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News Release 17-082

NSF issues first Convergence awards, addressing societal challenges through scientific collaboration

A deeper, more intentional approach to accelerating discovery

Dean Evasius, director of NSF's Division of Graduate Education
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Dean Evasius, director of NSFs Division of Graduate Education, explains Convergence.


August 24, 2017

Throughout its history, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has focused on addressing grand challenges within science and engineering. These challenges represent our greatest opportunity to strengthen the nation through scientific discovery, and meeting them will require sustained and deep collaborations across scientific disciplines.

Through its Growing Convergent Research at NSF portfolio, the foundation seeks to highlight the value of Convergence, the deep integration of multiple disciplines in order to advance scientific discovery and innovation. The Foundation has issued the first set of Convergence awards, supporting workshops, summer institutes, and Research Coordination Networks (RCNs).

"NSF has supported cross-disciplinary collaboration for decades," said NSF Director France Córdova. "Convergence is a deeper, more intentional approach to the integration of knowledge, techniques, and expertise from multiple disciplines in order to address the most compelling scientific and societal challenges."

The 23 newly awarded projects will foster Convergence to address grand challenges in the context of five of NSF's "10 Big Ideas for Future NSF Investments," a set of cutting-edge research agendas uniquely suited for NSF's broad portfolio of investments. Those five ideas are: Harnessing the Data Revolution; Navigating the New Arctic; The Quantum Leap: Leading the Next Quantum Revolution; Work at the Human-Technology Frontier: Shaping the Future; and Understanding the Rules of Life: Predicting Phenotype.

The new Convergence awards include support for a Quantum Science Summer School that will bring together students from materials research, physics, engineering, mathematics, computer sciences, chemistry and the social sciences. These summer schools will prepare transdisciplinary students to meet the challenges of the quantum revolution.

Among the newly funded RCNs are projects that will:

  • Tackle the challenge of jointly addressing both sides of the human-technology frontier in work settings that use intelligent machines, which have the ability to learn and interact with other systems and with humans. This RCN will leverage a multidisciplinary team focused on enhancing the benefits of technology in the workplace.
  • Bring together natural, physical, social, and information scientists with indigenous scholars and communities to advance understanding of how rapid socioecological change poses resilience and food security challenges for Arctic indigenous communities.
  • Enable a core of early and mid-career scientists to explore one of the most profound and persistent questions in biology: the origins of life.

The Convergence portfolio co-funds projects with other NSF programs, such as Transdisciplinary Research in Principles of Data Science (TRIPODS). The 2017 TRIPODS awards bring together the statistics, mathematics and theoretical computer science communities to develop the foundations of data science. TRIPODS is NSF's first major investment in Harnessing the Data Revolution.

The awards in the 2017 Convergence portfolio, arranged according to their associated Big Ideas:

Harnessing the Data Revolution

Work at the Human Technology Frontier

Navigating the New Arctic

The Quantum Leap

Understanding the Rules of Life

-NSF-

Media Contacts
Rob Margetta, NSF, (703) 292-2663, email: rmargett@nsf.gov

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2017, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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