Statement of Task

The National Science Foundation (NSF) supports the George E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES), as a component of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP). In Fiscal Year (FY) 2014, NSF will have supported 10 years of NEES operations and research, and seeks an evaluation of next-generation U.S. needs for earthquake engineering research beyond 2014. A National Research Council committee will organize a public workshop on the Grand Challenges for earthquake engineering research, to bring together experts to focus on two questions:

  1. What are the high-priority Grand Challenges in basic earthquake engineering research that require a network of earthquake engineering experimental facilities and cyberinfrastructure?
  2. What networked earthquake engineering experimental capabilities and cyberinfrastructure tools are required to address these Grand Challenges?

The workshop will feature invited presentations and discussion. The committee will develop the agenda, select and invite speakers and discussants, and moderate the discussion. Workshop participants will be asked to describe the experimental infrastructure capabilities and cyberinfrastructure tools in terms of requirements, rather than by reference to any existing or specifically located future facilities.

In responding to the foregoing questions, workshop participants will also be asked to consider future technical and conceptual advances with the potential to influence future earthquake hazard research, such as early warning systems, new materials, sustainability, high-performance computing and networking, modeling, sensor and monitoring technologies, and other factors identified by the committee. The committee will prepare a report summarizing discussions at the workshop; the report will not include findings or recommendations.

Grand Challenges in Earthquake Engineering Research

Grand challenges in earthquake research are the problems, barriers, and bottlenecks in the earthquake engineering field that hinder realization of the NEHRP vision—“A nation that is earthquake resilient in public safety, economic strength, and national security” (NEHRP, 2008). As such, they define frontiers in basic earthquake engineering research that would be needed to provide transformative solutions for achieving an earthquake-resilient society.

Thirteen grand challenge problems emerged over the course of the workshop. The committee has summarized them in terms of five overarching Grand Challenges, described below, in order to capture interrelationships and crossovers among the 13 problems and to highlight the interdisciplinary nature of their potential solutions. Participants noted that grand challenge problems do not stand alone; they are complex, and this complexity exists not only within earthquake engineering but also in earthquake engineering’s position among other competing social challenges. As such, addressing a grand challenge problem involves consideration of a variety of barriers—economic, regulatory, policy, societal, and professional—along with the scientific and technological solutions. The five overarching Grand Challenges are intended to serve as useful focal points for discussions among stakeholders and decision makers planning future investment toward achieving a more earthquake-resilient nation.

1. Community Resilience Framework: A common theme noted by participants was that the earthquake engineering community currently lacks an interactive and comprehensive framework for measuring, monitoring, and evaluating community resilience. Such a framework could apply innovative methodologies, models, and data to measure community performance at various scales, build on the experience and lessons of past events, and help ensure that past and future advances in building, lifelines, urban design, technology, and socioeconomic research result in improved community resilience. Such a framework also could advance our understanding of both the direct and indirect impacts of earthquakes so that community-level interactions and impacts can be better characterized.

2. Decision Making: Another sentiment reiterated during the workshop was that current research findings related to community resilience do not adequately influence decisions and actions on the part of key decision makers, such as private-sector facility owners and public-sector institutions. Communities typically build based on traditional standards, and when affected by major earthquakes, they respond and recover based on intuition, improvisation, and adaptive behaviors

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