NSF issues first Convergence awards


Credit: NSF

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

  • TRIPODS: Foundations of Model Driven Discovery from Massive Data
  • TRIPODS: Data Science for Improved Decision-Making: Learning in the Context of Uncertainty, Causality, Privacy, and Network Structures
  • TRIPODS: Institute for Foundations of Data Science
  • Social Science Insights for 21st Century Data Science Education (SSI)

Work at the Human Technology Frontier

  • Collaborative: Workshop on Convergence Research about Multimodal Human Learning Data during Human Machine Interactions – North Carolina State University, Vanderbilt University
  • Future Workforce Implications of Autonomous Trucks: Workshop on the Sociotechnical Research Challenges, Benefits, and Opportunities
  • A Workshop Shaping Research on Human-Technology Partnerships to Enhance STEM Workforce Engagement
  • From Making to Micro-Manufacture: Reimagining Work Beyond Mass Production
  • Workshop on Converging Human and Technological Perspectives in Crowdsourcing Research
  • Making "The Future of Work" Work: A Convergence Workshop on Experiments in Tech Work-Maker Culture, Coworking, Cooperatives, Entrepreneurship & Digital Labor
  • A Research Coordination Network to Converge Research on the Socio-Technological Landscape of Work in the Age of Increased Automation
  • RCN: Enhancing small and mid-level farm viability through a systems-based research network: Linking technology and sustainable development and practice

Navigating the New Arctic

  • Navigating the New Arctic – Understanding Future Systems of Transportation in Arctic Regions, a Workshop Proposal
  • Adaptive Capacity and Resilience in the New Arctic: Identifying Pathways to Equitable, Desirable Outcomes for People and Nature Through Convergence
  • Preparing for a Northwest Passage, a Workshop on the Role of New England in Navigating the New Arctic
  • Networking Indigenous Arctic and U.S. Southwest Communities on Knowledge Co-Production in Data Sciences
  • Coordinate a Transdisciplinary Research Network to Identify Challenges of and Sollutions to Permafrost Coastal Erosion and its Socioecological Impacts in the Arctic
  • ANCHOR – Arctic Network for Coastal Community Hazards, Observations, and Integrated Research

The Quantum Leap

  • Collaborative: NSF/DOE Quantum Science Summer School – Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University, Cornell University, Pennsylvania State University
  • Workshop Series: Cross-Sector Connections in Quantum Leap
  • Workshop on Quantum Elements of Secure Communication

Understanding the Rules of Life

  • RCN: Cross-Scale Processes Impacting Biodiversity
  • RCN for Exploration of Life's Origins


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