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National Academies issues new report on “convergence” (interdisciplinary and beyond)

coverConvergence is an approach to problem solving that integrates expertise from life sciences with physical, mathematical, and computational sciences, medicine, and engineering to form comprehensive synthetic frameworks that merge areas of knowledge from multiple fields to address specific challenges. Convergence builds on fundamental progress made within individual disciplines but represents a way of thinking about the process of research and the types of strategies that enable it as emerging scientific and societal challenges cut across disciplinary boundaries in these fields. The concept of convergence as represented in this report is thus meant to capture two dimensions: the convergence of the subsets of expertise necessary to address a set of research problems, and the formation of the web of partnerships involved in supporting such scientific investigations and enabling the resulting advances to be translated into new forms of innovation and new products.

Convergence represents a cultural shift for academic organizations that have been traditionally organized around discipline-based departments. The overall ecosystem needed to foster and sustain convergence draws not only on academic contributors but increasingly also on the cross-fertilization of ideas with stakeholders and partners from national laboratories, industry, clinical settings, and funding bodies, as well as insights from economic, social, and behavioral sciences. The process of convergence is applicable to basic science discovery as well as translational application. Because it is commonly focused on achieving an outcome to a challenge at the frontiers of knowledge, many convergence efforts include an entrepreneurship component that leads to the development of a surrounding web of startup companies and economic innovation.

Click here to read more from this May 2014 report from the National Academies Presss.

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