Study in Progress

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.

Numerous reports have explored advances that are enabled when multiple disciplines come together in integrated partnerships, for example A New Biology for the 21st Century (NRC 2009); Research at the Intersection of the Physical and Life Sciences (NRC 2010); The Third Revolution: The Convergence of the Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Engineering (MIT 2011); the National Bioeconomy Blueprint (White House 2012), and ARISE II: Unleashing America?s Research & Innovation Enterprise (American Academy 2013). As a result, institutions have increasingly moved to implement programs that foster such convergence or are interested in how they can better facilitate convergent and transdisciplinary research.

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.

The National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academies is undertaking an activity to help address this gap. A committee convened by the NRC will investigate examples of organizations that have established mechanisms to support convergent research. By gathering leaders from these organizations and programs along with additional academic and industry leaders, scientists, and foundations and agencies interested in advancing the implementation of convergence, the committee will discuss details of the programs created, how organizations have chosen to measure success, and what has worked and not worked in varied settings. The committee?s report will summarize the lessons learned and provide 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.


Workshop on Key Challenges in the Implementation of Convergence - 09/16/13

Statement of Task

The National Research Council (NRC) will appoint an expert committee to explore the application of "convergence" approaches to biomedical research and beyond. This approach is intended to realize the untapped potential from the merger of multiple disciplines to address key challenges that require such close collaborations. As its primary information-gathering activity, the committee will convene a workshop to examine examples or models drawn, if possible, from a range of on-going programs, both large and small, public and private, in which such approaches are being implemented. The goal of the workshop is to facilitate understanding of how convergence in biomedical and related research can be fostered effectively through institutional and programmatic structures and policies, education and training programs, and funding mechanisms. The resulting report will summarize the lessons learned on successful approaches to implementing convergence in different types of research institutions.

Additional Background Reading

Project Sponsors

The project is supported by the Raymond and Beverley 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, 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, the Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science at the University of Connecticut, and the National Institutes of Health.