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National Science Foundation awards FIU $1 million to train policy professionals in cyberinfrastructure

National Science Foundation awards FIU $1 million to train policy professionals in cyberinfrastructure

Highly trained professionals needed as policy decisions become more data-driven

July 30, 2019 at 12:00am

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded FIU a $1 million grant to train policy scientists in infrastructure to help meet the demand for professionals with an in-depth understanding of the latest technologies.

“This is a great collaboration that melds science, technology and public policy,” said Howard Frank, director of the Jorge M. Pérez Metropolitan Center, which will house the training program. “It combines the technological side of security with the human and organizational side of the enterprise, through public policy and administration.”

This award will jumpstart a new era of public policy practice and research, according to the grant’s lead investigator, Sukumar Ganapati, from FIU’s Department of Public Policy & Administration. The grant will enable the creation of day-long training workshops for local government policy makers and professionals, and also local nonprofits. It will also create a policy informatics certificate for Master of Public Administration (MPA) students through the Department of Public Policy & Administration, within the Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs.

Policy informatics pertains to the study of how computation and communications technology leverages information to better understand and address complex policy problems. The tools mainly covered by the grant include machine learning, data analytics, Internet of Things and security.

Ganapati added that government agencies store vast administrative data, which can be analyzed and interpreted using machine learning and other infrastructure tools for evidence-based policymaking. With infrastructure training, professionals can seek public and nonprofit sector jobs that require computational or data skills in areas such as economic development, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), information technology and others.

“The target audience is senior management in local government and nonprofits,” said Frank, who also chairs the Department of Public Policy and Administration. “Many of our students are ‘adult learners’ in that sector, making this a perfect fit for them.”

The skills acquired through this training will also benefit low-income communities as it will provide them with the same access to resources that high-income communities have. As a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) located in Miami, FIU is well suited to implement this grant.

The collaboration includes FIU’s Metropolitan Center, the Department of Public Policy and Administration, the School of Computing and Information Sciences and the School of Electrical, Computer and Enterprise Engineering both within the College of Engineering & Computing. The collaborators are part of Cybersecurity@FIU, an emerging preeminent program that focuses on digital defense and protection issues that impact the global landscape and examines complex human and social questions related to privacy policies and trust.

“As security and data analytics are now spanning various domains, FIU’s College of Engineering & Computing is making additional efforts to collaborate with other colleges at FIU to bring its expertise in these areas to faculty from other disciplines,” said Kemal Akkaya, professor for the School of Electrical, Computer and Enterprise Engineering and director of research for security Emerging Preeminent Program.

The principal investigator, Ganapati, is an associate professor in the Department of Public Policy and Administration at FIU. The co-principal investigators are Akkaya, Frank, Giri Narasimhan, professor for the School of Computing & Information Sciences and Julio Ibarra, assistant vice president for technology augmented research for the Division of Information Technology