. We will use this multidisciplinary project to secure interest for future funding from various funding agencies including the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), National Science Foundation (NSF), and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).
Resilience in Action Stipend
Massachusetts Opioid Crisis: Data-driven Approaches for Community Resilience Initiatives
Opioid overdoses claim the lives of six people a day in Massachusetts. Proactively addressing the epidemic via resilience initiatives is a step towards curtailing abuse and deaths. We plan to expand and scale evidence-based efforts to deploy a strategy against opioids, substance abuse, and rising overdose rates. The goal is to prioritize prevention, reduce risk factors, and promote resilient approaches for impacted groups. Study investigators’ strong connections with public-health practitioners and community engagement centers enable the proposed community-based prevention and intervention approaches.
2017 Funded Teams
Northeastern Collaborative on Resilient Energy (N-CORE)
The goal of the Northeastern Collaborative on Resilient Energy (N-CORE) is to facilitate new collaborative energy-related research across campus and catalyze the impact of university innovations. Despite a strong track-record of extensive research capacity in energy system resilience at Northeastern, mechanisms to connect, communicate, and coordinate energy related research and education among different departments and schools, and outside institutions, have been minimal. Establishing N-CORE will provide a campus-wide structure to facilitate collaborations and strengthen productive and impactful relationships among energy resilience researchers. This initial initiative involves co-PIs from five colleges, but the structure is inclusive and open with a goal of expanding the network of energy researchers so we expect the group to grow over time. Given the diversity of energy research expertise at Northeastern, seed funding is requested to support a series of events, meetings, and activities to catalyze a sustainable community of researchers to share ideas that will lead to the development of large, new collaborations and novel transdisciplinary research proposals. N-CORE will also actively explore the potential for establishing an externally funded Northeastern Energy Institute. N-CORE will also work to support interdisciplinary educational opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students that focus on energy.
Terrorism and international business: Building financial resilience
To date, there has been scant theoretical or empirical research on how terrorism affects business. Our project will answer four main questions about what we have coined as financial resilience: (1) How do businesses respond in the face of terrorism? (2) What are the determinants of their responses? (3) Which businesses are most resilient to terrorism? (4) And how can other businesses enhance their own resilience to terrorism? Our preliminary research indicates that family firms outperform other business types across numerous metrics due to superior social capital. Additionally, businesses appear to bolster their financial resilience by becoming more geographically dispersed and socially responsible. These incipient findings hold potentially profound implications for businesses around the world. With a mixed-methods research design, our project will rigorously test these and other novel propositions about financial resilience and thereby develop a new, actionable, substantively meaningful research agenda of genuine consequence to both academic and policy communities.
Measuring resilience for coastal adaptation
Leveraging a unique partnership with UNDP, this interdisciplinary project, drawing on the Co-PI’s backgrounds in international development, adaptation policy, and coastal resilience, will develop a framework of indicators to measure resilience in the context of coastal adaptation projects in developing countries. Building on evidence generated from the past ten years of UNDP experience with coastal adaptation projects as well as existing literature on measuring resilience, we will identify indicators that will address the efficacy, cost- effectiveness, and feasibility of various coastal adaptation investments and their contribution to coastal resilience. This framework will then be tested a coastal adaptation project implemented by UNDP. This study will advance the theoretical and empirical literature on resilience and will have direct policy impact through the engagement with UNDP and its government counterparts.
Women and resilience in moments of social crisis: A feminist perspective
This project explores networks of women strengthening community resilience as they respond to a diversity of different kinds of social crises. Through an interdisciplinary cross-scalar collaboration, the research team will focus on understanding the how women’s networks respond to disruptions. This pilot project will focus on the following 5 case studies: Mothers Out Front – An advocacy organization founded in 2013 to promote clean energy and advocate for local, state, and federal policies to address climate change. Moms Demand Action - A group founded in 2012, in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, to reduce gun violence and advocate for stricter gun control laws. Mothers Against Drunk Driving – An organization, founded in 1980 by a mother whose teenaged daughter was killed by a drunk driver, that has been extraordinarily successful in its mission to implement federal and state policies to eliminate drunk driving. Mothers of the Movement – A group of women whose African-American children have been killed by police or extrajudicial gun violence. Several members, including the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Sandra Bland have made appearances at key political and cultural events to speak out about violence against Black Americans. Women’s Movement – A grass-roots response to the election of and inauguration of Donald Trump, dedicated to advancing intersectional women’s political issues.
A ‘network of networks’ approach to multiscale dependence in critical infrastructure lifelines under resilience stressors
While the increasing complexity and intelligence of critical infrastructures enable us to make better decisions and reduce the associated risks with such decisions, these infrastructures themselves are at risk due to variety of factors including weather extreme, climate change, cyber-attacks, extreme changes in the operating environment. Therefore, developing thorough understanding of the dependence structure among extreme events is critical for evaluating the impact of stressors on infrastructure and natural systems (stressed systems), and human lives and economies (impacted systems). This project will develop a novel and efficient framework that will enable analytical prediction of complex behaviors, in response to system and policy changes. Our framework, including resilience focused methods and computational tools, will provide an improved understanding of the interdependencies created by the interactions between the physical, the cyber, and social, behavioral and economic elements of interdependent critical infrastructure systems.
Urban geosocial network resilience
Isolation is a main factor of stress that threatens urban resilience. Research on urban isolation has been focusing on the residence places without enough examination of the movements of urban dwellers. Treating urban neighborhoods as nodes and urban dwellers as links, we propose to understand urban mobility from a network perspective. The project aims to quantify, understand, and explore the resilience of geosocial networks by utilizing a unique, publicly available Twitter data across the 50 largest population centers in the United States. The objectives of the project include: 1) integrating large-scale urban informatics to examine urban mobility and the emerged geosocial networks; 2) systematically simulating different types of perturbation to urban geosocial networks; and 3) quantifying the impact of the perturbations on urban neighborhoods. The granularity and scale of this project will enable unprecedented quantitative examination of urban geosocial networks. Also, it will provide a new network analysis approach to examine urban resilience.
Safe places and politics of fear: An interdisciplinary investigation of “Sanctuary Cities”
This project considers ways that cities might become more resilient as they respond to various forms of oppression, human rights violations, and other unjust exercises of power worldwide. As an entry point to this issue, we focus on Boston and the concept of sanctuary cities. Our interdisciplinary research team will explore four aspects of the sanctuary cities concept and its implementation in Boston: (1) their philosophical grounding; (2) their intersecting legal frameworks, including infrastructure, immigrant status and law enforcement; (3) their impacts on health and well-being of city residents; and (4) their spatial dimensions. We will expand our knowledge base through engagement with local and national experts, convening a series of group consultations. Our team will initiate several pilot projects to further explore the impact and significance of the sanctuary city concept, leveraging ongoing research involving immigrants’ experiences of bias in Boston. Our exploration will involve travel to at least two other U.S. sanctuary cities to initiate a comparative analysis.
Science for longevity: Developing resilience to aging by curing arthritis
A progressive age related deterioration of the body compromises tissues and organs thereby causing irreversible damage and loss of functionality. Diseases of immobility are the most common cause of trauma to the physical and emotional well-being of older adults. Strategies to recuperate from joint injury or gradual musculoskeletal degeneration, can improve mobility, reduce depression, and promote greater independence in our elderly population. We propose to increase resilience in the aging population by developing novel ways of treating osteoarthritis (OA), the most common musculoskeletal disease and the leading cause of immobility. We will approach this challenge with a combination of scientific research and lifestyle management strategies. The project will examine fundamental questions such as why joint cells age, how diet and exercise influence joint aging, and what are the most effective and efficient therapies for delaying and treating osteoarthritis.
Modeling tools for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA)
National Geospatial Intelligence Agency’s (NGA) primary focus is to track and locate the movement of specific goods with a special interest in the detection of anomalies in the goods’ movements, which may indicate nefarious activity. NGA analysts need tools that aid them in real-time anomaly detection, including models that describe the complex system of global supply chains from the perspectives of technology, operations, policy, and governance. With these models, current behavior can then be compared in real-time with what is considered “normal” in order to detect anomalies. We propose to: (i) identify open source and commercially available data sources for modeling movement of goods over the global supply chain infrastructure; (ii) build models and pattern recognition algorithms to describe regular global supply chain operations (potentially for a subregion); and (iii) design a framework for unexpected movement detection in real time. The developed models and algorithms will be essential to the resilience of the system in that if there is an anomaly, localized targeted actions can be taken without disrupting the entire global system. Our ultimate goal is to build a proof of concept tool for NGA that will lead to longer term external funding for the continuation and extension of the research agenda.
Automated assessment of damaged environments due to extreme events using unmanned aerial vehicles
The economic growth and vitality of the United States relies fundamentally on having a sound, robust, and resilient infrastructure. However, after extreme events such as hurricanes, storm surge, or earthquakes, vulnerable structures often have significant damage or may be collapsed. The goal of this project is to transform the efficiency, fidelity, and safety of current critical infrastructure inspection methods by using machine intelligence through the development of autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles to document damage after extreme events. Building on prior work of the investigators related to automated inspection strategies of intact structures, the proposed research will provide new capabilities for automated damage assessment that can become key to documenting a damaged environment to facilitate a quick return to full functionality. We propose that small aerial robots, coupled with three-dimensional imaging and the state-of-the-art in planning, modeling, and analysis, will provide safe and efficient, high-precision assessment of damaged structures.
Bridging the gap: A proposal for a framework to integrate individual and community resilience to violence
Homicide remains the 2nd leading cause of death among those aged 15-24 and assault and youth violence costs our society more than $16 billion in medical and work loss costs annually. Where past scholarship on violence has remained divided by discipline (psychology and sociology, for example) and by level of analysis (split between individual and community levels), our team seeks to bridge these gaps and create a new, unified approach. Using mixed-methods approaches to identify the factors which create resilience to violence at the individual and community levels we will work with local partners to implement programs that enhance these factors among youth in high-burden communities in the northeast.