Bridging Barriers Research Grand Challenges are moonshot goals.
To reach those goals and address the most urgent issues affecting our society, researchers from different disciplines must share knowledge, ask questions, and tear down academic barriers.
Bridging Barriers serves as an incubator for some of the boldest interdisciplinary projects at The University of Texas at Austin by supporting researchers from across the Forty Acres as they form broad teams tasked with identifying urgent, real-world issues — and figuring out the best way to solve them in less than a decade.
These projects are rooted in collaboration and academic freedom to produce practical solutions to social, environmental, and humanitarian crises. From artificial intelligence to social inequality, teams around campus are laying the groundwork today for what could become a UT Grand Challenge tomorrow.
PLANET TEXAS 2050
Texas’ population could double by the year 2050. Extreme weather events will bring more floods, more droughts, and more heat. Our state’s resources can’t support those demands. Making Texas resilient is our grand challenge.
OUR GOAL: SUSTAINING CRITICAL RESOURCES
Our ability to sustain the systems we rely on — water, energy, urban infrastructure, ecosystems, and more — are under unprecedented risk.
Planet Texas 2050 researchers are committed to developing new knowledge, tools, and strategies that will improve Texas’ adaptability and build its resilience. To do that, their work focuses on understanding the critical interactions between environmental and human systems in Texas and beyond.
Over the life of Planet Texas 2050, researchers and community partners will gain a deeper understanding of what we mean by ‘resilience’ and how communities and societies experience and aspire to being resilient in the face of extreme weather events, and will develop new resources that empower decision-makers and affected communities with meaningful information about climate risks and human-environment interactions to plan for their future.
During the 40 Hours for the Forty Acres campaign, please support our work to make sure our rapidly growing state is ready and able to thrive in a changing environment.
WHOLE COMMUNITIES – WHOLE HEALTH
In Texas, many children live in poverty, suffer from chronic illness, or endure abuse and neglect. Despite years of targeted intervention, these issues persist. Changing the way science helps society thrive is our grand challenge.
Traditional research studies take “snapshots” of people’s lives at different points in time. Those snapshots give us information, but it’s incomplete. That means we might make incorrect assumptions or develop policies and programs that are not helpful. By sitting down together with our community members, we hope — over time — to learn what questions and concerns they have about their children’s health and how we can partner with them to get answers so they can make meaningful changes in their children’s lives within days or weeks, not years.
By bringing together technology, campus experts, and community resources, we will build a more complete view — a movie, compared to a snapshot — of the factors that affect a child’s wellbeing. Bridging the gap between science and real-world change to transform lives is the beacon that will guide the work of Whole Communities–Whole Health.
During the 40 Hours for the Forty Acres campaign, please support our efforts to look at the whole picture of health and put the power of scientific discovery in the hands of community members who have historically been left out of the conversation.
“Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.” This is the first law of technology, outlined by historian Melvin Kranzberg in 1985. It means that technology is only good or bad if we perceive it to be that way based on our own value system. At the same time, because the people who design technology value some things more or less than others, their values influence their designs. Ensuring artificial intelligence technologies meet the needs and values of society is our grand challenge.
Research groups around the world are asking similar questions about A.I., but their background traditionally focuses on computer science. Our grand challenge team is composed of computer scientists as well as natural and social scientists, technologists, ethicists, engineers, health and transportation experts, and more.
Our research aims to transform how AI technologies are developed, tested, and released into the world to ensure that all future AI is good for people. We are also working to increase understanding of what it means for AI technology to be ‘good.’
During the 40 Hours for the Forty Acres campaign, please support our efforts to grow UT’s capacity for interdisciplinary research, fund groundbreaking research projects, and train the next generation of leaders in the design and use of good systems.