Date:  May 9, 2013





Keck Futures Initiative Awards More Than $1 Million for 12 Research Projects; Projects Selected Range From Developing a 'Virtual Physician App' to Uncovering the DNA of Social Knowledge



WASHINGTON -- The National Academies Keck Futures Initiative announced today the recipients of its latest round of grants.  Each grant was awarded to support 12 interdisciplinary research projects related to the informed brain in a digital world, which was the subject of the 10th annual Futures conference held last November.


"We received far more high-quality proposals than funds available," said Michael S. Gazzaniga, director, The Sage Center for the Study of the Mind, University of California, Santa Barbara.  "We scored the grants based on their interdisciplinarity, relevance to the informed brain in a digital world, riskiness/boldness, and the importance and potential impact if the grant is funded.  We believe that the group of collaborations selected will result in the most 'generative' findings."


These competitive seed grants aim to fill a critical gap in funding for research on new ideas.  Major federal funding programs do not typically provide support in areas that are considered risky or unusual.  The Futures grants allow researchers to start recruiting students and postdoctoral fellows, purchasing equipment, and acquiring preliminary data -- all of which can position the researchers to compete for larger awards from other public and private sources.


Listed in alphabetical order -- principal investigators (PI) first, then co-PIs -- the award recipients and their grant research topics are:


GIORGIO ASCOLI, George Mason University

MARYANN MARTONE, University of California, San Diego

RUCHI PAREKH and DIEK WHEELER, George Mason University

LAURA SYMONDS, Michigan State University

Crowdsourcing Extraction of Knowledge From Data: Pilot Designs in Neuroscience -- $100,000

The ongoing/forthcoming deluge of digital scientific data poses the "interpretation challenge" of digesting raw data into information accessible to people and machines alike. These researchers envision leveraging the parallel opportunity to involve the entire human population in pro-active sense-making with learning environments directly based on empirical data as opposed to textbooks.


JOHN-PAUL CLARKE, Georgia Institute of Technology

PATRICK WHEATLE, Northeast Regional Health Authority (Jamaica)

The Virtual Physician: An Application for Hand-Held Electronic Devices That Enables Time and Resource Optimal Diagnosis -- $100,000

These researchers aim to develop an application for optimally sequencing questions to patients and subsequent diagnostic tests, thereby minimizing the time and the resources that are required to obtain an accurate diagnosis. Their hope is that this will improve treatment in developing countries where there are limited diagnostic resources.


ADAM GAZZALEY, University of California, San Francisco

JOSE CARMENA, University of California, Berkeley

JYOTI MISHRA, University of California, San Francisco

Closing the Loop Between the Brain and the Digital World -- $100,000

This project integrates recent advances in brain-computer interfaces (BCI) with neural findings from human multitasking in a digital environment to develop a novel BCI.  It explores how healthy and impaired humans can more effectively interact with the digital world using real-time neural signals to guide BCI control of interactive software.


DAVID HACHEN, University of Notre Dame

JEFFREY LIEW, Texas A&M University

OMAR LIZARDO and AARON STRIEGEL, University of Notre Dame

Using Smart Devices to Capture the Emotionality of Offline Communication -- $100,000

The increasing prevalence of online interactions may be inhibiting the development of strong, reciprocal, and emotionally significant offline social ties.  These researchers will develop an innovative system using smart devices that detects speech traits indicative of various emotional states and provides data on offline emotionality needed to understand changing social networks.


KENNETH LANGA, University of Michigan

NICOLE ELLISON, University of Michigan

Expanding the Research Infrastructure to Study the Use and Outcomes of the Internet and Social Media in Middle-age and Older Adults -- $75,000

This project will build on initial collaborations formed at the "Informed Brain" Keck Futures Conference to define and expand opportunities for future research on how middle-age and older adults are using the Internet and social media, as well as the positive and negative health outcomes of that use.


KALEV LEETARU, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

ANTHONY OLCOTT, Artemus Associates 
Your Brain on Dashboards: Data & Decisions -- $50,000

The growth of "big data" has encouraged a companion growth in "dashboarding," or presentations of data in ways that state conditions but imply actions. This project will lay the groundwork for ways to test whether dashboarding actually helps the decision-making process, especially in complex domains like government, security, and intelligence.


TODD MCCALLUM, Case Western Reserve University

JEAN COPPOLA, Pace University

LEV GONICK and MARVIN SCHWARTZ, Case Western Reserve University

GEORGE KIKANO, University Hospitals

Developing a Digital Assistant for the Third Age to Help Older Adults Age Healthfully -- $75,000

The project seeks to merge digital communication, behavioral health, social networking, and health monitoring technologies to create a prototype for a Digital Assistant for the Third Age to assist older adults in healthy aging and disease management.


ODED NOV, New York University - Polytechnic Institute

OFER ARAZY, Alberta University

NARAYAN MANDAYAM, Rutgers University

From Informed Human Brains to Society-Scale Silicon Brains: Uncovering the DNA of Social Knowledge -- $50,000

This project will focus on the transformation from informed human brains to society-scale informed silicon-based "brains." Inspired by efforts such as the Human Genome Project, these researchers seek to explore the basic patterns, or building blocks, of the process through which humans co-create silicon "brains" -- large and accessible repositories of knowledge.


SHRIRAM RAMANATHAN, Harvard University


A.R.C.H.I.E: Adaptive, Reconfigurable Cognition Through Hybrid Inorganic Electronics -- $100,000

These researchers aim to investigate decision making and cognition through proof-of-concept electronic circuits fabricated with correlated electron materials that display phase transitions. Vanadium dioxide undergoes metal-insulator transition at room temperature upon application of a voltage pulse. This sharp change in conductance may be exploited to fabricate neural circuits to study cognition.


DAVID STRAYER, University of Utah


ADAM GAZZALEY, University of California, San Francisco

ARTHUR KRAMER, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Nature and Cognitive Restoration: How Does the Brain Behave in a Non-digital World? -- $50,000

This project is designed to develop a better understanding of the biological bases underlying cognitive restoration associated with immersion in natural settings by 1) supporting a workshop to explore new methods for measuring the influence of nature on neurocognitive systems and 2) supporting data collection testing these new methods.


JUN WANG, Syracuse University

FELICE FRANKEL, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Drawing-Based Social Learning for Massive Open Online Course Students -- $100,000

Recent studies in multitasking suggest that heavy media multitaskers lack attention focus and in-depth learning. Growing evidence shows that drawing to learn can engage students in deep learning. These researchers aim to develop and test a social learning tool for MOOC students to create and share online drawings of scientific concepts.


DEBRA WEINER, Boston Children's Hospital/Harvard Medical School

KALEV LEETARU, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

WEI LU, University of Michigan

Lifelong Learning Locker, Life-Sciences Linker: Adaptive Learning, Content Management, Framework for Lifelong Learning and to Promote Innovation and Research Collaboration

Lifelong Learning Locker, Life-Sciences Linker will be an Internet-assisted, adaptive-information management, learning, and networking system for use throughout life. Human and algorithmically driven user profiles and adaptive interfaces will enable user-specific personalized content acquisition, organization, and sharing to optimize learning, maintain competency, and facilitate interdisciplinary research. 


A summary of the conference, "The Informed Brain in a Digital World," will be available online in early June at 


Established through a $40 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation in 2003, the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative is a 15-year effort to enhance communication among researchers, funding agencies, universities, and the general public -- with the objective of stimulating interdisciplinary research at the most exciting frontiers.  The National Academies and the W.M. Keck Foundation believe considerable scientific progress and social benefit will be achieved by providing a counterbalance to the tendency to isolate research within academic fields.  The Futures Initiative is designed to enable researchers from different disciplines to focus on new questions and entirely new research, and to encourage better communication among scientists as well as between the scientific community and the public.  For more information about NAKFI, please visit  For more information about the W.M. Keck Foundation, please visit 



Molly Galvin, Senior Media Officer


Kimberly Suda-Blake, Program Director, National Academies Keck Futures Initiative