The study, funded under a grant from the National Science Foundation, includes a multi-disciplinary team of 50 researchers from 15 universities plus other institutions.


Rae Zimmerman, a professor at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University, has been selected to participate in a multi-disciplinary team of about 50 researchers from 15 universities plus other institutions. The team, led by Arizona State University, will address the vulnerability of urban infrastructure to extreme weather related events, and ways of reducing that vulnerability. Funded under a $12 million research grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the researchers will conduct their extensive work over the coming five years.

Collectively, the team is called the Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network (UREx SRN). In light of weather related extremes, such as increasing storm frequency and intensity, as well as climate uncertainties, this network will evaluate threats to transportation, electricity, water, and other services in major urban areas, and the “social, ecological, and technical systems” to protect infrastructure and increase its flexibility and adaptability, using new designs and technologies. As part of the team, Professor Zimmerman will contribute to the integration of social systems, ecology and technology across infrastructures and their interconnections in urban contexts.

“Urban areas are vulnerable to extreme weather related events given their location, high concentration of people, and increasingly complex and interdependent infrastructure,” according to the NSF grant summary.

“Impacts of Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, and other disasters demonstrate not just failures in built infrastructure, they highlight the inadequacy of institutions, resources, and information systems to prepare for and respond to events of this magnitude. The highly interdisciplinary and geographically dispersed Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network (UREx SRN) team will develop a diverse suite of new methods and tools to assess how infrastructure can be more resilient, provide ecosystem services, improve social well-being, and exploit new technologies in ways that benefit all segments of urban populations,” the NSF summary states.

The overall project’s strategic goals identified in the NSF summary include:

• “Build a network of cities, institutions, and student, post-doctoral, and faculty researchers to explore resilience of cities to extreme weather related events;

• Develop novel theoretical frameworks that express a vision of sustainable, integrated urban infrastructure that is flexible, adaptable, safe-to-fail, socially equitable, and ecologically based;

• Work with practitioners and decision makers, as well as a cadre of graduate and post-doctoral fellows, to co-produce knowledge that facilitates data-driven visioning and ultimately transitions to a sustainable future for urban infrastructure and, by extension, the fabric of urban social-ecological-technological sustainability; and

• Create a model for incorporating assessment, learning, and adjustment in response to evaluative feedback in a large, trans-disciplinary, multi-institutional, and multi-national research network.”

Zimmerman is professor of planning and public administration at New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and since 1998, director of the Institute for Civil Infrastructure Systems (ICIS), a center, initially funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), for collaborative and interdisciplinary research, education, and outreach on infrastructure services. Her recent research and teaching has focused on extreme events, climate change, innovative infrastructure, and emergency planning for urban areas.

Press Contact

Robert Polner
Robert Polner
(212) 998-2337