Expert Report

A New Biology for the 21st Century: Ensuring the United States Leads the Coming Biology Revolution (2009)

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Now more than ever, biology has the potential to contribute practical solutions to many of the major challenges confronting the United States and the world. This National Research Council report recommends that a "New Biology" approach -- one that depends on greater integration within biology, and closer collaboration with physical, computational, and earth scientists, mathematicians and engineers -- be used to find solutions to four key societal needs: sustainable food production, ecosystem restoration, optimized biofuel production, and improvement in human health. To support the emerging New Biology, the report recommends the U.S. implements a National New Biology Initiative to foster innovation in technology, tools and infrastructure that will advance biological research and also empower many other fields of study.

Key Messages

  • Development and implementation of genuinely interdisciplinary undergraduate courses and curricula will both prepare students for careers as New Biology researchers and educate a new generation of science teachers well-versed in New Biology approaches.
  • For its success, the New Biology will require the creative drive and deep knowledge base of individual scientists from across biology and many other disciplines including physical, computational and geosciences, mathematics, and engineering.
  • Information is the fundamental currency of the New Biology.
  • Investment in education is essential if the new biology is to reach its full potential in meeting the core challenges of the 21st century. The New Biology Initiative provides an opportunity to attract students to science who want to solve real-world problems.
  • The United States and the world face serious societal challenges in the areas of food, environment, energy, and health. Innovations in biology can lead to sustainable solutions for all of these challenges.