Four professors in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs (SPPUA) have received seed grants for their interdisciplinary research projects from Northeastern University’s Global Resilience institute.
This award supports eight cross-college, interdisciplinary Northeastern teams—four of which include SPPUA faculty—that show a strong potential for attracting external funding after two years of internal development.
The projects range from inequality and vulnerability analysis to the role of media and combatting opioid addiction.
“This year’s pool of proposals was particularly robust, with submissions demonstrating both strength in their interdisciplinary approaches and in their promise for innovative solutions to resilience challenges, making the selection of awardees especially challenging,” Art Kramer, senior vice provost for research and graduate education, wrote in an email to the Northeastern community.
Interrogating Resilience: An Analysis of Inequality and Vulnerability Pre-Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico
Assistant professor Laura Kuhl and professor Shalanda Baker have teamed up to examine vulnerabilities in Puerto Rico pre-Hurricane Maria.
Hurricane Maria exposed Puerto Rico’s inherent vulnerability to climate change as an island territory. Kuhl and Baker, climate and energy experts, are looking into whether a reliance on existing conceptions of resilience unwittingly created blind spots that exacerbated vulnerability, hardened unequal social structures, and perpetuated 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,” they wrote in their proposal.
Click here to learn more about this project.
Community resilience to combat opioid addiction crisis
Three Northeastern researchers hope to strengthen community resilience to combat the opioid crisis through a two-pronged approach.
SPPUA associate professor Alicia Sasser Modestino, Muhammad Noor E Alam of the College of Engineering, and Gary J. Young, director of the Center for Health Policy and Healthcare Research, are developing a risk assessment tool to help physicians generate personalized opioid prescriptions for patients. This, they say, will help reduce the flow of opioids and minimize a patient’s probability of addiction and overdose.
The trio is also 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,” they said.
They plan to use this multidisciplinary project to secure future funding from various agencies including the Center for Disease Control, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, National Science Foundation, and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Developing a social-media based methodology for measuring and observing the social resilience of communities
SPPUA associate professor Daniel O’Brien, QI “Ryan” Wang, a College of Engineering professor, and Alan Mislove, a professor at the College of Computer and Information Science, are trying to understand and support communities under long-term and acute duress.
The team is developing a set of methods that leverage social media data—specifically Twitter activity—to quantify the social networks and processes of geographically-based communities. Their project will provide a novel vantage point on social resilience that is not only cheaper than existing approaches, but could also be unique in its ability to observe the social dynamics of communities in real time.
The interdisciplinary team 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.
Resilience media: Reporting on coastal cities and climate change
Daniel O’Brien has teamed up with Matthew Nisbet and John Wihbey, both professors in the College of Arts, Media and Design, to examine the dynamics of news media ecosystems on coastal cities as they relate to climate change and resilience.
The team is analyzing 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 including 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,” they wrote in their proposal. “To do so, we synthesize available scholarship, assess patterns in coverage, and conduct interviews with journalists and experts.”
In partnership with SPPUA’s Boston Area Research Initiative, the team is developing models for more data-driven, forward-thinking news coverage, and they are exploring uses of open data in public communication. Researchers are also interviewing philanthropists who are investing in new models of nonprofit journalism such as ClimateCentral.