In September 2019, the AAAS Research Competitiveness Program (RCP) participated in the virtual kick-off meeting of a new multi-jurisdictional, NSF-funded research collaboration focused on “compiling data to better assess, understand and forecast complex forest landscape changes.” The INSPIRES project (“Integrating and Leveraging Multi-Dimensional Data Streams for Improved Understanding of Ecosystem Services from Complex Northern Forests”), will draw upon scientific expertise from the University of Maine, the University of New Hampshire (UNH), and the University of Vermont (UVM), and include land managers and policy makers from each state to develop a digital framework for integrating “emerging computational, monitoring, remote sensing and visualization technologies.” In addition to its scientific and technical goals, this 4-year, $6 million dollar research infrastructure capacity-building award from NSF’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) is designed “broaden participation through the strategic inclusion and integration of different types of individuals, institutions, and sectors throughout the project,” “build sustainable STEM capacity,” and “develop diverse early-career faculty.”
The AAAS RCP is partnering with INSPIRES to support the project’s evaluation needs. This fall, senior RCP staff will collaborate with the project team to design a data-driven evaluation plan that will establish baseline capacity and measure annual progress against key milestones. Annual AAAS RCP Evaluation Reports will support the project leadership and inform formative and summative strategic assessments of the project by a panel of experts recruited and led by AAAS RCP. AAAS RCP’s integrated evaluation approach is designed to strengthen and enhance the project’s potential to advance the use of big data to improve ecosystems service across northern New England.