This study was initiated at the request of, and with the
sponsorship of, the National Science Foundation. It was conceived
as a new approach to a question that has been asked before: What is
the future of biology? In 1989 the National Research Council
released a report on this topic entitled Opportunities in Biology.
Over 400 pages long and four years in the making, the report
provided a detailed snapshot of the state of biology at that time.
Eleven different panels detailed the opportunities awaiting the
rapidly diversifying field of biology. Reading the report today,
the excitement of that time is palpable. Section after section
describes new technologies and promises new discoveries. Each
section focuses on a different subdiscipline of biology.
This report takes a different approach by looking for
commonalities across subdisciplines. The committee was charged with
examining the role of concepts and theories in biology, including
how that role might differ across various subdisciplines. One facet
of that examination was to consider the role of the concepts and
theories in driving scientific advances and to make recommendations
about the best way to encourage creative, dynamic, and innovative
research in biology. The charge was to focus on basic biology, not
on biomedical applications.
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