NU FEWS — Information and Opportunities

Welcome to the NU FEWS website, a resource for the UNL research community for information about Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems. Known as INFEWS, this new federal priority area is being developed by the National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Agriculture.


In anticipation of expected funding opportunities in this area, UNL launched NU FEWS, a campuswide process for generating innovative project concepts and organizing new research teams in this area. The goal is to involve faculty from every discipline on campus in discussing and generating novel ideas for INFEWS proposals. The Office of Research and Economic Development is organizing this effort in collaboration with the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Education and Human Sciences, and Engineering.

NU FEWS process

An August 2015 campus briefing introduced 200 UNL faculty to INFEWS.

Phase I: A series of six NU Fews + Conversations were held on campus from October 2015 through January 2016. Click here to see details about or view videos from these meetings.

Phase II: A Scoping Workshop was held on February 10, 2016, to generate novel and interesting research questions at the FEWS nexus. Click here to access the list of research questions generated by more than 160 faculty participants.

Phase III: An interactive “Jumpstart” focused on the development of intensive, resilient agroecosystems will be held from May 9 to 11, 2016. The purpose of the event is to ignite new thinking about novel solutions for this complex challenge and lay the groundwork for innovative research proposals. The request for applications from faculty who wish to participate in the Jumpstart is available here.

Below, UNL researchers may access INFEWS information and opportunities. This includes key background materials, details about INFEWS-related activities and lists of relevant funding opportunities.

INFEWS Background

The combination of Earth’s rapidly growing population and changing climate call into question our ability to produce an abundant, affordable and sustainable food supply in the future. This issue is further complicated by increased urbanization, changes in land use and variations in consumer demand and preference. The multi-faceted nature of this grand challenge points to the urgent need for deeper, evidence-based understanding about the interplay among our food, energy and water resources.

In response to that critical need, NSF and USDA plan to make a major investment in research focused on INFEWS as part of the federal 2016 budget. This cross-agency investment is expected to total $225 million in the next year, with contributions of $75 million by NSF and $150 million by USDA. NSF and USDA investments are expected to continue at or above those levels through 2021.

Broadly construed, INFEWS-related funding opportunities will support research that aims to understand, design and model the interconnected food, energy and water system through interdisciplinary approaches that incorporate all areas of science, engineering and associated human dimensions. For example, some federal goals for INFEWS are to:

  • Understand the food, energy and water system through integrated systems.
  • Create methodologies for effective integration of data and relevant cyber elements.
  • Develop innovative, evidence-based solutions and technology.
  • Support related education, workforce and community development efforts.

To be successful, INFEWS projects will need to draw on a base of knowledge, experience and methodologies that cuts across the arts and humanities; social, behavioral and educational sciences; agricultural, life and physical sciences; engineering; and law and policy.

For additional background information about INFEWS, please see:

INFEWS-related Activities

UNL Activities Related to INFEWS

In partnership with Knowinnovation, UNL will organize a series of creative, collaborative events to help researchers make new cross-campus connections and enable the type of productive conversations that can lead to innovative research projects at the nexus of several disciplines. These events will build toward an all-of-campus Scoping Workshop on February 10, 2016, and culminate in one or more Jumpstart workshops. Check here often to learn more about upcoming events designed to build a community of scholars focused on INFEWS at UNL.

NU FEWS + Conversations

NU FEWS + Conversations featured UNL faculty discussing diverse dimensions of the FEWS nexus – think short TED talks with lunch or hors d’oeuvres. The speakers explored how their research areas relate to the FEWS nexus and provided a way for faculty from other disciplines to see how they might participate in generating research ideas. A panel of faculty who were invited to attend NSF-sponsored FEWS symposia led the final NU FEWS + Conversation. They reported on topics and discussions from the symposia, which NSF supported as a source of research ideas and topics for upcoming calls for proposals.

A series of six NU FEWS + Conversations began in October and wrapped up in January:

  • Oct. 22: First conversation, led by Andy Burnett from Knowinnovation, introduced Knowinnovation’s collaborative process for accelerating interdisciplinary innovation that has been adopted by NSF and other scientific agencies in the U.S. and abroad. Video of Oct. 22 meeting.
  • Nov. 12, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Colonial Room, Nebraska Union. Presenters: Craig Allen, natural resources; David Wishart, geography; Mehmet Can Vuran, computer science and engineering. Video of Nov. 12 meeting.
  • Nov. 20, 3:30-5 p.m., Prairie Suite, Nebraska East Union. Presenters: Lisa Pytlik-Zillig, educational psychology; Carrick Detweiler, computer science and engineering; Konstantinos Giannakas, agricultural economics. Video of Nov. 20 meeting.
  • Dec. 3, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Colonial Room, Nebraska Union. Presenters: Tom Clemente, agronomy and horticulture and Center for Plant Science Innovation; Shannon Bartelt-Hunt, civil engineering; Axel Enders, physics and astronomy. Video of Dec. 3 meeting.
  • Dec. 11, 3-4:30 p.m., Prairie Suite, Nebraska East Union. Presenters: Nicholas Brozovic, Daugherty Water for Food Institute; Concetta DiRusso, biochemistry; Sarah Thomas Karle, landscape architecture. Video of Dec. 11 meeting.
  • Jan. 14, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Regency Suite, Nebraska Union. Faculty who participated in NSF-sponsored INFEWS symposia report-back: Barry Cheung, chemistry; Chris Cornelius, civil engineering; Karrie Weber, earth and atmospheric sciences, biological sciences. Video of Jan. 14 meeting.
INFEWS-related Funding Opportunities
NSF Funding Opportunities

More Information

For more information regarding INFEWS-related activities at UNL, please contact:

  • Tala Awada, interim associate dean for research, Agricultural Research Division
  • David Berkowitz, chair, Department of Chemistry
  • Nick Brozovic, director of policy, Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute
  • Chris Cornelius, associate dean for research, College of Engineering
  • Aaron Dominguez, associate dean for research, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Deb Hamernik, associate dean for research, Agricultural Research Division
  • Dan Hoyt, director, Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Consortium
  • Nathan Meier, director of research strategy, Office of Research and Economic Development
  • Mike Nastasi, director, Nebraska Center for Energy Sciences Research
  • Monica Norby, assistant vice chancellor for research, Office of Research and Economic Development
  • Jon Pedersen, associate dean for research, College of Education and Human Sciences