These are fascinating times of tension and change in science. Enormously important new opportunities have arisen as diverse fields across the natural, physical and social sciences intersect and converge. Concurrently, new experimental and observational methods that generate large quantities of data have encouraged a different perspective, focusing on "letting the data tell its story" and not at all on the abstraction and hypothetico-deductive approach that has driven much of science for decades. Over the years of its existence, NIMBioS has transitioned its emphasis in line with these shifts in science, contributing to the development of what is known as "quantitative biology," an amalgam of approaches that in the past were referred to as mathematical biology, theoretical biology, computational biology and systems biology. The success of NIMBioS in fostering novel results across the amalgam is evident from the diverse collection of significant research products that have arisen, the many new collaborations that have flowered and the opportunities the Center has offered to encourage new researchers to appreciate the potential for benefit to science and society of work at the interface of mathematics, life science, computational science and social science.
We at the University of Tennessee have been very proud of the major contributions by our Advisory Board, government partners, Working Group and Workshop organizers and the over 6,000 participants in our activities. The synthesis that has resulted demonstrates not only the wonderful new science that has been developed through the use of quantitative approaches in biology, but also the tremendous dedication and altruism of our many leaders and participants. The scientific enterprise we have fostered is driven by the contributions of many individuals whose compensation for their time and effort is not monetary but is simply the new knowledge about how our world works that they have contributed to through collaborations at NIMBioS.
As NIMBioS transitions to its next phase, we are building on several strengths of the Center, including our capability to bring together phenomenally productive groups of researchers and educators from diverse backgrounds, handling all the logistical details so that the organizers and participants can focus on synthesizing science. Along the way, we have focused on the capability to evaluate the effectiveness of collaborative, interdisciplinary research. An outcome of this has been the development of a new center, NISER, the National Institute for STEM Evaluation and Research, which has become one of the main go-to groups in the US providing evaluation planning and assistance for over a dozen different research and education projects. NIMBioS has maintained an evaluation perspective from the beginning, guided by the over 150 evaluation reports carried out for NIMBioS activities, that has allowed us to adapt our activities based on the feedback from organizers and participants. We are very proud of the capability that NISER now provides to allow other interdisciplinary efforts to follow the example we have pioneered for thoughtful evaluation of activities to enhance the advancement of science and ensure the efficient use of public resources.
NIMBioS is developing new programs, including a Spatial Analysis Lab to offer spatial data collection, visualization and analysis for cross-disciplinary efforts on biological, geographic, and socio-economic processes, and a Mathematical Modeling Center that provides expertise on model development, simulation and analysis linking models to data. We encourage you to consider additional ways that the expertise demonstrated at NIMBioS might assist your research and education efforts. Please contact us to discuss what benefits we can bring to your enterprise as we continue to expand the opportunities we foster in interdisciplinary science and education.
Louis J. Gross