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Suggested Citation:"Appendix A Statement of Task." National Research Council. 2007. The New Science of Metagenomics: Revealing the Secrets of Our Microbial Planet. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11902.
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Appendix A
Statement of Task

The committee will convene a workshop and other appropriate information gathering activities in order to define the scope of metagenomics, understand how it is being used now in various disciplines, the technical approaches being used by different groups, and how metagenomics may develop in the future. The report will frame the key scientific questions that could be addressed using the approach of metagenomics. It will also identify the major academic, governmental and potential commercial stakeholders in the field of metagenomics, both nationally and internationally. It will include findings about obstacles or difficulties current researchers are encountering (e.g., lack of awareness of the field, infrastructural needs, lack of consistency and standardization in data annotation and management). The report will also make recommendations concerning 1) the most promising directions to pursue to advance the field of metagenomics, 2) possible mechanisms for addressing infrastructure needs including the annotation and sharing of data, and 3) improving communication and collaboration between groups applying metagenomic techniques to different microbial communities. The committee will not make budgetary or government organizational recommendations.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix A Statement of Task." National Research Council. 2007. The New Science of Metagenomics: Revealing the Secrets of Our Microbial Planet. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11902.
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Although we can't usually see them, microbes are essential for every part of human life -- indeed all life on Earth. The emerging field of metagenomics offers a new way of exploring the microbial world that will transform modern microbiology and lead to practical applications in medicine, agriculture, alternative energy, environmental remediation, and many others areas. Metagenomics allows researchers to look at the genomes of all of the microbes in an environment at once, providing a "meta" view of the whole microbial community and the complex interactions within it. It's a quantum leap beyond traditional research techniques that rely on studying -- one at a time -- the few microbes that can be grown in the laboratory. At the request of the National Science Foundation, five Institutes of the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Energy, the National Research Council organized a committee to address the current state of metagenomics and identify obstacles current researchers are facing in order to determine how to best support the field and encourage its success. The New Science of Metagenomics recommends the establishment of a "Global Metagenomics Initiative" comprising a small number of large-scale metagenomics projects as well as many medium- and small-scale projects to advance the technology and develop the standard practices needed to advance the field. The report also addresses database needs, methodological challenges, and the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in supporting this new field.

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