Move strengthens IUPUI as leader in practical use of advanced technologies and place-based analysis to improve communities
The Polis Center is joining the School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI, positioning IUPUI to serve constituencies more effectively with community-based information and analysis. This move will enhance IUPUI’s leadership and application of technology in collaborative and creative solutions for healthier and more resilient communities and extend the university’s long tradition of service to Indianapolis and Central Indiana.
The Polis Center’s expertise, nationally and internationally, is in geospatial technologies and location-based analysis. Most recently, the center has collaborated on the development of the Coronavirus Data Hub, which tracks national, state and local data at the county and neighborhood levels on the risk, outcomes, impact, disparities and inequities of COVID-19.
The center will remain community-facing, collaborating with a wide range of organizations to define, measure and improve community health, well-being and resiliency. It will continue its practice of using its community research and information infrastructure to inform policy- and decision-making.
Mathew Palakal, senior executive associate dean of the School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI; David Bodenhamer, executive director of the Polis Center; and IUPUI Chancellor Nasser H. Paydar believe that this transition will be of great benefit not only to Indianapolis and the state of Indiana, but throughout the U.S. and internationally. The move was effective July 1.
“Polis demonstrates IUPUI’s deep commitment to the community,” Paydar said. “The center fits well with the School of Informatics and Computing’s mission to use information and technology to address social needs. This move is a natural and logical progression of the work of both units, reflecting the convergence of technology and community needs and the search for creative, innovative solutions to real-world problems.”
Aligning the Polis Center with the School of Informatics and Computing creates a direct connection to current and emerging fields in bioinformatics, data science, informatics and health information management. The move also allows for expanded education opportunities such as a new crisis informatics program, building on the school’s expertise in data science and the center’s existing education programs in disaster management and data literacy.
The School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI, established in late 1999, was the first school of its kind in the U.S., integrating computing, social science and information systems design in unique ways to explore how people use computing and technology both personally and professionally. It develops innovative IT solutions that transform fields such as health care, biology, business, law, entertainment and media.
Nearly 1,600 students study informatics at IUPUI, where top-notch programs and highly regarded faculty prepare them for careers in computing and information technology. Together with the School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering at IU Bloomington, the School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI aims to lead the nation in creating a new, broad and interdisciplinary view of informatics and uses this viewpoint as the foundation for three foci: education and research, economic development and entrepreneurship, and diversity.
The School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI’s accomplishments over the years include the creation and implementation in 2015 of the award-winning Informatics Diversity-Enhanced Workforce, or iDEW, program that serves Indiana youth; the Leading Informatics for Tomorrow, or LiFT, Scholars program, an NSF-funded partnership with Ivy Tech; the creation of unique programs like the B.S. in biomedical informatics — the first in the Midwest — and the Ph.D. in data science — the first in the Big Ten; and multiple research collaborations with IU School of Medicine, IU School of Dentistry, Regenstrief Institute, and other schools, units and organizations across IU campuses and Indiana. In 2019, the school launched the BioHealth Informatics Research Center to foster industry partnerships in health care research and development.
The School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI created the Polis Center in 1989 in as an interdisciplinary urban research center focused on Indianapolis, linking university and community knowledge. Its first major contributions include the SAVI community information system — the nation’s largest; the 1994 “Encyclopedia of Indianapolis” — hailed as a national model for urban encyclopedias; a multiyear Project on Religion and Urban Culture; and Spirit & Place, an initiative featuring creative collaborations among the arts, humanities and religion for civic engagement that will remain in the School of Liberal Arts. An updated digital “Encyclopedia of Indianapolis,” a legacy project of the Indianapolis Bicentennial Commission, is slated to launch in early 2021 as a collaboration between the schools of informatics and liberal arts. Today, the Polis Center’s experts support disaster mitigation, population health management, community development and quality-of-life efforts.
About the Polis Center
The Polis Center developed the SAVI Community Information System to help nonprofits, academia, governments and health organizations assess trends and conditions; identify service gaps; and better target areas of concern based on the social, economic and other demographic realities in more than 2,000 Central Indiana communities and neighborhoods. Its data and topic profiles cover what matters most to communities, from demographics to housing and from health to the economy.
Polis supports the creation of healthy and resilient communities and partners with the public health, health care, social service and academic sectors to enhance the use of place-based information for the improvement of health in Indiana and beyond. It is currently involved in two IU Grand Challenge initiatives that address major health concerns: Precision Health and Responding to the Addictions Crisis. The Polis Center is collaborating with the state of Indiana’s Management Performance Hub on the Indiana Data Partnership to help local and nongovernmental organizations share common data to improve services. Polis is focusing on elements related to the opioid addiction crisis.
The Polis Center is a Cooperating Technical Partner with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and works closely with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to update Indiana’s flood risk maps and data. It collaborates with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security on improving state and county hazard mitigation plans. It played a significant role in developing the National Institute of Building Sciences’ 2017 Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves Study, serving as lead investigators on the riverine flood hazard.
The center is also an international leader in the new field of spatial humanities, which it helped to create. This new discipline applies advanced geospatial technologies to the humanities, especially in disciplines such as history, literature, anthropology and archaeology. Spatial humanities is a part of digital humanities, and the center has strong relationships with leading universities in Europe and Asia in this rapidly growing field.
Polis is a self-supporting center, collaborating on more than 1,000 projects since its inception and almost $100 million in income through grants and contracts with city, state and U.S. organizations, governments and philanthropic funders.
About the School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI
The School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI is committed to delivering a highly practical education alongside cutting-edge research. The school is at the forefront of innovation in education and provides an informatics curriculum that focuses on computing and information technology while giving equal attention to the complex interactions of technology, individuals and society. Students of informatics learn skills that allow them to use computing to solve real human problems in areas such as health care, education, poverty, security and the environment.
The school also conducts research in a wide range of computing and informatics foundations and applications and their implications. It brings a unique perspective that combines information science with a deep understanding of domain-specific areas of research, such as the biological, health, life sciences, medical and biomedical sciences, cognitive and social sciences, media arts and science, the law and legal domains, business, and human-computer interaction design and usability engineering.
In addition to its primary mission in education and research, the school trains well-equipped graduates for a wide range of computing and information technology occupations by placing a special emphasis on partnering with information technology businesses to address their professional needs in the state of Indiana, and supporting a culture of entrepreneurship for its students, faculty and alumni. Students have been especially successful participating in technology-based competitions across the country, designed to address challenges faced by first responders and others.
The school also fosters an inclusive educational and research culture and environment by attracting women and underrepresented minorities who have a wide range of intellectual interests, talents and professional goals and is achieving national recognition as an exemplar for diversity.