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Dear Colleague Letter: CiviL Infrastructure research for climate change Mitigation and Adaptation (CLIMA)
April 3, 2023
The civil infrastructure sector is a major component of the global economy and provides employment for millions of people in the USA and worldwide. For example, the construction industry alone employs more than 7 million people in the USA and almost 300 million worldwide. Also, construction, operation, maintenance, retrofit, and decommissioning of physical infrastructure systems account for a significant portion of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in economically developed countries and even more so in economically underdeveloped countries.
Civil infrastructure investments are among the largest capital investments by both the public and private sectors and are expected to fulfill their intended function for several decades. As such, there continues to be a compelling economic and operational need to extend the service life of existing civil infrastructure and to develop new civil infrastructure to stimulate and sustain continuing economic growth and prosperity in both urban and rural areas as well as to accommodate population growth, mobility, safety, security, and overall quality of life.
Production of infrastructure materials and construction processes are energy intensive, and they are estimated to contribute about one-third of the worldwide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. They also lead to the disruption of various natural ecosystems, e.g., deforestation due to wood harvesting and depletion of riverbeds caused by sand and gravel mining. Furthermore, civil infrastructure systems contribute significant GHG emissions during their entire lifecycle for operation/maintenance and they need to continuously adapt to environmental and societal changes.
Increased GHG emissions are associated with increased average planet temperature, rise in sea levels, and a change in weather patterns featuring more extremes, e.g. long periods of droughts, intense precipitations, more frequent hurricanes and tornados. Under these conditions, flooding in coastal regions has increased in frequency and has created significant temporary and permanent damage to civil infrastructure, which has adversely affected communities. As other times in the history of humanity, global changes require for humans to adapt to these new conditions by retreating from less habitable places, strengthening the resilience of existing infrastructure, designing new infrastructure under evolving conditions of operations, and taking full as well as prompt advantage of technology innovation.
Any successful strategy seeking to mitigate the anthropogenic contributions to climate change and to implement adaptation solutions that increase the resilience of communities must include civil infrastructure innovation. Balancing civil infrastructure needs with the associated social and environmental effects is increasingly more challenging due to the increase of natural hazard risks exacerbated by climate change and by progressive infrastructure aging and deterioration. Furthermore, infrastructure aging and deterioration disproportionately affect marginalized, low-income communities that are not considered priorities in typical civil infrastructure investments.
This Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) is intended to stimulate forward-thinking, convergent, ambitious civil infrastructure research on transformative ideas or approaches that will contribute equitable solutions to climate change mitigation and/or adaptation. CLIMA proposals should develop novel, creative, and fundamental approaches drawing from multiple scientific fields to create holistic pathways to infrastructure and community resilience, social equity, and improved long-term performance. The Foundation seeks the contribution of interdisciplinary teams with expertise in the research areas of the participating core programs listed at the end of this document. Proposals suitable for submission to individual programs will not be considered responsive to this DCL.
With the CLIMA DCL, the Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI) of the Directorate for Engineering (ENG) invites the submission of EArly-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) proposals, research proposals engaging more than one of the participating core programs, and conference proposals that address the sustainability, resilience, equity, and accessibility of civil infrastructure under the evolving conditions induced by climate change.
Proposals will be accepted at any time, but they should be submitted by May 31, 2023 for full consideration for FY 2023 funding.
Areas of Interest
Research proposals in a wide range of areas and employing diverse methods are encouraged. Projects must focus on fundamental research that advances the scientific understanding of supply chains and must be responsive to one or more of the core programs listed above. Potential topics of interest include, but are not limited to:
Computational and data-driven methods that provide transparency and insight into the competitive behavior arising from the multilayer network structure of supply chains.
New physical and cyber infrastructure to support the design of products, systems, and services and the supply chains that produce and distribute them.
Methods and cyber infrastructure that will allow firms of different sizes and competencies to participate in global supply chains in an economically sustainable manner.