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NSF Backs New Quake Centers

The National Science Foundation (NSF) yesterday pledged $30 million to three institutions to fund and coordinate earthquake engineering research. Based in California, Illinois, and New York, the centers will study the effects of earthquakes on structures and look for ways to mitigate damage. Each will receive $2 million per year for 5 years, to be matched with nonfederal funds.

The Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center, run by the University of California, Berkeley, will concentrate on technologies to reduce urban losses. In addition to conducting engineering studies, the center will bring together geologists, public policy experts, and economists. "New knowledge for earthquake safety requires integrated research from diverse backgrounds," says Shih-Chi Liu, NSF's program director for earthquake hazard mitigation research.

The Mid-America Earthquake Center, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will tailor its program to the concerns of central and eastern states, aiming to improve methods of evaluating seismic risk and retrofitting structures. And the Center for Advanced Technologies in Earthquake Loss-Reduction at the State University of New York, Buffalo--which NSF has funded since 1986--will focus on ways to predict property loss, particularly by improving emergency response.

The program will provide an "avenue for cooperation between different universities and researchers across the United States and abroad," says Jim Jirsa, a civil engineer at the University of Texas, Austin. It will also "draw attention to earthquake risks outside of California."