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Computing advances vital to sustainability efforts; new report recommends problem-focused, iterative approach to research
Date:6/29/2012

WASHINGTON Innovation in computing will be essential to finding real-world solutions to sustainability challenges in such areas as electricity production and delivery, global food production, and climate change. The immense scale, numerous interconnected effects of actions over time, and diverse scope of these challenges require the ability to collect, structure, and analyze vast amounts of data. A new report from the National Research Council says that advances in computing -- such as ones that allow us to make trade-offs, understand complex systems and their connections, and account for uncertainty -- will be critical to meeting sustainability challenges.

"These problems are as complex as they are important; we need to engage deeply across disciplines to have any hope of meeting global sustainability challenges," said Deborah Estrin, professor of computer science at the University of California, Los Angeles, and chair of the committee that wrote the report. "The urgency of these problems means that we must begin to deploy our 'best-of-breed' approaches immediately to put our critical societal infrastructures on a digital plane. This will give us a chance to start creating opportunities for transformative efficiency gains, deep scientific understanding, and informed evolution of the associated political and economic systems."

The report uses smart energy grids, sustainable agriculture, and resilient infrastructure as examples to illustrate the potential impact of advances in computing. In each example, the report shows how information, data management, and computational approaches can be used to weigh costs and benefits of alternative approaches, minimize the risks of failures and disaster, and cut waste and unnecessary redundancy. For instance, in the case of a smarter energy grid, better data management will enhance understanding of the energy supply and demand chain in ways that could foster substantial reductions in overall de
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Contact: Lorin Hancock
news@nas.edu
202-334-2138
National Academy of Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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