Although its importance is not always recognized, theory is an integral part of all biological research. Biologists' theoretical and conceptual frameworks inform every step of their research, affecting what experiments they do, what techniques and technologies they develop and use, and how they interpret their data.
By examining how theory can help biologists answer questions like "What are the engineering principles of life?" or "How do cells really work?" the report shows how theory synthesizes biological knowledge from the molecular level to the level of whole ecosystems. The book concludes that theory is already an inextricable thread running throughout the practice of biology; but that explicitly giving theory equal status with other components of biological research could help catalyze transformative research that will lead to creative, dynamic, and innovative advances in our understanding of life.
National Research Council. 2008. The Role of Theory in Advancing 21st-Century Biology: Catalyzing Transformative Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/12026.
|2 The Integral Role of Theory in Biology||25-37|
|3 Are There Still New Life Forms to Be Discovered? The Diversity of Life - Why It Exists and Why It's Important||38-66|
|4 What Role Does Life Play in the Metabolism of Planet Earth?||67-80|
|5 How Do Cells Really Work?||81-89|
|6 What Are the Engineering Principles of Life?||90-109|
|7 What Is the Information That Defines and Sustains Life?||110-129|
|8 What Determines How Organisms Behave in Their Worlds?||130-144|
|9 How Much Can We Tell About the Past - and Predict About the Future - by Studying Life on Earth Today?||145-156|
|10 Education:Learning to Think About the Elephant||157-161|
|11 Findings and Recommendations||162-167|
|Appendix A: Statement of Task||187-187|
|Appendix B: Biographical Sketches of Committee Members||188-195|
|Appendix C: Workshop on Defining and Advancing the Conceptual Basis of Biological Science for the 21st Century||196-196|
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