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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18722.
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Convergence

_______________________________________

Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of
Life Sciences, Physical Sciences,
Engineering, and Beyond

Committee on Key Challenge Areas for Convergence and Health
Board on Life Sciences
Division on Earth and Life Studies

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
                         OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
Washington, D.C.
www.nap.edu

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18722.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS      500 Fifth Street, NW      Washington, DC 20001

NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.

This project was supported by the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Science Fund of the National Academy of Sciences, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the Kavli Foundation, Research Corporation for Science Advancement, the National Science Foundation through grant PHY-1353249, the National Institutes of Health through award HHSN263201200074I/HHSN26300047, TO#47, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Institute for Engineering, Technology & Science of North Carolina State University, the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science at the University of Connecticut. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.

International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-30151-0
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-30151-3
Library of Congress Control Number: 20141940815

Additional copies of this report are available for sale from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Keck 360, Washington, DC 20001; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313; http://www.nap.edu.

Copyright 2014 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America.

Suggested citation: NRC (National Research Council). 2014. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18722.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.

The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., is president of the National Academy of Engineering.

The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine.

The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.

www.national-academies.org

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18722.
×

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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18722.
×

COMMITTEE ON KEY CHALLENGE AREAS
FOR CONVERGENCE AND HEALTH

JOSEPH M. DESIMONE (Chair), University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina and North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina

TIMOTHY GALITSKI, Institute for Systems Biology and, recently, EMD Millipore Corporation, Danvers, Massachusetts

JAMES M. GENTILE, Hope College, Holland, Michigan

SHARON C. GLOTZER, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

SUSAN J. HOCKFIELD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts

JULIE THOMPSON KLEIN, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan

CATO T. LAURENCIN, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, Connecticut

CHERRY A. MURRAY, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

MONICA OLVERA DE LA CRUZ, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois

NICHOLAS A. PEPPAS, University of Texas, Austin, Texas

LYNNE J. REGAN, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

J. DAVID ROESSNER, SRI International, Redwood City, California

Staff

KATHERINE BOWMAN, Study Director and Senior Program Officer

CARL G. ANDERSON, Program Associate

LAURENCE YEUNG, Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Fellow

JOSEPH ALPER, Consulting Science Writer

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18722.
×

BOARD ON LIFE SCIENCES

JAMES P. COLLINS (Chair), Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona

ENRIQUETA C. BOND, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Marshall, Virginia

ROGER D. CONE, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee

SEAN EDDY, HHMI Janelia Farm Research Campus, Ashburn, Virginia

SARAH C.R. ELGIN, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri

DAVID R. FRANZ, Former CDR USAMRIID, Consultant, Frederick, Maryland

LOUIS J. GROSS, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee

ELIZABETH HEITMAN, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee

JOHN G. HILDEBRAND, The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona

RICHARD A. JOHNSON, Arnold & Porter, LLC, Washington, D.C.

JUDITH KIMBLE, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin

CATO T. LAURENCIN, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, Connecticut

ALAN I. LESHNER, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, D.C.

KAREN E. NELSON, J. Craig Venter Institute, Rockville, Maryland

ROBERT M. NEREM, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia

CAMILLE PARMESAN, University of Texas, Austin, Texas

ALISON G. POWER, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

MARGARET RILEY, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts

JANIS C. WEEKS, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon

MARY WOOLLEY, Research!America, Alexandria, Virginia

Staff

FRANCES E. SHARPLES, Director

JO L. HUSBANDS, Scholar/Senior Project Director

JAY B. LABOV, Senior Scientist/Program Director for Biology Education

KATHERINE W. BOWMAN, Senior Program Officer

INDIA HOOK-BARNARD, Senior Program Officer

MARILEE K. SHELTON-DAVENPORT, Senior Program Officer

KEEGAN SAWYER, Program Officer

BETHELHEM M. BANJAW, Financial Associate

ANGELA KOLESNIKOVA, Administrative Assistant

JENNA OGILVIE, Senior Program Assistant

LAUREN SONI, Senior Program Assistant

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18722.
×

Preface

The scientific opportunities enabled by convergence—the coming together of insights and approaches from originally distinct fields—will make fundamental contributions in our drive to provide creative solutions to the most difficult problems facing us as a society. This convergence provides power to think beyond usual paradigms and to approach issues informed by many perspectives instead of few. In my own experience, the potential for innovation and successful problem solving becomes greater when we are able to harness the knowledge bases, skill sets, and diversity of experience of individuals in an environment that fosters dialogue and respectful participation by all team members. Ultimately, I believe this will entail partnerships at the intersection not only of the life and medical sciences, physical sciences, computational sciences, and engineering, but also economic, social, and behavioral sciences, arts and humanities disciplines, and beyond, thereby amplifying the potential for innovations of incredible variety and magnitude.

Those who participate in convergent science are excited by the possibilities, but they know how difficult are the challenges to creating and sustaining environments that facilitate it. The present study was undertaken to better understand these challenges and to explore examples of current convergence programs in order to inform investigators and organizations interested in expanding or establishing their own efforts. Beyond this goal, the approach embodied by convergence provides a framework for thinking about the research enterprise and the network of partners that together form the ecosystem that enables science from innovative

Page viii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18722.
×

research to translational application. Convergence provides us with an opportunity not only to discuss strategies to advance science but also to elevate discussions on how to tackle fundamental structural challenges in our research universities, funding systems, policies, and partnerships.

I was joined in this project by committee members who enthusiastically brought their creativity and knowledge, informed by multiple areas of expertise, to the study, and it has been a great pleasure to work with each of them. We were also fortunate to have the support of the presidents of the three Academies—the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine—in supporting a role for the National Research Council to address this topic. The committee’s data-gathering workshop likewise drew on the contributions of scientists from graduate students to senior deans, along with agency, foundation, and industry leaders. Their perspectives were critical to the committee’s thinking and I am grateful for their active engagement. Finally, on behalf of the committee, I want to recognize the dedication of the NRC staff, especially study director Katherine Bowman, who worked alongside us to bring the report to fruition. Their guidance, ideas, and support throughout the process were invaluable.

Bringing together the insights enabled by rapid progress across multiple disciplines has the potential to transform science for the benefit of society. It is the committee’s hope that the report will bring awareness of this convergence to a wider range of audiences and stakeholders and catalyze the systematic efforts necessary to harness its power most effectively.

Joseph M. DeSimone, Chair
Committee on Key Challenge Areas for Convergence and Health

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18722.
×

Acknowledgments

This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Academies’ Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the process.

We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report:

Ann M. Arvin, Stanford University
Michael M. Crow, Arizona State University
Jerry A. Jacobs, University of Pennsylvania
Philip M. Neches, Teradata Corporation
Jack C. Schultz, University of Missouri
Esther S. Takeuchi, Stony Brook University

Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by William

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18722.
×

H. Press, University of Texas and Robert H. Austin, Princeton University. Appointed by the National Academies, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.

The committee also thanks all those who participated in the workshop “Key Challenges in the Implementation of Convergence,” held September 16-17, 2013 (Appendix B).

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18722.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18722.
×
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18722.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18722.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18722.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18722.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18722.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18722.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18722.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18722.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18722.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18722.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18722.
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Page xiii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2014. Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18722.
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Convergence of the life sciences with fields including physical, chemical, mathematical, computational, engineering, and social sciences is a key strategy to tackle complex challenges and achieve new and innovative solutions. However, institutions face a lack of guidance on how to establish effective programs, what challenges they are likely to encounter, and what strategies other organizations have used to address the issues that arise. This advice is needed to harness the excitement generated by the concept of convergence and channel it into the policies, structures, and networks that will enable it to realize its goals.

Convergence investigates examples of organizations that have established mechanisms to support convergent research. This report discusses details of current programs, how organizations have chosen to measure success, and what has worked and not worked in varied settings. The report summarizes the lessons learned and provides organizations with strategies to tackle practical needs and implementation challenges in areas such as infrastructure, student education and training, faculty advancement, and inter-institutional partnerships.

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