September 1, 2016

Grand Challenges Conference to address past, future work with Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grants

Purdue Scholarly Publishing and the Purdue Policy Research Institute will hold host a Grand Challenges Conference on Sept. 8 to mark the University's past and future work to address large-scale public policy problems through grants awarded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Faculty, staff and students are invited to attend the conference, which will be held 1-7:30 p.m. in Purdue Memorial Union and Stewart Center. Registration is available online and the day of the conference. A registration table will open at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 8 outside Purdue Memorial Union's West Faculty Lounge. Space is limited, and preference for seating/reception admission will be given to those who register online before Friday (Sept. 2).

Purdue received a $750,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in July and the program is now accepting proposals for interdisciplinary projects to be funded from Jan. 1, 2017, through July 31, 2019. 

The College of Liberal Arts, Purdue Systems Collaboratory, and the Office of the Vice President for Research and Partnerships are also partners on the grant. The title of the project is "Breaking Through: Multidisciplinary Solutions to Global Grand Challenges." This award follows on an earlier award of $539,000 from the Mellon Foundation in 2014. The Grand Challenges conference on Sept. 8 will discuss past and future research projects completed under the grant and share information on how researchers can participate in the next round.

Roland Fryer, the Robert M. Beren Professor of Economics at Harvard University, will deliver the conference keynote on "Economics of Incentives: What Drives Individuals and Organizations to Make Decisions?" at 6:30 p.m. in Stewart Center, Fowler Hall. Fryer is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, founder and faculty director of the Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard, and a former junior fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows. Fryer also is the 2015 winner of the John Bates Clark Medal for being the most promising economist in America under the age of 40.

In his talk, Fryer will draw on his research, which contributed to the success of the best-seller "Freakonomics," to provide insights into why businesses, individuals and governments make decisions and how social pressures and societal trends might influence future policies.

The conference also will feature:

* 1-1:15 p.m. -- Opening remarks from principal investigators Peter Froehlich, director of the Libraries' Scholarly Publishing Division, and Laurel Weldon, director of the Purdue Policy Research Institute, who are leading the most recent grant.

* 1:15-2:15 p.m. -- A panel discussion on "Innovative Models for Research on Grand Challenges: Interdisciplinarity, Communication, Impact" with Arden Bement, former director of Purdue's Global Policy Research Institute, chief global affairs officer emeritus, and the David A. Ross Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Nuclear Engineering; Barbara Kline Pope, executive director for communications at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and executive director of the National Academies Press; and Nicholas Haan, track chair for Global Grand Challenges, managing director of Global Solutions Program, and on the faculty at Singularity University. The moderator will be Tomás Díaz de la Rubia, chief scientist and executive director of Purdue's Discovery Park.

* 2:30-3:20 p.m. -- A panel discussion on "Catalyzing Interdisciplinary Grand Challenge Research" with Robin Clair, professor of communication; Rosalee Clawson, head and professor of political science; Mangala Subramaniam, associate professor of sociology; Kartik Ariyur, limited term lecturer in Mechanical Engineering; and Shannon McMullen, associate professor of visual and performing arts and interdisciplinary studies. The moderator is James Mullins, dean of libraries and the Esther Ellis Norton Professor at Purdue.

* 3:40-4:40 p.m. -- A talk on "Driving Impact through Scientific Communications" with Barbara Kline Pope, executive director for communications at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and executive director of the National Academies Press, and Dietram Scheufele, the John E. Ross Professor in Science Communication and Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and in the Morgridge Institute for Research.

* 4:40-5 p.m. – A presentation on "2016-19 Breaking Through: New Directions in Grand Challenges Research" with information on the grant and a Q&A session.

A reception with the keynote speaker will be held 5-6:15 p.m.

The opening conference is being held with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This initiative supports a unique approach to research, scholarly publishing and communications on global grand challenges at Purdue. The approach catalyzes the involvement of humanists and social scientists alongside STEM faculty in grand challenges research, innovation and policy formation, while embedding publishing professionals, libraries faculty and policy experts in the scholarly communications process.

Mellon's support of the multi-year program enables broadly interdisciplinary teams to tackle grand challenges in new ways, with expert assistance in communicating results directly to the public and key stakeholders (policymakers, nonprofit organizations, and others), so that new research gets more swiftly and effectively out of the academy into the hands of people who need it.

For more information, contact Peter Froehlich or Laurel Weldon at

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