Assistant Director, Directorate for Geosciences
National Science Foundation
Balancing Curiosity-Driven Research with Convergent Research at NSF—What It Takes to Understand and Predict the Earth System
Curiosity-driven basic research has advanced our understanding of the workings of nature and delivered powerful new technologies to the benefit of humans. From Newton to Einstein to Wegener’s theory of tectonic motion, their contributions have transformed how we understand the world. Government support of basic research is justified because
- civil society is obliged to seek knowledge for its own sake;
- advances in understanding provided by basic research can later improve the human condition;
- the Nation needs a reserve of basic research discoveries to serve as a seedbed for unforeseen technological developments; and
- it is in the national interest to be a world leader in scientific discoveries that enable participation in new scientific and technological advances.
But basic discoveries can lie fallow for years, even centuries, before igniting technological and further scientific advances. At NSF, we test the proposition that the pace of research can be accelerated using convergent methods. In the Geosciences Directorate at NSF we are rebalancing our commitment to support curiosity-driven research with use-inspired, convergent basic research. Convergent research requires deep integration of multiple disciplines and powerful new research technologies that derive of high-performance computing and data mining. It emphasizes Earth System Science and has the potential to integrate theories across disciplinary domains. Navigating the New Arctic and Coastlines and People are Convergent research priorities for GEO and partnering directorates. They blend fundamental discovery with a focus on understanding the Earth as a set of linked physical, biological, and social systems. A new emphasis on Earth System Science is discussed.
Reception to Follow
Natural History Building
CORE (Room 3083)