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Ceci Jones Schrock
Indiana University Office of the Vice President for Information Technology and CIO

IU-supported QuakeSim project co-winner of NASA’s Software of the Year


October 4, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.-- QuakeSim, an Indiana University-supported collection of online data and tools from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and multiple university partners, is a recipient of NASA's 2012 Software of the Year Award. The award recognizes innovative software technologies that significantly improve the agency's space exploration and maximize scientific discovery on Earth.

IU computer scientists developed the unifying online framework for the tools and data through the QuakeSim portal, which is a science gateway for understanding earthquake and tectonic processes. Simply put, science gateways are web-based portals and tools that let researchers pool resources, saving money and time. The QuakeSim portal allows scientists to use NASA remote-sensing and other earthquake-related data for in 3-D simulations and modeling of fault behavior both individually and as part of complex, interacting systems.

IU computer scientists help make QuakeSim possible. Led by Geoffrey Fox, distinguished professor of computer science and informatics and director of IU's Digital Science Center, and Marlon Pierce, assistant director of IU's Science Gateways Group, the IU team handles development of the distributed computing software that runs QuakeSim.

"Receiving NASA's Software of the Year Award is very exciting," said Fox, whose parallel and distributed computing research has laid the foundation for significant computational and data science. "QuakeSim is a proven game changer, addressing big data issues and providing open access to data and tools to confront the societally important challenge of earthquakes and their damaging consequences."

Pierce said, "Gateways such as QuakeSim are vital to advancing science in today's world. Earthquake scientists are able to easily share and collaborate from anywhere in the world, which helps them better understand earthquakes, how to forecast them, and how to best protect people affected by them."

QuakeSim's data is expected to save lives as government and commercial sectors incorporate the software into their earthquake forecasting, mitigation, and response plans. In fact, it's already making a difference. QuakeSim was used to identify regions in southern California that are at risk for earthquakes, guiding the collection of data by NASA's Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) prior to a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Baja, Mexico, in 2010. This led to the first-ever airborne radar images of deformation in Earth's surface caused by a major earthquake.

The software also was used in several recent government earthquake response exercises, including the 2008 California ShakeOut, 2011 National Level Exercise and the 2012 Golden Guardian Exercise. QuakeSim approaches are being adopted by numerous organizations, including the Southern California Earthquake Center, United States Geological Survey and the California Geological Survey.