In biomedical research, the latest emphasis has been on translational science. That is, connecting bench work to clinical applications. At a recent MIT and AAAS conference, scientists hailed the next revolution in research: Convergence Science.
Their report points to the increasing integration of physical and engineering sciences into biomedical fields. Harnessing these different disciplines allows for innovative discoveries like a lab that engineered E. Coli bacteria to detect tumors and deliver drugs.
The authors of the paper caution that convergent science will require institutional restructuring. Traditional departmental divisions won’t make sense as more work is done in teams. Traditional methods of recognizing individual achievement for promotion will also have to be reworked. Importantly, funding agencies like the NIH will have to retool their policies.
The proposal reminds me of E. O. Wilson’s argument in Consilience. He advocated a return to the unification of scientific fields. As logical as convergence sounds, it comes across as a bit naive when so many other reforms have failed to shift the entrenched divisions of disciplines and academic achievement.