In the April 2009 issue of the AIBS journal, BioScience, Jenna Jadin reports on a recent National Science Foundation effort to stimulate theoretical research in biology. The Washington Watch article is available in the print edition of BioScience or may be read online at http://www.aibs.org/washington-watch/washingtonwatch2009_04.html.

A short excerpt from the article follows:

President Obama’s call for science to be “restored to its proper place” excites science policy advocates. Science, it appears, may play an important role in informing societal decisions and restarting the country’s economic engines. Lawmakers heeded his call during the construction of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009: upon passage, the act included more than $17 billion for scientific research and infrastructure, intended in part to “secure America’s role as a world leader in a competitive global economy…[by] renewing America’s investments in basic research and development.”

But can these investments spur the innovations necessary for the country to find good alternatives to fossil fuels, help stem climate change, and lead the world in finding solutions to other catastrophic problems? It depends. Innovation comes from transformative, integrative, and often risky research, say influential reports from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Research Council (NRC), among others. The question is, then, has such transformative, integrative, and risky research become part of the culture and practice of biologists?

 


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