John C. Wingfield
Vision of a Strategic Innovation for Biological Sciences
The need to integrate current knowledge and provide insights, syntheses and tools to pursue new questions is very timely as our planet changes at breakneck pace, human populations and demand for food continue to increase, biodiversity of life on earth plummets and emergent diseases spread rapidly within and among continents. Most, if not all, of the major challenges facing humanity in the next 50 years have a biological basis, with the biological sciences as the hub that interfaces with physical sciences, chemistry and mathematics, engineering and geological, including solid Earth, atmospheric and ocean sciences, as well as social and behavioral sciences.
The convergence of BIO with the other sciences has many implications for economics, medicine, agriculture, the environment, sustainability and quality of life. For the first time in history we are in a position to bring together all the knowledge of biological systems in a new synthesis that will enable us to answer questions unimaginable just a few years ago. Such knowledge will enable future beneficial discoveries and innovations. Diversity and complexity in the natural world cross scales from the sub-cellular to ecosystems, on continental and global levels, yet we have only limited knowledge of existing diversity and thus an incomplete understanding of the history and current status of the living world.
The Strategic Innovation for Biological Sciences will bring together the components of the biological research enterprise, i.e. critical infrastructure across the spectrum from collection and preservation of biological specimens to large-scale modeling and meta-analysis, databases, and research programs into a system that will foster innovative research and generation of knowledge. To knit together the components of the system and allow efficient utilization of it by the biological research community will require new cyber-infrastructure approaches. Once created, this strategic innovation system will be a vital pillar for the future of life sciences research and education.