Office of the Vice Provost for Research

Additional Grand Challenges Ideas

View additional ideas presented by IU Bloomington faculty during Grand Challenges Town Hall meetings in April and September 2015.


Below are examples of full proposals previously submitted through the Indiana University Grand Challenges Program:

Health Equity in Indiana and Beyond
David Burr, Distinguished Professor and associate vice chancellor for research at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and Michael Reece, professor and associate dean at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington

A multidisciplinary, community-engaged program of research to reduce health disparities in Indiana and to develop and implement models of engagement and integration that inform health equity policies and practice at institutional, national and global scales. We propose to reimagine how we conduct health-related research at IU by focusing on health equity research and impact in critical areas, including early identification of new, highly malleable risk factors, prevention strategies, innovative treatments, and policy protections for Indiana and beyond. Health disparities in Indiana are profound, effectively separating the healthy “haves” from the “have nots” who suffer from largely treatable or avoidable disease—overcoming these disparities requires a comprehensive gene-to-policy approach that works with communities to provide effective solutions. This is a Grand Challenge, one based on current IU strengths, and one we are prepared to take on. To achieve this, we will build an integrated program of Health Equity Cores from extant communities of researchers, educators, and community partners. These Cores will take novel Health Equity Projects, and inform and support these projects with research partnerships, expertise, and tools to engage IU faculty, students, and community partners. We will broadly share discoveries, transforming these projects into programs of impact. The Projects will address discrete issues where there is already a strong research base at IU and develop new research areas into world-class programs with the addition of resources, including targeted hires of critical faculty who will enhance collaboration across these silos of strengths. For some of these Projects, therapies or prevention strategies are known but are not easily accessible in disadvantaged communities. For others, there is a need for basic research to better understand underlying risk mechanisms, to develop effective interventions, and to ensure availability to all.


  • David Burr (Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, IUPUI)
  • Michael Reece (School of Public Health, IUB)

Shaping Our Future: Knowledge, Science, and Governance for Sustainable Water Resources
Todd Royer, associate professor in the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs in Bloomington

Using Indiana as a model for regional and global solutions, this Grand Challenge will develop and demonstrate new technologies, data systems, and policy arrangements for sustainable management of water resources in support of human welfare and environmental quality. Access to reliable, unpolluted water is key to human welfare and maintenance of environmental quality. However, water scarcity, poor water quality, inadequate infrastructure, and governance failures are persistent and growing threats to water resource sustainability. Sustaining high-quality water resources is a challenge faced not only in Indiana, but also by societies across the globe. Indiana University is uniquely positioned to address the challenge of sustainable water resources. This proposal leverages IU’s renowned strengths in natural sciences, governance, and computing—a powerful combination that, when brought bear to on water resources, can offer robust and innovative solutions. The goals of this proposal include: (1) establishing integrated networks of information regarding water supplies, quality, uses, and infrastructure; (2) creating tools for water resource planning, decision-making, and adaptive governance that consider political economy, cultural constraints, and the differential value of water across sectors of society; (3) developing and applying new tools and products to address and reverse threats to water quality and repair imbalances in the water-food-energy nexus. Achieving these goals will be enabled by IU’s computing resources, which will support: holistic, integrated watershed models using high performance computing; a water resources ontology (language) for communication among interdisciplinary researchers and stakeholders; educational applications for smart devices that promote water literacy; and a web service for interaction with the public. Throughout the project, research will first be focused locally, ensuring early benefits for the state of Indiana, with potential for adaptation to national and global applications.


  • Todd Royer (School of Public and Environmental Affairs, IUB)


Transforming Environmental Protection and Health for Indiana and Beyond
Joseph Shaw, associate professor in the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs in Bloomington

This Grand Challenge initiative will create a healthier environment for the people of Indiana and beyond by translating 21st century research about chemicals, their movement and impact on the environment and human health into profound breakthroughs in knowledge for effective governance, responsible innovation, and economic growth. The people of Indiana and across the globe depend on a healthy environment. Yet an almost complete lack of knowledge of the biological effects of most of the tens of thousands of chemicals used to manufacture consumer goods challenges the preservation of a basic human right to a clean and healthy environment. At the same time this lack of knowledge of chemical effects cost an industrial sector, vital to the economy of Indiana and a significant contributor to the worldwide market, an estimated 3% of global GDP. To address this Grand Challenge we propose to: (1) engineer new instruments and sensors to better measure chemicals in complex environments; (2) produce comprehensive, timely and useful data on the transport and fate of chemicals in the environment to provide realistic estimates of chemical exposure; (3) design high throughput, molecular assays to rapidly and cheaply acquire toxicity data, and develop knowledge-bases and novel informatics approaches to rapidly predict the toxicological consequences of chemicals; (4) make use of this data to better characterize how the environment induces molecular change and regulates fundamental biological processes; (5) develop new paradigms for assessing risk to humans and the environment that incorporate more data rich estimates of chemical exposures and robust measures of their effects; and (6) enable the translation of new knowledge for improved governance, responsible innovation, and economic growth. These research advances will ultimately promote public well-being, and stimulate the economy and job creation for a global market that values a healthier environment.


  • Joseph Shaw (School of Public and Environmental Affairs, IUB)