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Strengthening the Linkages Between the Sciences and the Mathematical Sciences
The committee recommends that additional funding be allocated to initiatives that will strengthen existing linkages between the mathematical sciences and other sciences and that will build new linkages.
New resources are required if the nation is to realize the enormous potential of cross-disciplinary fertilization. However, a key premise of the committee's report is that the basic sciences and the mathematical sciences must remain healthy if cross-disciplinary research is to advance. Some disciplines will, accordingly, need additional funds to be capable of developing cross-disciplinary ties. Funding for cross-disciplinary research must not compromise support for basic disciplinary research or for individual investigators.
Chapter 4 contains detailed recommendations to funding agencies that will enhance multidisciplinary activities: support for summer institutes, workshops at existing research centers, and new science and technology centers. The committee also recommends fellowship programs of various types to sustain research scientists in their pursuit of compelling multidisciplinary ideas.
Case studies of math-science research linkages provide compelling evidence for the synergism between science and mathematics. They also elucidate the factors that made these cross-disciplinary efforts possible, as well as the barriers that inhibited them. Appendix A presents the 10 case studies and Chapter 2 discusses the lessons learned from them, with an emphasis on the obstacles to cross-disciplinary collaborations. Some obstacles are resource-related, and it is these obstacles the committee hopes to overcome with its recommendation on funding. Other obstacles are cultural: different disciplines have different goals, philosophies, and languages.
The committee found that many institutions have overcome barriers to cross-disciplinary research despite the obstacles and have flourished. Examples of such programs can also be found in Chapter 2. Moreover we can anticipate even more activity at the interface of mathematics and other fields in the future. Universities with vision are developing, at an increasing pace, new interdisciplinary programs that cut across traditional departmental and college boundaries; such programs are vital to the strategic planning of a university's educational and research mission. Mathematics can, because of its uniquely central role in science and engineering, play an important part in these plans for interdisciplinary growth.
The committee recommends that academic institutions take responsibility for implementing vigorous cooperative programs between the sciences and the mathematical sciences.
As the examples show, departments and their faculty can actively pursue cross-disciplinary research opportunities and make changes in the curriculum that will give students cross-disciplinary skills. It is particularly important to develop effective criteria for the