The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded informatics professor Bill Tomlinson $400,000 for his project “Fostering Non-Expert Creation of Sustainable Polycultures through Crowdsourced Data Synthesis.” Associate professor Donald Patterson and Assistant Professor of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois Sarah Taylor Lovell serve as co-principal investigators.
The project integrates research in computing and sustainability science with the goal of enabling a new approach to sustainable food security. By combining cyber-human systems and crowdsourcing research with the science of agroecology, the project seeks to develop an understanding of how online design tools may contribute to sustainability through enhanced local food production; to use the process of populating a plant species database as an instance of a class of problems amenable to intelligent crowdsourcing; and to pioneer new knowledge in crowdsourcing optimization.
According to the project abstract, “The work will contribute to long-term food security and offer lessons, concepts, methods, and software tools that may be transferable to other sustainability challenges.”
The award is part of the Cyber-Innovation for Sustainability Science and Engineering (CyberSEES) program at NSF, and is funded through the Division of Computing and Communication Foundations (CCF), which supports research and education projects that explore the foundations of computing and communication devices and their usage. According to the CCF website, “CCF-supported projects also investigate revolutionary computing models and technologies based on emerging scientific ideas and integrate research and education activities to prepare future generations of computer science and engineering workers.”