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Unformatted text preview: Perspectives Antedisciplinary Science Sean R. Eddy The scale and complexity of todays biomedical research problems demand that scientists move beyond the confines of their individual disciplines and explore new organizational models for team science. Advances in molecular imaging, for example, require collaborations among diverse groupsradiologists, cell biologists, physicists, and computer programmers. National Institutes of Health Roadmap Initiative  R eading this made me a little depressed. For starters, the phrase organizational models for team science makes me imagine a factory oor of scientists toiling away on their next 100-author paper under the watchful gaze of their National Institutes of Health program officers, like some scene from Terry Gilliams movie Brazil . Its also depressing to read that the National Institutes of Health thinks that science has become too hard for individual humans to cope with, and that it will take the hive mind of an interdisciplinary research team of the future to make progress. But whats most depressing comes from purely selfish reasons: if groundbreaking science really requires assembling teams of people with proper credentials from different disciplines, then I have made some very bad career moves. Ive been a computational biologist for about 15 years now. Were still not quite sure what computational biology means, but we seem to agree that its an interdisciplinary field, requiring skills in computer science, molecular biology, statistics, mathematics, and more. Im not qualified in any of these fields. Im certainly not a card-carrying software developer, computer scientist, or mathematician, though I spend most of my time writing software, developing algorithms, and deriving equations. I do have formal training in molecular biology, but that was 15 years ago, and Im sure my union card has expired. For one thing, they all seem to be using these clever, expensive kits now in my wet lab, whereas I made most of my own buffers (after walking to the lab six miles in the snow, barefoot). If I thought I was the only person who abandoned disciplinary training to take up a new area of science, after reading about the research teams of the future, I might slink away and find something else to do before the future arrives. But I dont think Im alone. I was recently at a meeting where people started discussing these interdisciplinary research teams of the future, and Howard Berg, who had just given a wonderful chalk talk about bacterial chemotaxis, was sitting behind me. I heard him mutter that he wondered how a misfit like him was going to fit into this new world order. Well, hes doomed. Hes successfully applied physical, mathematical, and biological approaches to an important...
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- Spring '09