Texas A&M researchers exploring new approach to gathering infrastructure data

A multidisciplinary team of researchers at Texas A&M University has been awarded an Early Concept Grant for Exploratory Research from the National Science Foundation to study the viability of collecting infrastructure monitoring data by volunteer citizen scientists from the general public.

The principal investigator is Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station researcher Dr. Nasir Gharaibeh, an associate professor in the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering. Collaborators on the project include Dr. Philip Berke and Dr. Shannon Van Zandt, professors in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning in the College of Architecture; Dr. Jennifer Horney, an associate professor at the Texas A&M School of Public Health; and Dr. Michelle Meyer, an assistant professor of sociology at Louisiana State University.

Currently, data regarding infrastructure at the neighborhood scale is limited compared to the data available on large-scale infrastructure. To solve this, the goal of the project is to develop capabilities for collecting infrastructure monitoring data at the neighborhood level by volunteer citizen-scientists.

The study will focus on two questions to achieve that goal. First, what factors influence reliability of citizen-generated data at the neighborhood level? Second, can understanding those factors lead to developing protocols for producing high quality data?

“I’m hopeful that this research will improve the safety and reliability of infrastructure systems in our communities,” Gharaibeh said. “These systems are essential for people's quality of life and for the resiliency of communities to future natural disasters and environmental hazards. It is eye opening to work on multidisciplinary research that has both technical and social components and involves a truly multidisciplinary team. This team is currently working on urban infrastructure and other related issues as part of Texas A&M’s Resilience and Climate Change Cooperative Project (RCCCP).”

The study will focus on storm water infrastructure in neighborhoods in the Houston metropolitan area.  This site was chosen because it contains vulnerable neighborhoods with a long history of flooding and environmental issues.