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Global Security Initiative to address emerging challenges

Portrait of Nadya Bliss
February 11, 2015

How can we tackle resource security, global health, changing climate, economic and political instability, and other emerging challenges that are complex, interconnected and interdependent? Driving positive outcomes to these problems will take collaboration among a diversity of experts, not just within one university or country, but across the globe.

To address this need, Arizona State University has announced a new Global Security Initiative (GSI), to be led by Nadya Bliss, as director of the initiative and professor of practice in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering.

The new initiative will serve as a university-wide interdisciplinary hub for global security research, and is the evolution of ASU’s Security & Defense Systems Initiative.

“GSI was born from the observation that global security is really national security, and that our current challenges require imagination, collaboration, and exploration,” says Sethuraman "Panch" Panchanathan, senior vice president for Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU. “ASU as a New American University is well positioned to provide these capabilities.”

The initiative was developed with a focus on openness, inclusiveness and connections to the global defense, development and diplomacy communities. It will address the types of challenges characterized by complex interdependencies and conflicting objectives, where there may not be obvious solutions.

The initiative will also have the benefit of working from the foundation the Security & Defense Systems Initiative (SDSI) helped develop, says Kyle Squires, director of the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, who served as interim co-director for SDSI.

“SDSI was ASU’s entry as a university initiative into the sphere of security and defense,” Squires says. “That was an important launch for us. It begins to make you identifiable in this space, it begins to coalesce a lot of activities of the faculty, and gets you thinking about what large research initiatives you can tackle.”

The Foresight Initiative, funded by a $20 million National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency cooperative agreement, serves as the foundation for the Global Security Initiative. The Foresight Initiative is a five-year effort to develop research products, tools and processes for decision-making in the context of environmental change and national security dynamics. It will also enable the development and assessment of sustainability and resilience strategies. This challenge requires multidisciplinary cooperation and global partnerships, which GSI will be capable of facilitating.

Cyber security and digital identity is another key challenge cutting across many application domains. Addressing this concern will require the expertise of computer scientists as well as individuals from the business community and the field of law. In addition, it is essential to incorporate the humanist perspective.

“A lot of our lives are spent online and this creates all types of vulnerabilities,” Bliss says. “Ethically, what does it mean to have all of this data out there for everyone to see?”

GSI will allow the interdisciplinary partnerships necessary to see the full picture of a complex challenge.

In dealing with issues of national and global security, there is a significant need for open, inclusive research that draws from the broader scholarly community in addition to closed and classified research. With this new initative, the university is ready to address that need, leveraging the best of both worlds.

Research efforts to address these emerging and enduring challenges will also provide insights on new learning approaches to create and sustain the national security workforce needed to maintain a competitive edge in the global knowledge economy. The Global Security Initiative is representative of ASU’s willingness to be driven by global needs, Bliss says.

“We are addressing these emergent challenges, and as a university and a dynamic environment, it is our calling to do that," she adds.

The initiative will leverage the ASURE (ASU Research Enterprise), an off-campus entity started by the Security & Defense Systems Initiative, to do different types of research that, in the past, university faculty have not pursued.

“That’s very important in the security space, because a lot of the work that is out there for funding will be of a nature where faculty won’t necessarily think of it first,” Panchanathan says.

Written by Allie Nicodemo, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development