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Inspired by Biology: From Molecules to Materials to Machines
EMPHASIZING BOTH FUNDAMENTAL AND APPLIED SCIENCES
Research in biomolecular materials and processes will impact society and technology in the ways described in Chapters 2 through 5 of this report. As such, both fundamental and applied research should be emphasized.
Recommendation 4: DOE, NIH, NSF, and other relevant departments andagencies should collaborate to link fundamental research with commercialapplications. While it is imperative to recognize and exploit the connectionsbetween fundamental advances and opportunities to transition them intopractice, curiosity-driven fundamental research on outstanding unsolvedquestions should be encouraged, because it could lead to unforeseen technological advances.
The committee especially emphasizes the importance of fundamental research. In recent years, the connections between fundamental and applied research have been encouraged, and this trend should continue. But fundamental research in the physical sciences has not been supported adequately. Yet, as described in Chapters 2 through 5 of this report, some fundamentally new advances are required (for example, understanding materials far from equilibrium) which are expected to elucidate important basic questions pertinent to biological function and bioinspired materials. This knowledge could provide the United States with the capability of developing revolutionary new technologies. It is important to emphasize that the recommendation for increased support of the basic sciences does not imply there should be a lesser emphasis on applications—basic and applied research are two sides of the same coin. The United States cannot afford to lag behind countries in Europe and Asia in applied research, and it can aim to continue to be the singular leader in paradigm-changing fundamental research. Other nations are increasing investments in both these categories.
DEVELOPING AND EVALUATING NATIONAL FACILITIES BASED ONMIDRANGE INSTRUMENTS
National instrumentation facilities have greatly aided the scientific enterprise in the United States. In the past, most such facilities were built around a single, large centralized resource (for example, a synchrotron light source or a nuclear reactor that produces neutrons). Interdisciplinary research in biomolecular materials and processes calls for diverse instrumentation not usually available in a single laboratory. Interdisciplinary collaboration between researchers with complementary expertise is one solution to this problem. Some universities and research centers are building private facilities that house instrumentation shared by the local com-