Biomathematics

A vision for success

Verkenningscommissie Biowiskunde (KNAW)

2009 | xxviii + 76 pages | ISBN 978-90-6984-586-9 | free

The Biomathematics Foresight Committee of The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences strongly recommends in this report to build a sustainable relationship between life sciences and mathematics. The biological sciences are changing rapidly. Whereas in the past their approach was ? out of necessity ? mainly descriptive, rapid technological advances are helping to drive the field toward explanatory and even predictive methods. These changes also require us to enhance the conceptual basis of the life sciences by developing explanatory models, statistical methods and other quantitative approaches. As a result, successful biological research will come to depend increasingly on proper mathematical input. What we have already seen happen in the natural sciences will now have to be promoted and become customary in the biological sciences: a lasting relationship with mathematics. The Biomathematics Foresight Study gives a number of relevant parties a set of guidelines for shaping that relationship in terms of both its form and content, ensuring that it does indeed last. The time is more than ripe for this. All the parties, both in the sciences and in society at large, will derive enormous benefits. It is becoming clear that disciplines other than the life sciences feel the need to strengthen their ties with mathematics. Mathematicians, on the other hand, are increasingly turning to other disciplines as a source of inspiration. The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences has therefore launched a computational sciences project. This is just an example of one of the projects to promote more such lasting, co-evolutionary relationships. The report covers the results of a foresight study conducted at the interface between mathematics and the life sciences. The study was successful in many different respects, worthy of both a follow-up and the following up of its recommendations. The present century, still in its infancy, has been referred to as the century of biology, and with good reason: we are all concerned about improving our health and ensuring the sustainability of the planet. It is increasingly urgent that we address the numerous problems confronting society by seeking answers based as much as possible on scientific knowledge and insights. Chairman of the Biomathematics Foresight Committee was Prof. Sjoerd Verduyn Lunel, professor of Mathematics at the University of Leiden; and the Executive Secretary was Prof. Mathisca de Gunst, Professor of Mathematics at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.