In 2016, the National Science Foundation (NSF) unveiled a set of "Big Ideas", 10 bold, long-term research and process ideas that identify areas for future investment at the frontiers of science and engineering. The Big Ideas represent unique opportunities to position our Nation at the cutting edge of global science and engineering leadership by bringing together diverse disciplinary perspectives to support convergence research. As such, when responding to this solicitation, even though proposals must be submitted to the Office of Integrative Activities, once received, the proposals will be managed by a cross-disciplinary team of NSF Program Directors.
Growing Convergence Research (GCR) at the National Science Foundation was identified as one of 10 Big Ideas. Convergence research is a means for 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.
GCR 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.
A distinct characteristic of convergence research, in contrast to other forms of multidisciplinary research, is that from the inception, the convergence paradigm intentionally brings together intellectually diverse researchers and stakeholders to frame the research questions, develop effective ways of communicating across disciplines and sectors, adopt common frameworks for their solution, and, when appropriate, develop a new scientific vocabulary. Research teams practicing convergence aim at developing sustainable relationships that may not only create solutions to the problem that engendered the collaboration, but also develop novel ways of framing related research questions and open new research vistas.
This GCR solicitation targets multi-disciplinary team research that crosses directorate or division boundaries and is currently not supported by NSF programs, initiatives and research-focused Big Ideas. Proposers must make a convincing case that the research to be conducted is within NSF’s purview and cannot be supported by existing NSF programs and multidisciplinary initiatives. Proposals involving convergence in areas covered by existing programs and solicitations will be returned without review.
The proposers should outline a five-year research plan delineated in two phases, Phase I: years 1-2, and Phase II: years 3-5. Successful proposals will be funded initially for two years and then each team’s progress will be evaluated based on a report and presentation that the team will make to a panel of reviewers at NSF. Teams that show significant progress during the first two years will receive funding for an additional three years. Interested researchers may request up to $1,200,000 total for the first two years and $2,400,000 for the last three years.
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