October 2019 — Current

Open Knowledge Network

Conservation Biology Institute wins award from National Science Foundation to help prototype an "open knowledge network" for spatial decision support technologies

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John Gallo, Ph.D.
Senior Scientist
707-962-9078

Conservation Biology Institute is a partner in a new $1 million grant from a new interdisciplinary NSF program to foster building an "open knowledge network." The inspiration for this type of network comes from Tim Berners-Lee's (best known founder of the World-wide Web) vision for the "semantic web," which applies tags with relationships to information on the Internet, allowing computers to do basic reasoning for improving search results and answering questions. Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, and Google's Assistant all use these technologies.

Dr. John Gallo co-wrote the proposal and leads CBI’s participation in the team of 13 researchers and practitioners from 10 other institutions. The team is focused on improving access and contributions to tools for analyzing geographic data called spatial decision support systems. "The proliferation of online mapping technologies has greatly increased access to and utility of these kinds of tools, and a logical next step is increasing our ability to find the appropriate data and tools for your problem and link these together for more complex analyses," says Principal Investigator Sean Gordon of Portland State University. Through engaging stakeholders in three applied case studies (the management of wildland fire, water quality, and biodiversity conservation), the interdisciplinary project team will develop and test participatory and automated methods for finding and sharing decision-relevant information using semantic web technologies.

The new NSF Convergence Accelerator program is named for its focus on bringing together interdisciplinary teams to address one of NSF's 10 big ideas, specifically "Harnessing the Data Revolution", also known as building an Open Knowledge Network. Eighteen other of these phase 1 grants were made, covering areas from molecular manufacturing to tracking potentially disruptive solar phenomena. The "accelerator" part comes from the short time frame. "The application required a 3-week turn around, which is very quick for a NSF grant," Gordon said. "Our success was largely due to having formed the Spatial Decision Support Consortium, a professional networking group four years ago, so we had ideas and people ready to go." Each phase 1 project is eligible to submit a phase 2 proposal for up to $5 million by next March, and the process will include giving a short "pitch" talk to a panel of experts and potential funders, much like a venture capital approach.  

 
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