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UMD's Future of Information Alliance Receives $1 Million

September 7, 2012

David Ottalini, 301 405 4076 or

COLLEGE PARK, Md -  The Robert W. Deutsch Foundation has awarded $1 million to the Future of Information Alliance (FIA) at the University of Maryland. Launched in 2011, the Alliance reaches across disciplines in exploring key information-related challenges and opportunities. The Deutsch Foundation funds will be used over the next three years to expand the Alliance's "Visiting Future-ist" program and to create a new seed-grant competition for students and their faculty mentors.

"This generous support will help us to bring more of the world's leading innovators and researchers into important conversations about the future of information, across campus and beyond," says University of Maryland President Wallace Loh. "It will also help our students take part in the search for creative solutions to some of the most pressing issues of our time."

The seed-grant program is designed to spur innovation and research by multidisciplinary teams of students, under faculty mentorship. Each group will collaborate with one of the FIA's 10 Founding Partners, whose members include the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the National Geographic Society, the Newseum, Sesame Workshop, the Smithsonian Institution, the U.S. National Park Service, the Barrie School, NPR-affiliate station WAMU 88.5, and the Office of the Governor of Maryland.

Details of the seed grant program will be announced on the FIA website.  Students in each of four winning teams will be designated as Deutsch-FIA Student Fellows and will receive stipends for work on their projects. Faculty mentors will also receive stipends and will be designated Deutsch-FIA Faculty Fellows.

The FIA launched its "Visiting Future-ist" program in November 2011 with a week of programs on campus. Leading innovators from Google, Twitter and Microsoft spent the week talking about their own work and brainstorming with hundreds of students, faculty and staff.  One of last year's Visiting Future-ists, Dr. Dan Russell,  who is known as Google's Director of User Happiness, will return to campus several times this year as the FIA's first" Future-ist in Residence." Google is an FIA Corporate Affiliate.

The Deutsch funds will help expand the Visiting Future-ist program, with three events to be held each year.  The first of these, on Nov. 12, will focus on transforming education through the future of information.  This event will explore how universities are experimenting with new forms of online education that reach beyond campuses to potentially millions of participants worldwide. The second Visiting Future-ist event, on Feb. 4, 2013, will explore the uses of crowdsourcing for creativity and human potential.  The third event, on May 6 will focus on the challenges and opportunities in accessing and using big data to better support government services, improve healthcare information, and more.

"The Future of Information Alliance and its transdisciplinary focus offer students and faculty the opportunity to engage in transformative research and education," says UMD's Vice President for Research and Chief Research Officer Dr. Patrick O'Shea."Through its important and visionary contribution, the Deutsch Foundation has helped make this new initiative possible."

The Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, based in Baltimore, supports innovations in science and technology, investment in education, creative placemaking and the arts community in Baltimore, and projects that enhance the well-being of others. The Deutsch Foundation is already established as an important supporter of innovation at the University of Maryland.  One current Deutsch Foundation program supports graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in the Clark School of Engineering working on a multidisciplinary program in biofabrication, investigating and developing nano-scale technologies for detection and treatment of disease .

The Future of Information Alliance was created to serve as a catalyst for dialogue across disciplines and to promote research on issues related to the evolving role of information in our lives. By identifying shared challenges and encouraging innovative solutions, the Future of Information Alliance seeks to facilitate a future in which information in all its forms can be an effective resource for all. The Future of Information Alliance is co-directed by Professor Allison Druin of Maryland's iSchool and Associate Professor Ira Chinoy of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism. The FIA operates under the auspices of the Office of the Vice President for Research and is supported by the deans of all colleges and schools across campus as well as a broad-based campus advisory board.