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Research Objectives


Develop, share, and adopt tools of discovery

Sensor Science, Engineering, & Integration

uses  plant microbiome data from the CCRP, FFAR, and AMP networks to profile crop, soil, and environmental properties across scale.

Data Mining, Machine Learning, Multi-scale Modeling, AI models

uses  novel analytical paradigms for processing heterogeneous and unstructured crop, soil, and environmental datasets developed by CCRP, FFAR, ACCESS, and RP-TDA and RiseEnAg networks

Open-source Data & Network Cyberinfrastructures

uses data and network cyberinfrastructure from CCRP and RiseEnAg networks that forms the foundation of an open-source information sharing platform for real-time querying, systematic organization, and dynamic abstraction of heterogeneous agro-ecological datasets.


Action Plan

 Student & Early-Career Development Plan

AI2EAR Fellows -one for each network- is participating in training on three topics:

1) communications, both interpersonal (one-to-one, small and large group; cross-cultural) and presentation (to scientific and nonscientific audiences);

2) self-awareness and self-management (identification of strengths, inventory of emotional intelligence, awareness of communication and work styles);

3) project design and management for international collaborations.

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Broadening Participation Plan

Train talented and diverse students and postdocs and create thriving inclusive research, and mentoring environments for diverse students, faculty and staff.

1) Network partners are working together to explore establishing a 6-week summer research program

2) The NCSU Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity is providing a Broadening Participation Workshop each year designed to build relationships through understanding, as well as in-person and online training options for conducting equitable and inclusive hiring processes at all levels.

3) URM graduate students and postdocs are being paired with at least one faculty mentor from a network outside of their home institution network. This mentor can video chat with the student at least once a semester, can act as a career coach and advocate for the success of the student outside of their graduate committee.

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Communication Plan

Acquire data to develop communication networks among AI2EAR members on:

1) conduct a socio-organizational analysis to identify strategies for effective communication during planning meetings and discussions;

2) identify team member competencies and match them based on AI2EAR needs;

3) establish cultural and expertise heterogeneity across networks to mitigate geographic location, disciplines, and/ or cultural challenges.

Semi-annually, a “here’s where we are” memo will be distributed among all individuals working on the grant.

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Evaluation Plan

Assess the effectiveness of education as well as the diversity and inclusion programs using tools developed through NSF’s Alliance for Graduation Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) program.

1- assessment of design, development, and implementation of surveys/workshops;

2- assessment of mentoring, retention and engagement activities for URM students in the education pipeline;

3- review of data reflecting the number of URM faculty and students participating in AI2EAR;

4-  assessment of effective incentives and engagement programs that lead to diverse and international research, mentoring, and training opportunities.

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Coordination Plan

AI2EAR Network-of-Networks proposal provides a unifying theme centered around the common goal of creating and bringing together diverse international networks and stakeholders. Each member network will engage fully in all activities of AI2EAR including attending, in person or virtually, the kick-off and annual meetings, sharing facilities, equipment and resources and recruiting, mentoring, hosting, and cross-training AI2EAR Fellows and visiting scholars. 
. During the winter of 2020, the Project Coordinator along with senior personnel, Dr. Tucker, will do a comprehensive evaluation of available/widely used international communication tools and software and data sharing tools and repositories in addition to surveying networks to understand what is currently in use and available to them. Recommendations for communication protocols will be decided at the Kick-off meeting.

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Timeline & Sustainability


Our Grants

Results from Previous NSF Support


NSF Early CAREER - MCB-1453130: Modeling Emergent Behavior of Gene Networks Controlling Plant Stem Cells

4/01/15 - 3/30/20 || $740,965 || PI Sozzani

Accomplishments-Intellectual Merit: The research goal of this CAREER proposal is to experimentally identify the essential features that govern regulatory networks and develop accurate mathematical models that describe their molecular dynamics. Emergent behaviors of stem cell networks is investigated by integrating genome-wide approaches with cutting-edge imaging technologies and mathematical modeling.

Accomplishments-Broader Impacts: The outreach goal is to develop a platform for effective interdisciplinary education by proposing an individualized educational program. A plant systems biology course integrating biological (gene expression, genome data, signaling data, modules/gene to function, and interaction between modules) and mathematical (data-driven modeling, structural identifiability and estimation, dynamics, and computational tools) approach has been developed and offered the past five years (2014-2019). Publications: To date, there have been 16 publications from this support (Nature Com17, PNAS18, eLife19, Dev Bio20, Nature21, Plant J22, Dev23, Curr Bio24, Mol Cell25, Methods in Mol Bio26–28, J Exp Bot29, Plant Phys30, Plant Biotech J31, Curr Opinion in Plant Bio32).


NSF DEB-1714276: AgMicrobiomes: An Interdisciplinary Research Network to Advance Microbiome Science in Agriculture

10/1/17-9/30/21 || $499,998 || PI Kinkel

Accomplishments- Intellectual Merit: The overarching goal of this project is to develop a coordinated global network of scientists, research sites, and model cropping and plant systems focused on agricultural plant and soil microbe. In 2018, we sponsored 2 workshops for 150 participants, supported sessions at 2 international meetings, and established a project website and database of microbiome researchers. In 2019, we sponsored a third workshop and scientific sessions at 2 national meetings. In 2020, we have events planned at 5 national or international meetings.

Accomplishments- Broader impacts: The project targets 4 key areas: i) increasing diversity in agricultural microbiome research, via active recruitment of and targeted scholarships provided to diverse participants; ii) aggressive inclusion of young investigators; iii) development of open channels of communication and collaboration targeting especially under-represented geographic regions; and iv) increasing agricultural microbiomes eduction. Publications: Phytobiomes Journal33.


NSF Bilateral BBSRC NSF/ Bio – 1517058: Modelling Cellular Differentiation in Plants

08/01/15 - 07/31/18 || $513,651 || PI Long, co-PI Sozzani

Accomplishments-Intellectual Merit: The goal of this project is to identify and mathematically characterize emergent behaviors of gene regulatory networks during the ontogenic development of differentiated phloem cells and use this information to generate computational models that predict how regulatory signals regulate this process in the face of changing environmental conditions.

Accomplishments-Broader Impact. This project is supporting 1 graduate student and has supported 1 postdoc, and 2 undergraduate students from local MRIs who presented her work at the Annual Shaw University Student Research Symposium, NCSU Summer Undergraduate Research Spring Symposium, Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS). Publications: To date, there have been 6 publications from this support: Front Plant Sci34,35, Nature21, PNAS18, Dev Bio20, Curr Bio24


NSF EEC 1840440: Planning Grant: Engineering Research Center for Rapid Innovations in SystEms Engineering and Agricultural Sustainability (RiseEnAg)

09/01/18 – 08/31/20 || $99,940 || PI Williams, co-PI Sozzani, Kudenov, Oralkan, Ogan

We propose a vision for RiseEnAg to advance discovery, innovation, and education for next-generation sustainable agricultural technology solutions.

Accomplishments-Intellectual Merit: Through this planning grant, we will crystallize our vision by: 1) defining specific problems that will yield significant societal impact; 2) defining a convergent space of research, along with appropriate personnel, that are able to address the scientific and technical gaps; 3) engaging with the Ag-producer, Ag-grower and the Ag-Biotech community to assess how emerging technology can be used to increase value to their industry; and 4) identifying opportunities for team formation and engagement in leadership and management training.

Accomplishments-Broader Impact. Thus far, we have several meetings, including a two-day stakeholder engagement workshop where day 1 was focused on identifying the problems important to agricultural growers and producers and day 2 was focused on identifying opportunities to provide value to the ag-biotech industry within a precompetitive space. Both days were well attended with 24 attendees on day 1 and 39 attendees on day 2 across 3 universities, 10 ag-biotech companies, a non-profit, and a commodity group. The data obtained from the discussions were coded, synthesized, and analyzed for emergent themes across these stakeholders. Interactions that have emerged from this planning grant have led to the submission of multiple federal grants totaling $10.6M.

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