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Johnson & others receive Mellon Grant for Grand Challenges

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IE Asst. Prof. David R. Johnson's multidisciplinary research team is one of four Purdue groups to receive funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to tackle global “grand challenges”.

Purdue Scholarly Publishing, a division of Purdue Libraries, and the Purdue Policy Research Institute have announced the final proposals selected for funding under the grant "Breaking Through: Developing Multidisciplinary Solutions to Global Grand Challenges."

Johnson, assistant professor of industrial engineering and political science, leads the project "Decision Support for Flood Risk Mitigation: Automated Data Collection and Visualization Tools". His research team is developing automated data collection tools and interactive decision support systems to tackle the grand challenge of increasing coastal flood risks and address the need for better risk communication.

Johnson described the project: "This project consists of two major efforts. The first is to utilize machine learning and image analysis techniques to extract features relevant to risk, such as the height of building foundations above the ground, from Google Street View and aerial imagery. This will result in more precise estimates of flood risk in coastal Louisiana, including the capability to estimate the risk of damage from hurricanes to individual structures. The second piece builds on this by creating a decision support system that would allow individual homeowners or small businesses to make informed decisions about actions they can take to mitigate flood risk; by leveraging the automated data collection tools, we can present them with easy-to-understand measures of risk and the cost effectiveness of mitigation tailored to their specific location."

Johnson's team includes Mohammad Jahanshahi in civil engineering, Ed Delp in computer engineering, Nicole Kong from Purdue Libraries, and Torsten Reimer in communications.

"We started earlier this semester and will run until the end of 2018," said Johnson. "Mohammad and Ed have begun developing the image analysis and machine learning algorithms. [Recently] Nicole and I had a conversation with Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and the US Geologic Survey about the potential for integrating our decision support system and data visualization tools into Louisiana’s online flood risk data viewer. We hope that our work will produce some highly visible tools that can be used by Louisiana residents to make better decisions about managing their risk."

The Mellon grant program enables multidisciplinary teams to tackle grand challenges in new ways. It also embeds policy experts, publishing professionals, and libraries faculty in the scholarly research and communication process, in order to provide researchers with expert assistance in communicating results directly to the public and key stakeholders.

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