Growing Convergence Research at NSF

The U.S. National Science Foundation's Growing Convergence Research program supports new research collaborations across scientific disciplines that are focused on specific, complex problems.

By rapidly incubating intellectual integration, or convergence, across scientific disciplines, NSF seeks to open new frontiers in science and engineering. 

About


The Growing Convergence Research program focuses on transitioning teams from research that is multidisciplinary to research that transcends disciplinary boundaries with novel conceptual frameworks, theories and methods. 

From a collaboration's inception, the researchers and stakeholders supported by the program must:

  • Jointly frame the project's research questions.
  • Collectively develop effective ways of communicating across disciplines and sectors.
  • Adopt common frameworks for their solution.
  • Develop a new scientific vocabulary (when appropriate).

Growing Convergence Research lecture series


To sign up for announcements about future lectures and the Growing Convergence Research program, please sign-up for the GCR mailing list.

Creating a New Field of Study: Integration and Implementation Sciences (i2S)
Presented by Dr. Gabriele Bammer, this Growing Convergence Research lecture explores Integration and Implementation Sciences (i2S). i2S aims to bring together a range of approaches to tackling complex societal and environmental problems, including systems thinking, interdisciplinarity, trans-disciplinarity, action research and post-normal science in order to develop a common repository of concepts, methods and processes, as well as to make it easier to use combinations of such approaches in research programs.
Credit: National Science Foundation


Previous lecture videos:

Beyond Science as Usual – Perspectives on Creating Convergence Research Pathways
Credit: National Science Foundation
This webinar was held on April 28, 2022 as part of the Growing Convergence Research lecture series. Anne Heberger Marino presented on her work on the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative, which ran from 2003 to 2019. NAKFI was a successful example of fostering new avenues of convergence research because the program crossed disciplines, sectors, and professions.

GROWING CONVERGENCE RESEARCH LECTURE SERIES
Credit: National Science Foundation

February 3, 2022

View this video, which features two awardee teams funded in the first GCR competition.

Project Title: Life Cycle Management of Materials: Sustainable Biomass to Designer Polymer Systems
PI: Dr. Thomas H. Epps, III Allan & Myra Ferguson Distinguished Professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, University of Delaware

Project Title: Biomolecular Systems Engineering - Unlocking the Potential of Biological Programming
PI: Dr. Corey J. Wilson, King-Chavez-Parks Professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology

GROWING CONVERGENCE RESEARCH LECTURE SERIES: Lessons from the Field - Center Directors’ Perspectives on Catalyzing Convergence
Credit: National Science Foundation

June 29, 2021

Synopsis: Research teams that pursue convergence will confront a variety of difficulties. To help identify and cope with some of these difficulties, NSF has assembled a panel of experts who have led large research centers, and so have experience with convergence at a variety of scales. Whether it’s a single science team, a team of teams, or an entire research center, our panelists have gleaned insights from years of experience catalyzing convergence.

Enabling Conditions for Convergence Science: The Role of Formal Interventions
Credit: National Science Foundation


Presented by Maritza Salazar Campo, Assistant Professor of Organization and Management, Paul Merage School of Business, University of California-Irvine
May 27, 2021

Synopsis: The complexity of scientific problems, coupled with a growing need for specialized expertise, requires the formation of teams of experts who collaborate across disciplinary boundaries to generate scientific breakthroughs. The variety of knowledge available in convergence science teams provides the breadth of expertise to tackle complex problems that would be intractable by a single discipline. This presentation demonstrates the use of formal interventions to support early-stage discovery collaborations focused on curing devastating diseases. To advance their objectives, these collaborations must overcome profound differences in members' specialized knowledge while simultaneously having little familiarity and limited prior histories of collaboration with one another to build from.

CONVERGE: Coming Together to Advance Hazards and Disaster Research
Credit: National Science Foundation


Presented by Lori Peek - Professor, Department of Sociology Director, Natural Hazards Center, University of Colorado Boulder
April 22, 2021

Synopsis: The United States is caught in a disaster loss spiral. The increasing frequency and intensity of disasters, coupled with the growth of the field of disaster research, suggests an urgent need for a more coherent convergence-oriented approach to help guide what we study, who we study, how we conduct studies, and who is involved in the research process itself. The NSF-funded CONVERGE facility—which was established in 2018 as the first social science-led component of the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI)—advances convergence research for the hazards and disaster community. This presentation describes the activities of CONVERGE and showcases the various available resources such as online training modules, research check sheets, and convergence research agendas. It also highlights how CONVERGE is building the social infrastructure that brings together networks of researchers from geotechnical engineering, the social sciences, structural engineering, nearshore science, operations and systems engineering, environmental engineering, and interdisciplinary science and engineering.

The Concept of Convergence, with Illustration to Emerging Technologies
Credit: National Science Foundation


Presented by Mihail C. Roco - Senior Advisor for Science and Engineering National Science Foundation
March 25, 2021

Synopsis: Convergence trends have been inherent in knowledge and human development. Convergence is a problem-solving strategy to holistically understand and transform a system for reaching a compelling common goal, such as advancing an emerging technology in society. The convergence approach typically begins with deep integration of previously separate fields, communities, and modes of thinking, to form and improve a new system, from where solutions diverge to previously unattainable applications and outcomes. Basic principles and methods to facilitate convergence and examples of their application were presented.

GCR highlights


Credit: Faith Scott, National MagLab
Microwaves traveling through sample inside an NMR magnet

The incentive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has motivated the development of lignocellulosic biomass conversion technologies, especially those associated with the carbohydrate fraction. An interdisciplinary collaboration between experimental and computational teams at the University of Delaware, have provided the first integrated process and life cycle greenhouse gas model to evaluate different tree parts in a biorefinery operation that generates polymer precursors and biochemicals.

The biorefinery concept has been proposed to reduce waste and generate an array of products from all input components for the efficient use of bio-derived raw materials. It has the potential to improve the environmental performance and economic viability of biomass conversion facilities. The proposed biorefinery integrates reductive catalytic fractionation, molten salt hydrolysis, and waste solids combustion for energy.

This is the first study to include different tree parts and their variable lignin chemistries in an LCA (life cycle assessment)All three forest residuals and their mix emit less greenhouse gas than the incumbent oil-based chemical production technologies. Using twigs and branchlets as the biorefinery feedstock has the lowest life-cycle greenhouse gas emission.

Carbon sequestration and utility generated from unreacted waste combustion are the main benefits of using biomass feedstock. This work provides simulation and evaluation platform for other feedstocks (compositions and RCF (reductive catalytic fractionation) yields) used in biorefineries.

This research provides the first integrated process and life cycle greenhouse gas model to evaluate different tree parts in a biorefinery operation that generates polymer precursors and biochemicals, while demonstrating that different forest residues (both individually and as a composite mix) could be utilized in a yellow poplar biorefinery to significantly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions vs. a petroleum-based process.

GCR: Materials Life-Cycle Management  (1934887)
PI: Prof. Thomas H. Epps, III – University of Delaware

Learn about convergence research

As one of its 10 Big Ideas for Future Investments, NSF supports convergence research through numerous programs and funding opportunities.

See the latest solicitation

The program invites proposals for multi-disciplinary team research that crosses directorate or division boundaries and is currently not supported by NSF programs, initiatives or Big Ideas.

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