Breaking down research barriers in data-driven decision-making

ASU to play key role in $5M NSF multi-institutional research grant to create ‘knowledge graph’

October 9, 2020

Around the world, we face unprecedented challenges, from a constantly evolving COVID-19 pandemic to increasingly violent natural disasters to a warming climate. 

The problems our society faces today cannot be tackled by scientists within one discipline alone, and a clear need exists for an open knowledge network that analyzes critical data and fosters cross-disciplinary scientific collaboration.  Wenwen Li Download Full Image

Wenwen Li, associate professor in Arizona State University's School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, is part of a multidisciplinary team of researchers that received a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation's Convergence Accelerator to create an open, cross-domain "knowledge graphthat will connect and link facts and knowledge in new ways that haven’t been accessible or usable before. 

The knowledge graph will be able to incorporate and interpret multiple dimensions of data across disciplines and produce relevant, actionable insights necessary to inform important data-driven decisions. 

“Building a domain knowledge graph is a critical step towards developing artificial general intelligence for future machines to reason like human beings,” said Li, co-principal investigator of the project, who specializes in smart cyberinfrastructure and geospatial big data analytics. “The IT giants, such as Google and Facebook, have developed enterprise-level knowledge graphs to better understand the world’s information to improve web search and product recommendation.” 

Building a scientific knowledge graph that models research data is very challenging — data comes from different sources, are encoded in different formats, are large in size, and are often short of metadata. Additionally, much of the existing data are hidden in the deep web, making their discovery and reuse even more difficult. 

In the development of their knowledge graph, Li and her team, which is led by Krzysztof Janowicz of the University of California, Santa Barbara, aim to tackle these issues by developing novel AI and machine-learning techniques to discover, link, integrate, visualize and share the cross-domain data.   

Tackling the ‘where’ problem

Critical to the research, the team will use "space" and "time" as the central themes to index and enrich scientific data, enabling the knowledge graph to incorporate geospatial analysis and better tackle the "where" problem often asked in environmental and social science research. 

They’ve named their resultant knowledge graph, "KnowWhereGraph."

“By building the KnowWhereGraph, our research will connect and link the data and knowledge dots across disciplines, making them easily discoverable, understandable, usable, replicable and highly interconnected,” Li said. “This work will break the communication and research barriers across traditional science boundaries and accelerate the scientific discovery process in a novel way.” 

Besides creating novel research, the team’s goal is also to develop a set of open source products, including the graph query and visualization tools and geoenrichment services to foster their widespread usage and commercialization.

Collaborative geospatial research 

The KnowWhereGraph project is one of nine projects that were selected by the NSF Convergence Accelerator out of a Phase I cohort of more than 40 highly competitive teams that were all focused on high-impact societal solutions.

The project represents a cross-sector collaboration consisting of several universities: University of California, Santa Barbara; Arizona State University; Kansas State University; Michigan State University; and the University of Southern California; industry partners Esri, Oliver Wyman, Hydronos Labs, LLC, IN1OT; Direct Relief as an NGO; and the U.S Geological Survey and the U.S. Department of Agriculture representing the government. 

“I am very excited about this project, not only because the important research that we are conducting will bring potentially significant societal benefits and changes, but also because of the opportunity to work in such an amazing team,” Li said. “I have known these superb scholars for years for their outstanding work, and I am so glad that we now have the opportunity to build a strong collaborative research network to conduct convergence research and promote data science together.”

David Rozul

Media Relations Officer, Media Relations and Strategic Communications


Applications being accepted for Sun Devil 100 Class of 2021

Submissions accepted through Nov. 2

October 9, 2020

If you’re a Sun Devil who owns or leads a business or nonprofit agency, the ASU Alumni Association is looking for you. Applications are being accepted now through Nov. 2 for Sun Devil 100, an annual awards program that recognizes the fastest-growing ASU alum-owned or -led businesses and organizations annually.

Now in its seventh year, the Sun Devil 100 recognizes a diverse range of industries, including marketing and public relations, legal, food and beverage, real estate, health care, technology, education and nonprofit. Previous honorees include Freestar, Tommy John, Hint Inc., San Diego Civic Youth Ballet, Sundt Construction Inc., Dircks Moving & Logistics and more. The Sun Devil 100 Class of 2020 event was hosted by Ray Schey, publisher of the Phoenix Business Journal, and Kylee Cruz, reporter and anchor for AZ Family and a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU. The Sun Devil 100 Class of 2020 event was hosted by Ray Schey, publisher of the Phoenix Business Journal, and Kylee Cruz, reporter and anchor for AZ Family and a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU. Download Full Image

“ASU alumni have created and guided some of the most innovative and successful businesses and organizations around the world,” said Christine K. Wilkinson, president and CEO of the ASU Alumni Association. “The Sun Devil 100 recognizes organizations from any sector that demonstrate innovation, growth and the entrepreneurial spirit reflective of ASU’s transformative charter. Through this program, ASU’s entrepreneurs share their expertise with the Sun Devil network.”

The Sun Devil 100 Class of 2020 collectively generated $6.1 billion total revenue, employed 10,271 people, had an average of 19.5 years in business and are based in 10 states. The ASU alums at the helm of these organizations span graduating classes from 1973 to 2016. 

To be considered for the Sun Devil 100, companies must be Sun Devil-owned or -led, have been in business for at least three years, have shown revenues of more than $250,000 in a calendar year, and operate in a manner consistent with the ASU Charter. Sun Devil 100 honorees become part of a network for ASU alumni entrepreneurs and business leaders, receive recognition in a special section of the Phoenix Business Journal, and serve as an inspiration for future alumni entrepreneurs.   

“The ASU Alumni Association recognizes the entrepreneurial excellence of its alumni through the Sun Devil 100 program,” Wilkinson said. “The program celebrates the innovation of ASU alumni who propel entrepreneurial ideas forward.”

Apply today for the Class of 2021. Submissions accepted through Nov. 2.

Morgan Harrison

Vice President, ASU Alumni Association