Meeting global challenges: Discovery and innovation through convergence

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Science  19 Dec 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6216, pp. 1468-1471
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa3192


Our awareness of the global nature of major problems facing our planet is relatively new and demands global responses for which neither the scientific community nor the general public is well prepared. To meet such global challenges requires the engagement of people and their leaders from diverse cultures and experiences. While many sectors of society must become involved, the scientific community has a special role in preparing for these challenges. It is impossible to consider here all of the roles of scientists and engineers in this transformation, whether advancing knowledge of nature, translating new insights into innovations, or educating future generations. But few would disagree that in the long term, discovery and innovation are central to effectively meeting these challenges. Yet it is often difficult to link discovery and innovation to their impact because of the years of development required before a discovery matures to a level that can be adopted on a global scale. I highlight below how some organizations are planning to accelerate the transition from discovery to innovation to address some of the great challenges facing society. As an illustration, I discuss the history of the transition from discovery to innovation at the molecular level in life sciences. At the end, I comment on how further convergence of physical, mathematical, engineering, and social sciences with life sciences will accelerate innovation.