What does the Rose Bowl have to do with the future of the global internet, earthquakes and wildfires?

The message below is co-written by President Michael H. Schill with Rebecca Blank, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison

December 31, 2019

It’s been eight years since our two schools last met on the field at the 2012 Rose Bowl and we’ve both been eagerly anticipating the rematch.

While most people will see University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Oregon as fierce gridiron competitors, off the field our faculty collaborate on work with global implications.

UW and UO represent two of America’s leading research universities and proud members of the Association of American Universities (AAU). Our work has lasting impact far beyond our home states. For example, in the years since the last Rose Bowl, our faculty members have been teaming up to save the internet.

A study produced jointly by our researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Oregon suggests internet infrastructure may be under water within the next 15 years as the result of rising sea levels.

The most susceptible U.S. cities are New York, Miami and Seattle, but the effects would not be confined to those areas and could ripple across the internet, potentially disrupting global communications.

You might be surprised that both of our universities have a reach far into California and are shaping life there in positive and remarkable ways. UW-Madison is evaluating the effectiveness of laws around vaccines, protecting spotted owls and studying attacks by coyotes.

Both our universities are working to curb and detect wildfires. The UO’s effort in AlertWildfire uses a network of fire cameras in California designed to spot wildfires before they flare out of control.

UO is also a partner in ShakeAlert, an earthquake early warning system that detects significant earthquakes so quickly that alerts can reach many people before shaking arrives. Many California residents received the first public alert on their cell phones from the system when a magnitude 4.3 earthquake ruptured in the mountains between the Central Coast and San Joaquin Valley.

Scientific research is the foundation on which future advances in technology, health and productivity are built. But scientific advances don’t happen by accident—they require investment by public and private entities to succeed.

U.S. global leadership in science, technology and innovation has been threatened in recent years, as other countries rapidly increase their investments in research and grow their STEM workforce.

This is not inevitable; together, and with the support of organizations like AAU, we can take steps to maintain our long-term leadership in innovation and discovery.

With a strong and sustained commitment by the federal government to scientific research our nation can continue to be a world leader. Such investments will drive the U.S. economy forward and lead to improvements in the human condition around the U.S.

To be successful public research universities need people in our states and across the nation cheering for us, advocating for resources and partnership from state and federal lawmakers, agencies, industry and private donors—to help keep our life-changing work on track in California, Oregon, Wisconsin and across the globe.

At the Rose Bowl, we’ll be cheering on our respective teams. UW has wagered our state’s famous cheese and UO is putting Oregon’s excellent pinot noir wine on the line. Regardless of who wins, when you pair our two schools’ research together for the greater good, it’s like pairing fine wine with good cheese—and everyone wins.