Convergence Research at NSF
Growing Convergence Research at the National Science Foundation (NSF) was identified in 2016 as one of 10 Big Ideas for Future NSF Investments. Convergence research is a means of solving vexing research problems, in particular, complex problems focusing on societal needs. It entails integrating knowledge, methods, and expertise from different disciplines and forming novel frameworks to catalyze scientific discovery and innovation. Convergence research is related to other forms of research that span disciplines - transdisciplinarity, interdisciplinarity, and multidisciplinarity. It is the closest to transdisciplinary research which was historically viewed as the pinnacle of evolutionary integration across disciplines.
NSF identifies Convergence Research as having two primary characteristics:
- Research driven by a specific and compelling problem. Convergence Research is generally inspired by the need to address a specific challenge or opportunity, whether it arises from deep scientific questions or pressing societal needs.
- Deep integration across disciplines. As experts from different disciplines pursue common research challenges, their knowledge, theories, methods, data, research communities and languages become increasingly intermingled or integrated. New frameworks, paradigms or even disciplines can form sustained interactions across multiple communities.
From its inception, the convergence paradigm intentionally brings together intellectually-diverse researchers to develop effective ways of communicating across disciplines by adopting common frameworks and a new scientific language, which may, in turn, afford solving the problem that engendered the collaboration, developing novel ways of framing research questions, and opening new research vistas.
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