December 20, 2016
Dr. G’s #AGU16 Spotlight – Marcia McNutt and Convergence in the Geosciences
Posted by Laura Guertin
On Thursday at the 2016 AGU Fall Meeting, the Union Agency Lecture was presented by geophysicist Marcia McNutt, the 22nd President of the National Academy of Sciences. Her talk focused on the convergence in the geosciences.
Here is the abstract for her presentation (the emphasis is mine):
The twenty-first century presents unprecedented challenges to scientists if society is to continue to provide abundant energy, water, and food, and high quality housing and medical care to a growing global population, all within a healthy environment. Reliance on fossil fuels for energy is not sustainable and is leading to unacceptable rates of climate change, aquifers are being drawn down at unprecedented rates, and deforestation to create more arable land is impacting important ecosystem services, such as carbon storage, provision of clean water, and maintenance of biodiversity. The geosciences will need to be front and center in confronting these challenges, and to be successful will need to expand partnerships. Geoscientists have already started to work with biologists, because they understand that the geosphere and biosphere are one interconnected system. By teaming up with engineers, geoscientists can become more solutions oriented. By working more closely with experts in computation, geoscientists can extract meaning from complex multidimensional data sets and build more realistic models. “Convergence” is defined as the integration of engineering, physical sciences, computation, and life sciences in order to bring about profound benefits for health, energy, and environment. This concept has already been used to great advantage in the area of medicine, with entire institutes built to foster the sort of convergent research and education necessary for this new way of interacting to prosper. It is time for the geosciences to embrace convergence, as our future depends upon it.
Here is a recording of her presentation:
Some of the sources that she mentions during her talk are linked here:
- Sharp & Langer, (2011, July 29). Promoting Convergence in Biomedical Science. Science: 333, p. 527. doi: 10.1126/science.1205008
- Kaiser (2011, January 4). MIT Calls for More ‘Convergence’ in Research. ScienceInsider.
- DeSimone & Farrell (2014, May 28). Driving convergence with human diversity. Sci. Transl. Med. 6, 238ed11.
Additional articles/websites about convergence in science include:
- Inside Higher Ed, The Rise of ‘Convergence’ Science
- MIT, The Convergence Revolution (includes a video overview of convergence science)
- The National Academies Press, Convergence: Facilitating Transdisciplinary Integration of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering, and Beyond (2014) (free PDF available for download)
Is the idea and approach of convergence something we can/should bring into our curriculum with our students? How can we make this happen, while making sure students are still learning the required content needed to be effective contributors in our discipline as well as convergent research?
In the first issue of GeoHealth, Marcia McNutt has an editorial titled “Convergence in the Geosciences” – http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2017GH000068/full