Challenges—areas that have the potential to transform our understanding of the natural world. The potential societal benefits that will occur from progress in this area are discussed in Chapter 3. Research at this intersection can help address some of our most urgent societal challenges, from improved sources of food to creative, alternative sources of energy and from improved medical diagnostics and treatments to new, biologically inspired devices that identify and combat biological threats or help to mitigate the effects of climate change.
The next two chapters of this report delve more deeply into research efforts—both now and in the near future—in this intersection of the life and physical sciences. Some intersectional work involves scientists applying concepts developed in one area to issues arising in another. Chapter 4 provides three examples of such crosscutting themes: interactions, dynamics, and pattern formation. Other intersectional efforts involve using tools and techniques originally developed in one arena—principally in the physical sciences—to answer questions in the other. Chapter 5 discusses some of those tools and techniques, including some of the technological advances that will be needed shortly to further research in this area.
Finally, Chapter 6 discusses some of the obstacles that prevent research communities from taking full advantage of opportunities afforded by research at this intersection and proposes a number of recommendations for policy makers, academic institutions, scientists, and others to help reduce those obstacles. Highlighted are new mechanisms for education and training, new models for supporting scientific research, and new means for enhancing coordination between federal agencies.