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A New Biology for the 21st Century
What fundamental biological questions are ready for major advances inunderstanding? What would be the practical result of answering those questions?How could answers to those questions lead to high impact applications in the nearfuture?
How can a fundamental understanding of living systems reduce uncertainty about the future of life on earth, improve human health and welfare, andlead to the wise stewardship of our planet? Can the consequences of environmental, stochastic or genetic changes be understood in terms of the related properties of robustness and fragility inherent in all biological systems?
How can federal agencies more effectively leverage their investments inbiological research and education to address complex problems across scales ofanalysis from basic to applied? In what areas would near term investment be mostlikely to lead to substantial long-term benefit and a strong, competitive advantagefor the United States? Are there high-risk, high pay-off areas that deserve seriousconsideration for seed funding?
Are new funding mechanisms needed to encourage and support crosscutting, interdisciplinary or applied biology research?
What are the major impediments to achieving a newly integrated biology?
What are the implications of a newly integrated biology for infrastructuralneeds?
How should infrastructural priorities be identified and planned for?
What are the implications for the life sciences research culture of a newlyintegrated approach to biology? How can physicists, chemists, mathematicians andengineers be encouraged to help build a wider biological enterprise with the scopeand expertise to address a broad range of scientific and societal problems?
Are changes needed in biology education—to ensure that biology majorsare equipped to work across traditional subdisciplinary boundaries, to providebiology curricula that equip physical scientists and engineers to take advantageof advances in biological science, and to provide nonscientists with a level of biological understanding that gives them an informed voice regarding relevant policyproposals? Are alternative degree programs needed or can biology departments beorganized to attract and train students able to work comfortably across disciplinary boundaries?
The committee found that the third bullet, “How can federal agenciesmore effectively leverage their investments in biological research and educationto address complex problems across scales of analysis from basic to applied? Inwhat areas would near term investment be most likely to lead to substantiallong-term benefit and a strong, competitive advantage for the United States?” provided a compelling platform from which to consider each of the questions, and a robust framework upon which to organize its conclusions. Thus, the committee’s overarching recommendation is that the most effective leveraging of investments would come from a coordinated, interagency effort to encourage