Who We Are
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 develop innovative research teams and push disciplinary boundaries, our initiatives act as a catalyst for moving knowledge from the university into the hands of people and communities who can use it – and then learning from these groups to improve our research. Our program includes three initiatives:
- Planet Texas 2050, which aims to better prepare Texas for the effects of climate change and population growth;
- Whole Communities–Whole Health, which is working to improve health outcomes in southeastern Travis County; and
- Good Systems, whose goal is to create AI that reflects the needs and values of society.
These topics are varied, but we believe they represent some of the most important issues of our time. Helping to solve them is our grand challenge.
What We’re Fundraising For
Since the launch of the Bridging Barriers grand challenge research program in 2016, our teams have made significant strides — forming partnerships with the City of Austin, local community organizations and industry professionals to ensure that their research doesn’t just get published in an academic paper but that it makes a difference in our everyday lives. We still have a lot of work to do to make that happen. Your contributions will help us as we advance our efforts. Our initiatives are at various stages. For Planet Texas 2050, we recently launched six new flagship projects, which harness the talents and skills of our research network to tackle what we believe are key issues in helping Texas respond to increasing growth and climate change. These include things like using data analytics and advanced modeling to help state and local agencies and communities better respond to disasters and working with schools and nonprofit organizations on green building initiatives. For Whole Communities–Whole Health, we are preparing to launch a multi-year cohort study in southeastern Travis County, where health inequities are acute. Our study will work with families to uncover the various factors that affect health so that we can make recommendations to residents, community organizations and policy makers about how to improve health outcomes. Our third grand challenge, Good Systems, is exploring everything from how to use artificial intelligence to build smart cities to helping to prevent the spread of misinformation and disinformation online. Your contributions will help support us as we make advances in these efforts.
If this past year has proven anything, it’s that we can no longer sit idle while the world around us changes. Our planet is warming, and as a result, we are seeing worsening storms and extreme weather. This year, parts of the Northwest have suffered unbearable heat while Texas was crippled by frigid temperatures. Our rapidly growing cities are ill prepared to handle the effects of these extreme events. At the same time, we are also seeing deepening political divides and social uprising in our streets. The places we visit online for news, information and human connection have become fraught with misinformation, some of which is spread deliberately for nefarious purposes. And amid the pandemic, it has become starkly obvious that not all communities are equally equipped to handle a public health crisis. Low-income communities and communities of color have suffered the worst effects of COVID-19, and now, have less access to life-saving vaccines. These challenges are disheartening and they shed light on why our work is so critical right now. Your contributions will have a direct effect on real people living through these challenges every day — from the family on the Texas coast weathering another hurricane to the children in Central Texas living near polluting factories. Our researchers are not working in isolation — they are working right here in Texas, in your communities. And the fruits of their labor will be found there.