Communities, particularly those in metropolitan areas, exist in an increasingly complex world where catastrophic events can devastate human lives and destroy the fabric of a functioning community constructed over decades. Virginia Tech researchers have for several years been developing and implementing sophisticated high performance computing-based methods for analyzing social systems and societal infrastructures for these challenges. Now, Virginia Tech, IBM, and Arlington County are partnering in a new project to develop informatic support for local government decision makers.

The Virginia Tech, IBM, and Arlington County partnership will focus on advanced research and systems for certain areas of routine and crisis event management. Says Jim Bohland, vice president for Virginia Tech’s National Capital Region: “We call our body of work ‘community resilience informatics.’ Communities are like complex organisms. So, they need resiliency to resist, adapt, and recover. Essentially, this means that we want to help a community develop “predictive abilities” to understand their community’s resistance to natural or man-made impacts and then to understand their ability to adapt, both during and after events, and finally, to the ability to recover functionality of community infrastructure and [information technology] systems.”

The partnership coincides with a broad translational research effort in high performance computing applied to social computing, decision and policy informatics, which is a major part of the research agenda at the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory (NDSSL) at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI). Says Chris Barrett, director of the NDSSL and leader of the initiative: “Projects such as this Virginia Tech, IBM, and Arlington County partnership demonstrate the immediate importance of the general research area and will be coordinated with the broader capabilities of the university by the Social Computing, Decision and Policy Informatics Initiative.” Virginia Tech is building a major research center in the Ballston area of Arlington as part of the wider research effort focusing on this initiative.

Arlington will serve as a living laboratory enabling researchers to develop policy and systems research to address issues related to developing an infrastructure that can boost security in communities, locally, and nationally.

Says Terry Holzheimer, director of Arlington Economic Development: “When we couple our urban complexity with Virginia Tech’s leadership in informatics, engineering, and security policy to IBM’s world class reputation, we think we have a critical mass of intellectual expertise for this project that will help metro regions around the nation develop community resiliency.”

“Through this collaboration with Virginia Tech and Arlington County, we will research and develop informatics solutions that establish a new paradigm for smarter emergency prevention, protection, response and recovery,” said Jeff Sumner, business development manager, IBM Research. “Our goal is to apply advanced analytics and intelligence to deliver trusted information that will transform community security and resiliency.”

Holzheimer added, “We are a fairly sophisticated player. We have lot of staff capabilities to work with and real life places so that’s why we are member of the Virginia Tech, Arlington, IBM partnership.”

Virginia Tech’s planned 144,000-square-foot operation at the corner of North Glebe Road and Wilson Boulevard will house, among other activities, the Social Computing, Decision and Policy Informatics Initiative and will be part of a broader development by Chevy Chase-based The JBG Cos. at the former Bob Peck Chevrolet site. It is currently slated for completion in January 2011.

Karen Vasquez, Arlington County, 703-228-0896,
Chris Andrews, IBM, 914-945-1195,
Larry Hincker, Virginia Tech, 540-231-5396,