Workshop Report/Summary

The Role of the Life Sciences in Transforming America's Future: Summary of a Workshop (2009)

The life sciences have a pivotal role to play in addressing many of the global challenges of the 21st century, such as providing food and water to an expanding human population, reducing and adapting to climate change, improving human health, and meeting increasing energy needs. However, steps must be taken quickly to create the conditions that will allow this tremendous potential to be realized. At the request of the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, the National Research Council has convened a committee to recommend actions federal policy makers can take to ensure that the United States maintains and builds on its lead in the life sciences in a consensus report to be released later in 2009. To inform that study, a major summit was held in December, 2008 that brought together leaders in industry, academia, government, and research foundations to discuss where the life sciences are headed and how best to pave the way for future innovations. This workshop summary describes those discussions. Attendees identified two important developments in science today: the ongoing unification of the life sciences, and the merging of important parts of the life sciences with the physical sciences and engineering into a single "transdisciplinary" endeavor directed at solving the major problems facing human society.