Climate change, urbanization, and social tensions have damaged communities, constrained resources, forced migrations, and caused cascading failures around the world. Cities and their rural hinterlands across the world are struggling to retain livelihoods, lifelines, health, infrastructures, ecosystems, and economies in a sustainable manner. Resilience in this context refers to the ability to reduce fragility during and recover effectively after extremes or stresses, while also investing in preparedness and mitigation, in a way that preserves lives and assets while ensuring continued progress and prosperity. From building back better and designing financial incentives to developing nature-inspired systems and equitable social capital, resilience strategies need to be multifaceted and interdisciplinary. Northeastern University (NU) has responded to these threats by investing in global resilience over the last several years. Based on the foundations laid by the founding director Prof. Stephen Flynn, the Global Resilience Institute (GRI) continues to lead new and important convergence research across colleges and disciplines. Ensuring that our approach keeps up with the challenges, the GRI is transitioning to a new structure, where Profs. Auroop Ganguly and Daniel Aldrich will serve as co-Directors and Prof. Flynn will lead the Global Resilience Research Network (GRRN).
We envision the GRI as a forum for encouraging not only cross college and transdisciplinary collaboration within Northeastern University, but also global collaboration, that is, a way to bring the resources of natural scientists and engineers, climate modelers and data scientists, social scientists and financial experts, as well as policy experts and others from around the world interested in developing solutions in to pressing societal priorities such as climate risks and infrastructural resilience. We view climate resilience as a convergence of complexities, ranging from chaos and variability in earth sciences to cascading failures in lifeline engineering and tragedy of the commons in social sciences or policy. Our vision of solutions include but are not limited to the integration of process knowledge, such as from physics, biogeochemistry, ecology and economics, and principles, such as from the engineering and the social sciences, along with data-driven sciences such as nonlinear dynamics, network sciences, machine learning, computer vision, and agent-based modeling. We hope to build the capabilities in a way such that leading edge science and technology and policy solutions, along with financial instruments and economic frameworks, can be brought together with frugal innovation and equitable principles in a spirit of global cooperation.
Our vision has three main components:
- The GRI will continue to advance its global and national reputation and thought leadership through the development of multi-faculty research products as well as growing investments in novel interdisciplinary capabilities for responding to strategic opportunities.
- The Institute will further develop and sharpen the “Global” aspect of GRI by building a base for sustained “North-North,” “North-South” and “South-South” collaborations in the resilience space with NU-GRI as a major global resilience hub.
- The GRI will serve as a startup launchpad by leveraging NU-based and/or NU affiliated (including NU alum) companies, the structure of NU’s Center for Research Innovation (CRI), and NU connections with the private and public sector as well as government laboratories and federal agencies.
We aspire to do so through:
- An interdisciplinary steering committee of advisers made up of NU faculty, along with faculty and non-NU affiliates, who will shape the future incarnation of GRI both in terms of the content and structure;
- Engagement through targeted and incentivized interdisciplinary and cross-college research and development efforts leading to capabilities, products, and community engagements;
- Development of future cohorts of GRI-affiliated postdoctoral students mentored by members of the steering committee, with co-mentoring from our community, industry, and government partners.
We invite all interested faculty to join us as we build the next generation of the Global Resilience Institute not just to establish Northeastern University as a leader but to help develop and facilitate multifaceted solutions for a complex societal priority which has been called as the defining problem of our times.
Daniel P. Aldrich, Ph.D. and Auroop Ganguly, Ph.D.