List of five research themes placed on woven ribbon graphic.

PSIEE Research Themes:

Future Energy Supply | Smart Energy Systems | Health and the Environment | Climate and Ecosystem Change | Water and Biogeochemical Cycles

Beginning in 2010, PSIEE organized itself around 12 strategic initiatives each with a critical number of Penn State researchers working on energy or environment-related issues. In the current planning cycle, PSIEE has added biodiversity as an initiative and these 12 initiatives have been aggregated into 5 working research themes.

These broad themes are represented in the graphic at left and discussed in greater detail in the 2014-2019 Strategic Plan.

Unifying Initiative of Knowledge Systems:
Data, Knowledge, Impact

Penn State is a global research leader in many areas of profound importance to society. However, between Penn State’s innovative science and real world impact lies the challenge of translation: translation of data into knowledge and technical innovations, and translation of new knowledge and technologies into effective policies, programs, products, and practices, including by government, business and industry, communities, and individuals. “Big data” efforts and their corresponding hardware and software development for computation and visualization are beginning to address the gaps between data and the creation of knowledge that is meaningful, timely and usable. For example, Penn State hosts both the Data Commons and ScholarSphere as platforms for making data accessible. The launch of the Institute for CyberScience has been, and will be, an enabling force at Penn State toward this Data→Knowledge step.

Now is the time for Penn State to direct attention to the Knowledge→Impact step. Emerging research paradigms (e.g., clinical translational science, dissemination and implementation sciences, community participatory research) are aimed at discovering effective and sustainable approaches to putting research-based knowledge to work toward solving human, social and technical problems. To date, research on the “translation process” highlights the importance of engagement with constituents such that local values, attitudes, resources and constraints become part of the equation for effecting and sustaining measureable impacts.

To maximize our contribution to society, Penn State needs to deliberately build knowledge systems that connect data, models and theory to knowledge dissemination for decision-making, uptake of new technologies, and implementation of evidence-based policies and practices. Penn State has the scholarly expertise needed to make a positive difference. The University also has tremendous outreach capacity through outlets such as Cooperative Extension, WPSU, industry partners, clinical practices, educational activities and the alumni network. Lacking, however, is a concerted university-wide effort to build 21st century knowledge systems that will translate scholarship and innovation in ways that have a sustained and measureable impact on critical challenges in a variety of areas, including energy and the environment. PSIEE have framed our 2014-2019 research themes around important energy and environment challenges in which Penn State can take leadership roles in developing Data→Knowledge→Impact pathways from information and analysis through to relevant societal action.