Three of the biggest, most influential life science funding agencies in the US have taken big initiatives toward multi-disciplinary research in recent months. In it’s FY 2004 Plans and Priorities for Cancer Research the NCI said:
To maximize innovation, researchers must work effectively in an interdisciplinary environment that allows and encourages them to engage in newly emerging areas of research and technology development and to take full advantage of opportunities to move the science forward to benefit patients and the public health.
Then NIH got “turbocharged.”
The scale and complexity of today’s biomedical research problems increasingly demand that scientists move beyond the confines of their own discipline and explore new organizational models for team science. For example, imaging research often requires radiologists, physicists, cell biologists and computer programmers to work together on integrated teams. Many scientists will still continue to pursue individual research projects, but they too will be encouraged to make changes in the way they approach the scientific enterprise.
Finally, the National Science Foundation last week announced FIBR (Frontiers in Biological Research), a multi-million dollar initiative to solve some of the biggest questions in biology through interdisciplinary research. How?
“The FIBR projects…draw upon recent breakthroughs in biology, such as genomics, enhanced information technology, high-throughput instrumentation, imaging and wireless technologies, sophisticated sensors, improved geographic information systems and other advances of the past decade…An important feature of biology in the 21st century is the opportunity to set aside barriers and tackle some of the most important and fundamental questions in biology.”
So silos are out and interdisciplinary research is definitely in.