ENGAGE: The rise of convergence science and the increasing need for advanced research computing

“Convergence: The Future of Health,”
A new report, “Convergence: The Future of Health,” draws on insights from scientists and researchers across academia, industry, and government. Lung Image: Gregory Szeto, Adelaide Tovar, Jeffrey Wyckoff, Irvine Laboratory/Koch Institute at MIT.

Research sciences are in the midst of a revolution.

Clinical researchers are studying ways to regenerate lost limbs and replace malfunctioning organs. Genomics is leveraging big data to establish treatment protocols and therapies to correct disease-causing genetic defects, which are now in clinical trials.  Even researchers and citizens are increasingly shaping the direction of research data, evidenced by the proliferation of wearable devices that help monitor and track one’s wellness, and patient journals that serve as possible data sources to navigate research directions. We don’t need to look very far to see traces of convergence science, as it pervades more and more of our lives.

In Convergence: The Future of Health, a June 2016 report produced by a blue-ribbon panel and chaired by three Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professors, the authors assert that the technologies driving these and other biomedical breakthroughs go well beyond healthcare. They impact food, energy, and the environment to improve the lives of millions—if not billions—of people.  This revolution—which they termed “convergence”—is creating jobs, speeding products to market; improving agriculture, defense, the environment, and energy production.

The authors from this report contend that convergence comes as a result of the sharing of methods and ideas by chemists, physicists, computer scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and life scientists across multiple fields and industries.

Convergence is the integration of insights and approaches from historically distinct scientific and technological disciplines.


It is a broad effort across the sciences that will play a crucial role in many fields of endeavor. As noted above, it needs to be applied to help solve many of the world’s grand challenges.

What stands to reason is that the computing processing power needed to run the complex research algorithms resulting from this convergence of scientific disciplines is the kind of provided by Compute Ontario’s consortia.

Organizations like the Centre for Advanced Computing, SHARCNET, SciNet and HPC4Health are available to support research including those emerging from convergence science approaches.  Further, they have the expertise and knowledge of how to modify, shape and optimize research for high performance computing.

For example, Dr. Michael Brudno and Carl Virtanen are not only the Scientific and Associate Directors of HPC4Health, but are prominent researchers themselves.  Established through a federal grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and a provincial grant from the Ministry of Research and Innovation, the HPC4Health is ready to accept new member institutions.  Institutions provide hardware to the HPC4Health, share operational costs, and in return have access to the cloud computing infrastructure to run their compute jobs in a secure setting that can flex up or down in scale based on workload.  Compute Ontario organizations such as these are poised for the future of research.

Given the rapid proliferation of convergence science approaches, that future is now. Convergence approaches have influenced the formation of Compute Ontario’s five-year strategic plan and, as you’ll see announced here soon, Ontario’s strategy for advanced digital research.

Stay tuned!