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A Closer Look At PREEVENTS: Prediction of and Resilience Against Extreme Events

Simulation of Hurricane Sandy

Simulation of Hurricane Sandy


September 15, 2017

By Susanna Ehlers, Jessamin Straub and Greg Anderson

Between 2003 and 2013, natural disasters caused $1.5 trillion in economic damage and killed almost 1.2 million people worldwide (International Disaster Database – Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters; EM-DAT CRED).  Over that same decade, the United States experienced nearly $650 billion in losses due to disasters caused by natural hazards (NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information; NCEI).  NCEI estimates that “from 2003–2013, there were 9 drought events, 8 flooding events, 2 freeze events, 44 severe storm events, 16 tropical cyclone events, 7 wildfire events, and a winter storm event with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States.”

The need for better identifying and mitigating of the risks posed to the United States by natural hazards is clear and consistent with the mandate of the National Science Foundation (NSF) “…to promote the progress of science [and] advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare....”  It is also an overall priority for the Federal government, as outlined in Presidential Policy Directive/PPD-8: National Preparedness, which is “aimed at strengthening the security and resilience of the United States through systematic preparation for the threats that pose the greatest risk to the security of the nation, including [ … ] catastrophic natural disasters.”  One only needs to read or watch the press coverage on the devastating floods in Louisiana this August to realize the critical importance of this national need.

The Directorate for Geosciences (GEO) has supported, and continues to support, basic research in scientific and engineering disciplines vital to understanding these natural hazards and extreme events, through multiple core programs in the directorate as well as participation in cross-NSF activities like the Interdisciplinary Research in Hazards and Disasters (Hazards SEES) program.

The Prediction of and Resilience against Extreme Events (PREEVENTS) program is designed as a logical successor to Hazards SEES and is one element of the NSF-wide Risk and Resilience activity, which has the overarching goal of improving predictability and risk assessment, and increasing resilience, in order to reduce the impact of extreme events on our life, society, and economy. PREEVENTS provides an additional mechanism to support research and related activities that will improve our understanding of the fundamental processes underlying natural hazards and extreme events in the geosciences.

PREEVENTS seeks projects that will (1) enhance understanding of the fundamental processes underlying natural hazards and extreme events on various spatial and temporal scales, as well as the variability inherent in such hazards and events, and (2) improve our capability to model and forecast such hazards and events. All projects requesting PREEVENTS support must be primarily focused on these two targets.

PREEVENTS has a two track proposal system, with Track 1 proposals meant to support conferences that encourage new scientific directions in natural hazards and extreme events and Track 2 proposals for research projects in a multitude of sizes, with durations up to five years.   Track 1 proposals are accepted at any time and are generally less than $50,000; interested PIs should contact the PREEVENTS team at the address given below.  Track 2 proposals may not request support for generation or collection of new data and/or measures (e.g., field instrument deployments), but may request support for analysis, synthesis, and/or modeling efforts that use existing data and/or measures.  Because we get asked about this all the time, I’ll send you where we send our PIs: to our newly updated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for NSF 16-562!

The first Track 2 proposal deadline was September 20, 2016 (delayed one day due to NSF IT system upgrades), and we received more than 250 proposals comprising over 130 projects.  These proposals will undergo a multistage merit review process which we anticipate will take at least six months; we expect to recommend our first Track 2 awards in spring 2017.  The next deadline for Track 2 proposals is slated for September 2018. 

In addition to the two program tracks that are part of the solicitation, PREEVENTS includes an internal co-funding process which allows us to support PREEVENTS-relevant projects submitted to GEO core programs.  To date, PREEVENTS has co-funded 34 proposals for a total of $9 million across all GEO divisions.  The projects covered a wide range of natural hazards, including earthquakes, coastal erosion/flooding, severe thunderstorms/monsoons, volcanoes, space weather, sink holes, and extreme pollution.  Through co-funding, PREEVENTS has enabled other GEO programs to support projects they might not otherwise have been able to; for instance, opening a door for early career scientists to be competitive.

Want more information?  Check out our solicitation and matching FAQs

Please note that prior Dear Colleague Letters and FAQs have been superseded by the new solicitation and new FAQs.

You can also email us at preevents@nsf.gov.

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date. Originally published Oct. 18, 2016.

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The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2019, its budget is $8.1 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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