WASHINGTON -- Convergent research which crosses disciplinary boundaries, integrating tools and knowledge from the life sciences, physical sciences, engineering, and other fields -- could spur innovation and help tackle societal challenges, but greater national coordination is needed, says a new report from the National Research Council. Convergent science still faces hurdles and requires a culture shift for research institutions, which have traditionally organized research around separate disciplines.
Convergent science also relies on forming a web of partnerships to support boundary-crossing research and to translate advances into new products. The report identifies steps institutions and the nation can take to support these partnerships.
"Some of our most difficult real-world problems do not respect disciplinary boundaries, and convergent science, which brings together insights and approaches from many fields, can help us find solutions," said committee chair Joseph DeSimone, Chancellor's Eminent Professor of Chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering at NC State. "It is time for a systematic effort to highlight the value of convergence as an approach to R&D, and to address lingering challenges to its effective practice."
The report identifies areas where convergent approaches could accelerate innovation and help meet broad challenges, including creating new fuels and energy storage systems, meeting the world's need for secure food supplies in a changing climate, and developing new treatments for chronic illnesses.
Convergent research is already contributing to breakthroughs, the report notes. For example, convergence between the engineering and biotechnology worlds is bringing 3-D printing -- which enables custom objects to be built on demand within hours to medicine, allowing the construction of medical implants customiz
|Contact: Sara Frueh|
National Academy of Sciences