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Maximizing biomedical research through integrated science

June 23, 2016

In this Policy Forum, Phillip Sharp, Tyler Jacks and Susan Hockfield discuss the need for better integration of engineering, physical, computational, and mathematical sciences with biomedical science, as they publish a report this week outlining key recommendations in this space. Convergence of physics and engineering in the 20th century led to a wealth of advancements - radios, telephones, cars, planes, computers, the internet - and, if the correct investments and commitments are in place, the biomedical field is poised for similar advancements, these authors say. However, only 3% of the principal scientists currently receiving research grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health - the major source of research funding for biomedical science in the U.S. - come from physics, biophysics, mathematics, engineering, or bioengineering. In their report, "Convergence: The future of health," which will be publically available on 23 June at 2pm Eastern Time, Sharp and colleagues cite a number of recommendations to improve and accelerate convergence of scientific fields to advance biomedical research. These include a substantial increase in federal funding for biomedical research that explicitly targets funds for convergence programs; a revision of grant-review mechanisms to include expertise from engineering, computation, and physical sciences; and a realignment of academic structures to better facilitate research and educational collaborations. While the authors cite several programs that are tapping into the potential of integration, much work remains to be done, the authors say, noting that the National Institutes of Health will have a major role to play.
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American Association for the Advancement of Science

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