Chancellor Charles R. Bantz
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September 2010

Urban research—is one area where impact is made at IUPUI.

And more than ever, it's a global impact. Since its inception, IUPUI, through faculty research, has addressed issues affecting our city. As nations of the world have become more interconnected, however, research on urban issues, even when conducted locally, has a broader reach and a deeper global impact. Research on urban issues asks big questions—about sustainability, transportation, water and sanitation issues, public health, socioeconomics, and quality of life—questions common to cities everywhere.

In fact, urban environments have really become transnational. A city in the U.S. is likely to have more in common with a city elsewhere in the world than with a small rural town in the U.S. itself. For example, as the 5th anniversary of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita is being covered in news reports, we find that New Orleans is looking to Amsterdam for guidance on flood control in a city that has existed successfully below sea level for hundreds of years.

Because faculty engaged in urban research tend to ask the "What If?" questions, communities can often make better evidence-based decisions. With urban research available for analysis, cities make better use of scarce resources, develop superior solutions to common problems, and identify best practices to adopt. Whether in developing countries, enhancing a vibrant city, or rebuilding a city from the ground up, communities benefit from the successes of other cities' strategies.

Urban research engages communities, agencies, and policy makers with university faculty and resources to transform knowledge into action. Since a long-standing hallmark of the work of IUPUI faculty is translating research into practice, urban research is a global opportunity for translational research.

Consider the work of Professor Hugh Hendrie, for example, whom Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius recently named to the National Advisory Council on Aging. His cross-national Indianapolis African American/Ibadan (Nigeria) study of Alzheimer's and other dementias has been in operation more than 20 years. It has already shown that African Americans are twice as likely as Africans to develop dementia. The goal is to pinpoint the cause. Is it vascular disease, genetic differences, lifestyle, or environment?

Many other examples of the global impact of urban research exist at IUPUI, which has 100 research institutes and centers, as well as 27 Signature Centers.

  • The Center on Philanthropy has tracked donations to disasters since the September 11th attacks and is often called upon to provide commentary and data on charitable giving in response to such events as the Asian tsunami, Gulf Coast hurricanes, and earthquakes in Pakistan and Haiti, so that cities worldwide can plan effective responses.
  • The Center for Earth and Environmental Science studies such problems common to cities as lead contamination in soil, water quality, and the long-term effects of deforestation and loss of wetlands on urban environments.
  • The Richard G. Lugar Center for Renewable Energy, established in March 2007, addresses the need for clean and affordable alternatives to fossil fuels that help preserve air quality in congested cities and reduce global warming.
  • The School of Liberal Arts Institute for Research on Social Issues studies what motivates risk reduction behavior with the overall objective of developing interventions to reduce the transmission of HIV/AIDS between sexual partners.

Collaborations among research centers greatly enhance global impact.

For example, the Polis Center manages the Social Assets and Vulnerability Indicators (SAVI) Community Information System, a geography-based resource on social, economic, and physical conditions in central Indiana. It allows researchers to mine neighborhood-specific data on such items as education, health, housing, public safety, and population density.

The Indiana Center of Excellence in Public Health Informatics uses SAVI to identify geographic factors that influence a population's health. It brings together not only the expertise of the Polis Center but also IUPUI's Center for Health Geographics and the Regenstrief Institute, with its world-renowned medical informatics research group and regional health information exchange. This new center received a $4.8 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is one of only four such centers in the nation.

IUPUI has always been a place where faculty tackle important questions of the day, including the challenges unique to urban environments, but the answers they find will increasingly be heard around the world.

Chancellor Charles R. Bantz

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