Future Idaho NSF EPSCoR Research

Proposed Research Topic:                                  Energy-water security and resilience to climate, social, and technological change

Grand research challenge to be addressed: This proposed project aims to advance the resilience of energy-water systems in relation to climate, social, and technological change to support energy security for diverse societal needs.

Major research challenge

Energy and water are fundamental to daily life, and their systems are integrated with critical infrastructure for national security. Energy and water resources are also undergoing wide-ranging threats in connection to highly variable environmental conditions and emerging demands that includes a need for modernization. As the frequency of extreme weather events has grown, the U.S. population also increased by 18%, placing further stress on energy-water systems and related infrastructure. In addition to the pace and scale in the disruption of energy and water systems, there are compounding needs and opportunities to modernize critical infrastructure and to address questions of governance that account for unequal access, especially as resources become scarcer. With such dynamic interactions across the energy-water systems, there is a need for a more robust understanding of the interdependencies, feedbacks and cascading effects across these systems that are increasingly complex and interconnected. 

Major research question

How do we proactively identify sustainable configurations of energy-water production, transmission, and use that recognizes and incorporates:

  1. Transformative change from climate variability including natural hazards,
  2. The tight coupling of energy systems with water systems, and
  3. Unequal energy security among communities?

Potential research areas or 'tracks'

  • Track 1 - Characterizing, modeling, and assessing energy-water systems and their resilience.
  • Track 2 - Forecasting and assessing disruptive climate, social, and technological change in energy-water systems. 
  • Track 3 - Understanding, characterizing and evaluating knowledge production and governance of energy-water systems with a focus on fair and inclusive access to resources and tensions in decision-making and inequality.
  • Track 4 - Characterizing resilient configurations and solutions for energy-water resilience. 

Capacity Building

The research topic will support a five-year research, education, and workforce development program to enhance and build Idaho's research competitiveness in energy-water science, computational modeling, natural hazards, and transdisciplinary approaches. 

Idaho will be eligible to submit one Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) Track-1 proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF) in August 2022. The Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Track-1 awards "provide up to $20 million total over five years to support research-driven improvements to jurisdictions' physical and cyber infrastructure and human capital development in topical areas selected by the jurisdiction's EPSCoR steering committee as having the best potential to improve future R&D competitiveness." Idaho's proposal development process for the next RII Track-1 project (2023-2028) is led by the Idaho EPSCoR Office.

A first step in the process is to conduct a strategic "analysis of R&D strengths, the opportunities that exist to further develop R&D capacity, and the challenges that must be overcome to take advantage of those opportunities. The steering committee will have evaluated the maturity of existing R&D efforts in the jurisdiction as well as the potential of new research directions that align with jurisdictional needs."

The virtual statewide Listening Sessions are to allow faculty and staff at Idaho's research universities to: 1) hear about NSF EPSCoR Track-1 priorities and process, 2) learn about Idaho's initial efforts of strategic analysis of research strengths, and 3) share thoughts on research strengths, opportunities, and possible State research priorities for this decade.

Listening Session Presentation
March 31, 2021

A next step in the process is to identify "topical areas" (i.e., research themes) that could provide a compelling research focus for an RII Track-1 proposal. As stated in NSF 20-571:

All elements of the project design are expected to advance the proposal's overarching vision and serve to improve the jurisdiction’s overall R&D competitiveness in the chosen topical area(s)… Research conducted as part of an RII Track-1 project should be hypothesis- and/or problem-driven. Research in areas of recognized national or global interest is encouraged. Appropriate research topics are those that benefit from a comprehensive and integrative approach, typically relating to a scientific area of significant regional or jurisdictional importance.

The Brainstorming Sessions are to allow faculty and staff at Idaho's research universities to: 1) hear about Idaho's NSF RII Track-1 priorities and process, 2) learn about Idaho's initial broad statement of a potential topical area for an RII Track-1, and 3) provide feedback and share ideas for Idaho's RII Track-1 research topical areas.

Brainstorming Session Presentation
May 10, 2021

 PDF of Brainstorming Session Presentation

June 9, 2021