NextGenVoices Results

NextGen VOICES: Results

We asked young scientists to answer this question:
How will the practice of science change in your lifetime?

In the 6 January 2012 issue, we ran excerpts from 13 of the many insightful responses we received. Below, you will find the full versions of those 13 essays (in the order they were printed) as well as the top 50 (in alphabetical order) of the other submissions we received.

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Essays in print

As we acquire knowledge, we climb a ladder that helps us to see farther, that helps us to observe unexplored territory. Some scientific disciplines are on the very top steps of their ladders. Our predecessors made enormous contributions while climbing the ladders of reductionism. As they climbed, they also became more isolated. The distance between disciplines and subdisciplines increased, as they focused on their own research topics. The challenge today is how to connect those ladders. To build taller ladders of knowledge we have to create bridges among disciplines, and not be afraid of the distance to the ground. It is, however, unrealistic to think that single individuals can master several disciplines. A side effect of increasing intredisciplinarity would therefore be an increase in the number of co-authors of scientific publications. Scientists, even more than today, will have to learn how to work together. Because of the current vast amount of knowledge, eclectic research groups will have to play the role that a single scientist played in the XIX century. To facilitate relationships between disciplines, the way we communicate our results among ourselves, and to the society, has to evolve. Scientific communication will be transformed into a multimedia experience. Live talk repositories, animations, and videos will enhance the figure of papers as unique pieces of scientific knowledge. We are therefore entering the Era of Interdisciplinarity. It is the end of many ivory towers. It is beginning of many bridges.
Luis J. Gilarranz,* Jelle Lever, Rudolf P. Rohr, Miguel A. Fortuna
Integrative Ecology Group, Estación Biológica de Doñana, CSIC, 41092 Sevilla. Spain.
*To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: lj.gilarranz{at}

My retirement speech, in 2045: During the first part of this Century, the economic recession burned into the collective memory. Society demanded better "value for money" from its scientists, requiring them to demonstrate the impact of their research on global and national challenges. Some of those challenges, such as climate change and resource depletion, have only partially been met as scientists have struggled to adapt in a rapidly changing world. Academics spent too much time doing and too little time thinking; this was perpetuated by a tremendous pressure to perform and succeed. Deep thinking spaces were eroded by the immediacy of communication, and swathes of information and data. Science and technology have assisted with nature-mimicking algorithms to respond to pedestrian tasks like sifting through e-mail. Virtual connectedness increased international, cross-institutional and multidisciplinary research with the merging of our social and professional lives, but scientists continued to grapple with disconnected "silo" mentalities and the natural-social science divide. Self-preservation continued to drive research institute agendas. The rise of "super-universities" at the edge of the open source revolution was always on the horizon. Scientists were so busy that they were often blind to what their universities were morphing into, although things have started to change recently. There have been some major successes to celebrate, such as the use of desiccation resistant gene technology for plants (developed in South Africa) which turned many African deserts into productive farmland. Like the first heart transplant of the previous century, it shows that Africa has much to contribute.
Genevieve Langdon* and Caradee Wright
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7700, South Africa.
*To whom correspondence will be addressed. E-mail: genevieve.langdon{at}

Looking Backwards into the Future. In La divina commedia, predicting the future was punished in the afterlife by an eternal existence with one's head turned backwards. For Dante, this punishment was probably merely symbolic. Nevertheless, Dante made a point: Looking to the past best suggests the future. For the practice of science, the future is suggested by our rapidly increasing use of information technology. Advancing information technology promotes increased international collaborations. New tools for online communication, plus a willingness to use these tools, will enable highly effective live cooperation between scientists working oceans apart. Effective online research collaborations will enable several experimental setups dealing with interlinked questions in concert. Specifically, today, unraveling new principles of any system or process typically demands several smaller steps, each warranting publication. The future practice of science will traverse smaller steps in parallel, through online cooperation between experts, each tackling smaller steps while continuously communicating findings to their collaborators. This may be envisioned as skipping the stairs and rather taking an elevator. The result? Each paper will contain fewer questions and more answers. If communication truly erases distance in the scientific community, new fields are likely to emerge in the intersections between disciplines. Bridging the gaps between disciplines such as neuroscience and psychology is one of the triumphs I personally hope to see happen. Again, communication is the key, and it may not come easily. The sharing of knowledge in a competitive world is perhaps the greatest challenge for we who are the next generation of scientists.
Asgeir Kobro-Flatmoen
The Faculty of Medicine, Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience/Centre for Biology of Memory, Medical Technical Research Centre, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, 7491 Trondheim, Norway.
E-mail: Asgeirfl{at}

The biggest challenge facing a generation of young scientists is breaking free of the shackles placed on them by their predecessors. We are tasked with fixing large dysfunctional institutions that we are given no authority over nor trained to take the reins of. We are expected to fix broken peer review systems riddled with small insular cliques. We are expected to not only flourish in, but be thankful for a funding structure that has scarce resources which are primarily used on contract science for the blessed few rather than discovery based on the merits of ideas and early results. We are expected to survive and contribute to a larger society that no longer trusts scientists, appreciates expertise, or understands the value science brings to the world. Science will continue to be dictated from above, not practiced. Science will be performed by those who are willing, not those best prepared or suited to the task. This future will be brought about in part because disturbingly low levels of support in our schools for science and math education, spiraling the globe towards all-time lows in scientific literacy during the modern era. This is the future young scientists see ahead of us. A future handed down by a generation who was more interested in glorifying themselves than leaving things better than how they found them. We are expected to rise to this challenge and we're sure as hell going to give it our all. Gosh, who needs a drink?
Jeremy Block
Department of Biochemistry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710-3711, USA.
E-mail: jeremy.block{at}

Science is becoming increasingly accessible to minorities, women, and people from a variety of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. Since more people are now being exposed to science, I predict that the speed and significance of scientific advancements will increase dramatically over the next 100 years. My grandmother was an extremely intelligent woman who spoke five languages, but she left high school before receiving her degree so that she could work in a mill to support her family. I wonder what contributions she could have made to the world of science, or any other field, if she lived in a time of gender equality and financial aid. Today, great minds of all races, religions, and sexes are gathering in universities to collaborate on research and approach problems with their own unique perspectives. One emerging challenge is that science, more than ever, is being bottlenecked by politics. For example, scientists have not only shown that climate change is happening, but they have also already developed many ways to combat it. While politicians continue to debate whether or not climate change actually exists, our planet continues its destructive spiral. As our country plunges further into debt, these scientists are left to fight tooth and nail for funding that they may never see. Furthermore, they are waiting impatiently to see their previous discoveries put into action. At times like these, it becomes apparent that the public never quite understands how unbelievably vital scientific research is to each and every citizen's daily life and well-being.
Dianne Kamfonik
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.
E-mail: diannek{at}

Huge data sets from social networks, human behavior and mobility, financial transactions, energy consumption, attitudes and tastes, or religious and political beliefs are becoming ever more important for scientific inquiry. Large data sets exhibit a wealth of patterns and characteristics invisible at a smaller scale. For many research groups and labs, it will be pivotal to work effectively and efficiently with these data sets. This leads to the invention of a new career path in science. The professional scientific data manager will have a unique skill set from areas like statistics, large database administration, and information design. Leading university administrations will establish these career paths, at the same time providing their research groups with a variety of real-time data streams. Some universities and labs outsource data sourcing and management, so that we witness the emergence of a data-centered service ecosystem. Specialized consultancies offer services like data collection, documentation, bundling (cross-correlating several datasets), or IT-related services like data management and hosting. Some integrated wholesalers will sell the complete package. Many massive data sets are collected by companies like Google, Facebook, or LinkedIn. These companies will provide a free and broad access to their data, or their data warehouses will be put under state control.
Jörn Grahl
Department of Information Systems and Business Administration, Gutenberg University, D-55128 Mainz, Germany.
E-mail: grahl{at}

Ubiquity of tablet technology will result in near real-time textbook updates. School curricula will therefore need to change on a daily basis. Discovery mining infrastructures built for school districts will give teachers the updated curriculum.
Michael Young
Arlington, TX 76016, USA.
E-mail: mike{at}

Science will transform to a more integrative perspective. The practice of researching in isolation will transform to a more cross–disciplinary involvement. With the concomitant rise of techno-entrepreneurship trend in researchers than the traditional intent of remaining in academia, science will encompass more of other disciplines like business, marketing and intellectual property. Collaborative groups will successfully come up with spin-offs and fund each other's research. A couple of mini-MBAs and certificate courses in finance will align themselves along with scientific publications in a researchers' resume. Globally the availability of government funding will still be a major issue, hence amalgamating private, industry and government interests in a joint proposition will help pool in funds for further research. This in turn would revise the tenure procedure and researchers would have a 7-10 years time frame to answer one set of research question and spent lesser time asking for funds. Within science itself topics studied in details in other branches like physics can find en route to biology and chemistry, opening up a fresh branch of investigation, something that graphene has done. Super-specialization will encompass less understood branches and researchers would continuously upgrade themselves in related cross-disciplines, through courses, workshops, trainings and discussions over a coffee cup. Non-basic science topics like environmental, cognitive and nano-science will come to the forefront. With cross-discipline, cross-border collaboration, beyond the mere sharing of authorship, will develop as a resultant with the world turning into a global village. One thing that will never change, the passion about science.
Kingshuk Poddar
Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, A*Star, National University of Singapore, 670219 Singapore.
E-mail: kingshukpoddar{at}

The cost of plastic-based materials will continue to rise as fossil fuels run dry, but the knowledge to work with glass has faded. When CORNING no longer makes disposable, plastic everything, I think our lab will have to shut down. The future will require a lot of re-learning.
Nick Barrows
Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Duke University, Durham, NC 27713, USA.
E-mail: nicholas.barrows{at}

As a 16-year-old making my first steps in the world of research, I fear that it will be hard to find interesting phenomena to study. It seems most of the major scientific questions have been answered, or will be in the near future. For millennia, people have been asking "Why" and "How" questions regarding almost any phenomenon. During the past centuries, mankind has been able to answer most, and answers to others are on the way. In the past, the major obstacle to vast scientific progress was technology. For example, sequencing the human genome would have been impossible without modern computational power. I'm concerned that few science-catalyzing technological advancements are forthcoming. We know the physical limits that govern this world (until proven otherwise...) such as the basic units (and their sizes) of matter and organisms. Nowadays, we have tools allowing us to reach these limits (or theories that say we are barred from reaching them). I believe that one of the privileges of my generation is that much of the major knowledge there was to know is known. However, this is a mixed blessing, as there are not many fundamental mysteries to aspire to unravel. Two consequences of this, becoming ever more present, are narrow professionalization and increasing interdisciplinarity, both broadening research possibilities. Nonetheless, this abundance of research tools presents a big upside: When a scientist from my generation finds a research subject (challenging, but possible), they will most likely have the instruments needed, instruments past generations could only dream of.
Or Sagy
Ben Gurion Regional School, Emek Hefer, 42875, Israel; Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, 69978, Israel; and Department of Molecular Genetics, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, 76100, Israel.
E-mail: orsagy{at}

The key theme distinguishing the future practice of science will be integration. If revolutionary science is to prevail and increasingly complex problems are to be solved, then the next generation of researchers will be called upon to develop partnerships across once disparate academic disciplines. As access to information reaches unprecedented levels, the ability to interpret information into meaningful patterns will become much more complicated. In this rigorous intellectual environment collaboration will be critical for scientific discovery. The geologist will contact the sociologist. The psychologist will share a coffee with the physicist. Fostering such openness will be difficult, however. Future scientists will be challenged like never before to reconcile conflicting motives concerning the advancement of science and the advancement of one's personal agenda. The next generation of scientists will also experience a stronger union (or reunion) between science and the arts. Scientists will find a useful medium in artistic expression for visualizing information in innovative ways that explain fundamental processes in nature. Statistical models will transform in moving mobiles. Two-dimensional graphs will be replaced by 3-dimensional sculptures. The canny work of Nathalie Miebach illustrates the useful role that art can play in science. Her musical and visual manifestations of meteorological data are not only remarkably creative but also reveal obscure relationships underlying the dynamics of weather systems. The preeminent scientific questions of the future will not be answered through convention and self preservation. Rather, the most influential insights will be gained through integration, artistic expression and openness.
David R. Daversa
Evolutionary Ecology Group, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 3EJ, UK.
E-mail: dd384{at}

Social science will be done by internet companies, as much as it is done by universities, and the lines between social science, data science, and data journalism will get thinner and thinner. Technology allows everything to be tracked in real-world situations, meaning that scientists will no longer have to generalize from artificial experiments done on college students. Internet companies collect this data at far faster speeds and require answers at a far quicker pace than social scientists are used to, which will place an even greater strain on the traditional journal system. As businesses begin to serve psychological, rather than physical needs, the data they use will be of increasing interest to social scientists, but papers will no longer be the ultimate goal. With improvements to data tagging, the semantic web, and evolution of Google Scholar, raw data will be published and social science findings will no longer be discovered by individual researchers, but instead validated through simultaneous tests amongst myriad samples collected by many organizations/researchers, all of whom use a common semantic data-tagging system. The relationship between any two variables will become a real-time exercise in querying the data commons. Machine learning processes will mine this data and findings will increasingly involve dynamic systems, rather than the isolated effects of one variable on another. While this may seem like an increasingly impersonal enterprise, the ultimate result will be a shared deeper understanding of both the human condition, and of each individual's unique tendencies.
Ravi Iyer
Department of Psychology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089–1061, USA.
E-mail: raviiyer{at}

I think in my lifetime, science will become more open, accessible, and "democratic." People will have more opportunity to make small contributions in doing big projects. Monopoly of big money and secretive research will break, and the benefits of the latest scientific research would actually reach common people. Our current problem is a systemic one; namely that scientific R&D is hostage to a few entities with lots of money. One of the many examples, say from medical science, could be the drug development business. If an anti-cancer drug is discovered today, it would take several years and millions of dollars to pass the trials. By the time it reaches market, it's prohibitively expensive to almost 99% of world population (e.g., the anti-cancer drug Gleevec costs $32,000 to $98,000 a year). Several potentially useful drugs were almost trashed because they didn't seem profitable (e.g., Gleevac for CML, Herceptin for breast cancer). Science today is driven not by need but by profit. A reevaluation of priorities is needed to truly benefit the society. Interestingly enough, the process has already begun. In knowledge industry, millions are contributing together, breaking the monopoly of few, to projects like Wikipedia that are changing the way we learn. Open-source projects (like GNU) are breaking the monopolies in software industry where collaborative projects like Firefox and Linux are putting people ahead of profit. So I believe, those days are not far when science will also be done "by the people"–"for the people" and not "for the profit."
Ashutosh Gupta
National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.
E-mail: guptaas{at}

Top 50 online essays

I am in India. Demographics have it that by 2020, the average age of Indian will be 29, 37 in China, and 45 in Europe and the United States. A few years later, the great proportion of the world's population will be Indian and young. The practice of science, though AAAS does a great job to bring science to more people, may still get more specialized, because it is hard to bear commerce and consumerism. In India, with huge numbers of the very young to educate, it would be well if we could get them literate, but bringing science to them is the dream. Think tanks speak of the demographic opportunity. Yes, if the growing numbers could be skilled. In reality, it may not be opportunity, but disaster. Large numbers not lettered in science, with failing markets, are fodder for politicians and fanatic leaders. In terms of the proportion of the dwellers of Earth, beset by problems of warming and energy crises, the practice of science, which is the only way out, will decline. I write science—two columns in English language dailies and some of the pieces in translation into Hindi. My dream is to bridge the "techie/non-techie" divide. But I am conscious of a greater task at hand.
Subramanian Ananthanarayanan
Colaba, Mumbai 400005, India.
E-mail: anarayanan{at}

I believe that the current economic and political conditions in the United States that have contributed to the difficulty in securing research funding will continue for some time to come. This will likely limit the number of individuals with the opportunity to pursue a career in biomedical research, particularly over the next 5 to10 years, and will result in the United States losing its current status as the leader in scientific discovery. The loss of this intellectual capital will be incredibly unfortunate as individuals with both the ambition and expertise to contribute to the understanding of and treatment of human disease bow to economic reality and pursue new avenues of employment. Furthermore, the widespread implementation of new, cutting edge experimental techniques will probably be curtailed due to the more expensive nature of the necessary reagents and equipment. However, I do believe that the funding situation will eventually improve, at least marginally, in the next 10 to 15 years and that the decrease in the scientific workforce will also help to reduce the intense competition for research funding that is the current status quo. The challenge for researchers in the interim will be to manage to stay afloat until this occurs. This will require extremely efficient management of resources, expenses, and personnel, as well as a dogged determination on the part of all individuals involved.
Donald S. Backos
Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Colorado, Denver, Aurora, CO 80045, USA.
E-mail: donald.backos{at}

There are potentially many ways in which the way we do science now can change in the coming years. One such way would be to incorporate the practice of "crowdsourcing" into the mainstream science—the idea of distributing tasks to a larger group of people or community through an open invitation. Some of our future scientific endeavors can benefit a great deal if we can harness the capabilities from a larger pool of talent. The reason for this is easy to understand: information-overload. Today, we are not limited by the absence of right instruments; instead, we are limited by the mismatch in the rate at which these instruments generate data and the rate at which we process/interpret that data. The terabytes of astronomical data generated by the automated telescopes every night serve as a case in point. Crowd science offers an effective way of tackling this problem. For tasks requiring more specialized skills, appropriate science-community can be selected. I am certain that this practice will play an increasingly important role in the future.
Mayank Behl
Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.
E-mail: behl1{at}

The future of science in our lifetime can be paralleled to trends in society. The main pervasive trend being globalization in its widest sense: the reduction of barriers in global interaction. This is facilitated by the global spread of fast internet access, which is creating an information revolution where knowledge is only a mouse-click away, every layperson can comment and discuss any topic, and authority is potentially disputed. One would expect this development to create a level playing field for practicing science, making it difficult to conceive of a future where traditional scientific authority survives. Paradoxically, it was recently shown that authority still comes with age and training: Nobel laureates reach their big break at an increasingly advanced age, at the moment typically in their late forties. Despite universal access to information, scientific training remains important for achievement. An explaining factor is the increasing specialization of scientific practice. In cognitive neuroscience for example, discourse is increasingly moving from the intuitive level of verbal theory to the level of high-tech and complex computational modeling. Therefore, training and resources (computing power) remain a differentiating factor, at the same time potentially creating a distance between scientists and the public. Lack of understanding can lead to the public questioning of the money and resources spent on science. The challenge is to bridge the gap between specialized work and an intuitive level of explanation. Involving the public through communication will render modern science accessible in the public domain, helping to justify expensive scientific education and resources.
Ruud Berkers
MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, CB2 7EF, Cambridge, UK.
E-mail: ruud.berkers{at}

Outsourcing will improve (possibly revolutionize) research dramatically. Although smaller institutions may not be able to cash in on these new revenue streams, they will undoubtedly benefit from a global free market system where they may choose, based on all the factors a normal consumer would consider, where to outsource their research, rather than being restricted by the limitations of their personal connections.
Dustin Brewton
Conway, AR 72034, USA.
E-mail: Dbrewton1{at}

The practice of science is changing, and with that, scientists are changing. Scientists are no longer restricted to disciplines with defined sets of skills and knowledge. We are all inter-disciplinary and have the capacity to make breakthroughs regardless of the scope of our original work. We have the power of technological advancements that give us unfathomable amounts of data in minuscule amounts of time. This current state of science will only magnify in the future, and that magnification will present the challenges of future science. How are we to make sense of data we can collect? How are we to apply it to improve the human condition? Or should we apply it? How are we going to educate future scientists to prepare them for the scope and pace of future science? Scientists will no longer learn from books, as they will move too slowly to keep up with the changing landscape. Scientists will need to be mathematicians and statisticians to make sense of the data they collect. Scientists will need to be philosophers to truly understand the scope, power, and consequences of their work. The number of defined scientific disciplines will decrease, as they give way into each other in structure, as many already have in practice. Science will look much more like it did to Aristotle: a milieu of space, time, objects and theory, intertwined as the precious fabric that makes up this world, which we as a community of scientists are responsible for making sense of, and caring for.
Remy L. Brim
Department of Bioethics Fellow, National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.
E-mail: remy.brim{at}

We are living during an exciting time of unprecedented scientific discovery and technological innovation. Rapid and continuing advancements in computing have dramatically revolutionized how we engage with and make sense of complex scientific phenomena and data. As a result, computers and diverse technological tools (such as sophisticated data analysis and visualization programs, interactive virtual models, and dynamic simulations) are now frequently utilized in not only cutting edge research laboratories but classrooms and schools as well. The increasing use of computers as valuable instructional tools in science classrooms underscores the need for our educational system to provide innovative instruction that helps students develop the critical thinking and regulative skills required to successfully use and learn from inquiry investigations with technological resources. This is an ambitious endeavor for those of us in the STEM education research community invested in reconceiving current science instruction and curricula. Nevertheless, the benefits of successfully meeting this challenge are profound. Imagine if students were equipped to proficiently monitor, evaluate, and reflect on their own developing understanding of scientific ideas obtained from experiments conducted with virtual simulations and models. Imagine if students could efficiently manage and optimize their own scientific growth and advancement for sustained lifelong learning. As the students of today's schools will become the scientific thinkers and innovators of tomorrow, I envision and hold great hope that the efforts by present-day educational researchers and practitioners to restructure science education will have significant and positive implications for the practice of science during my own lifetime and beyond.
Jennifer King Chen
Graduate School of Education, Education in Math, Science and Technology, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-1670, USA.
E-mail: jykchen{at}

Although developing countries have historically played the catch up game in science, the gap between them and developed countries is still growing. The big question is: Will they ever catch up? Developed countries have established themselves as knowledge economies, providing an environment in which scientists can focus upon the generation of new knowledge through experimentation with different ideas. Because of a worrying lack of investment in knowledge production, developing countries seem content with importing knowledge from the west. The only challenge is that the developed world is experiencing low numbers of "home-grown" enrollments in science, math, and engineering (due to their perceived difficulty). In the future, developed countries are likely to intensify the draining of the best talent from developing countries, further widening the gap between the two. To solve this, developing countries such as South Africa must develop their own talent far in excess of their needs. This will meet their own demand and that of the west. This will require following the Hong Kong model of developing top class world leading universities. This may shift the balance of power in knowledge production in favor of the south. The developing countries then must invest in science, taking advantage of local knowledge and must also develop a strong culture of science and innovation from the grassroots. This will make them leaders in key areas such as poverty alleviation, food security, and alternative energy sources. The future of science therefore lies in the global south. Will this succeed? Only trying will tell.
Shadreck Chirikure,* Genevieve Langdon, Yahya Choonara, Andrew McKechnie, Bernard Slippers, Caradee Wright
Department of Archaeology, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7700, South Africa.
*To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: Shadreck.Chirikure{at}

It is less costly than ever before to cross disciplinary boundaries. For that reason I anticipate a realignment of disciplines, especially among those that hypothesize regarding the human condition. For instance, an economist researching trade begins her literature search with a review chapter by an economist. Say this recommends seven economics papers and one in linguistics. A generation ago, it would take as long to find the linguistics text in those foreign shelves as it would to find all seven economics texts. Today's price is one mouse-click. An economist is more likely to consult the linguistics text today. On doing so, she is more likely to encounter research questions and methodologies that are entirely new to economics. The generation of new and important knowledge can be expected to result from this process. Of course this assumes disciplines can understand each other. My fear is that threatened scholars will retreat into jargon. There are overlaps across disciplines and some research must be redundant. For those in a position of weakness, obfuscation is a natural defense. Science moves inexorably forward but it can be slowed or sped by its environment. The university hurts science and its own relevance if it does not acknowledge that current disciplinary boundaries are anachronistic. Students who have seen a few TED lectures will balk at the idea that "education" means learning a canonical body of knowledge. Researchers will seek jobs in the increasing number of environments that reward interesting insights rather than publication in the right journals.
David Comerford
Duke University Fuqua School of Business, Durham, NC 27708, USA.
E-mail: david.comerford{at}

The wide availability of portable computing devices will encourage many people to keep and analyze data, and share their findings. While this would allow for wider collaboration among experimenters, amateur methodology and biased human logic will taint scientific discourse in all media outlets. Mainstream media outlets will make celebrities of professional scientists, as they help the public sort through the confusion. Scientists will need to learn how to be good journalists and must practice rigid journalistic standards, or else they will be unable to establish or maintain credible reputations. Wide-ranging and profitable applications based on scientific research will encourage private industry to conduct research without the partnership of academia. Private industry will develop increasing amounts of knowledge that will remain as trade secrets that will not be shared with the public or be available for peer review. Academia will have a decreasing role in technology research, further separating academia from the general economy.
Edgar Floro
Reston, VA 20190, USA.
E-mail: edgarfloro{at}

Machines will deal with science in the near future (about 40 years from now). The transition will be so gradual that people will hardly notice it. Humans will be slightly different from what we see walking down the road these days because a large number of us will be integrated with machines to various extents. The concept of identity will not be as clearly defined as it is today. Natural languages will not be in use in science anymore. By the time that total nonbiological data processing power will exceed the biological one, the production of novel results will be already in large part automated. Everybody on Earth will have enough food to eat and a house to live in. Pneumonia and diarrhea will be a thing of the past. Social security and medical care will constitute the largest market on Earth. Average life expectancy at birth will touch 90 years. Soon after people's thoughts, feelings, and emotions will be available on separate data storage devices than our brains, making the terms life, consciousness and all what is connected with our identities obsolete.
Ruggero Gabbrielli
Department of Physics, University of Trento, via Sommarive 14, 38123, Trento, Italy.
E-mail: ruggero.gabbrielli{at}

Science has reached a stage so advanced that almost any problem related to improving the quality of human life has a ready technological solution. It has produced a vast array of tools and machines that make life at home comfortable. Ironically, such advancement of science coexists with a colossal number of impoverished people around the world. The problem of hunger, malnutrition, poor health conditions, homelessness, and general poverty is such common knowledge that we don't even need to cite statistics here. I envision that science will contribute to the eradication of this great irony of the modern world. Scientists must take part in answering social problems not only in their comfortable laboratories but also outside where ordinary folks, who are supposed to be the beneficiary of achievements in science and technology, are living in an uncomfortable environment. In Third World countries, people's basic needs are not satisfied. Land-grabbing by big multinational corporations in cahoots with local big businesses is so rampant, and the solution to resolving the conflicts that arise in such situations is not advanced science but sociopolitical reforms. In order for science to be appreciated in these countries, scientists from the First World must unite, collaborate, and work in solidarity with those in the Third World not only in doing science but also in ensuring that there is a conducive environment to do science. In short, science must not only focus on interpreting the world but also in changing it.
Kim Gargar
Department of Chronobiology, University of Groningen, Nijenborgh 7, 9747 AG Groningen, Netherlands.
E-mail: k.a.gargar{at}

I think that we can safely say that we need to prepare young men and women of science for the increasing need of feedback loops (like crowdsourcing) in our society, which if designed properly can help create positive outcomes for both science, policy, and the environment. This may seem like an obvious point to some, but whether you are speaking physics, biology, engineering, social or environmental science, psychology, algorithm design, or even the politics of scientists helping to shape future policy decisions, it is an important point to remember and too often overlooked amongst the voluminous media noise we often encounter. The use of social networking is powerful and growing at a very fast clip. In some sense, it is a huge participatory experiment moving us all forward. In years past when dealing with scientific and societal issues we moved forward at a more modest pace, and policy decisions followed in step after society had digested new discoveries. Social media helps change things by the hour and minute now. Policy making of the future via scientific input from tomorrow's scientific and technology discoverers will have to be much more proactive rather than reactive.
Vince Golubic
Allen, TX 75013, USA.
E-mail: golubicv{at}

For many centuries, scientists have pursued research questions driven by their curiosity to know, learn, and discover, to add to the expanding body of knowledge for the mere sake of science. As government budgets for science shrink across the globe, mandates for government-sponsored research now focus on health needs of the masses, with the current buzz word being "translational research." For many of us who have opted to pursue science, these words and the underlying philosophy limit the potential links that exist between research questions that drive our innate curiosity and those ideas that necessarily occupy our time because of the rigid agenda of the hand that feeds us. This shift in public and government sentiment concerning science is a harbinger of the transformation required in the way we conduct science. The message is that rapid adaptation is required in order to survive; i.e., the topics we choose to pursue as our life's work must be in line with the needs of society. Indeed, continued survival will likely require a new breed of scientist, one schooled in her own field of interest with an eye for that which will improve human health, as well as one who is sufficiently malleable to withstand the pressures of gaining funding through creative measures. This scientist must conduct the business of research where the bottom line is, whether or not the product provided proves useful to society. More than ever, the next generation of scientists will be composed of individuals of the "Renaissance," or "scientists for all seasons."
Bernadette E. Grayson
Metabolic Diseases Institute, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH 45237, USA.
E-mail: bernadette.grayson{at}

I think the biggest change in science will be funding sources. Large funding agencies (such as the National Institutes of Health) will shift to a system more like the Howard Hughes Medical Investigator awards, which depend on competency and vision and give researchers the freedom to follow discoveries wherever they may lead. With more funding for longer periods of time going to fewer people, graduate and postgraduate positions will have to change. More researchers will become career post-docs but with higher salaries and more benefits.
Matthew Gruner
Reno, NV 89434, USA.
E-mail: matthew.gruner{at}

Papers won't be published anymore with an author list but rather a list of institutions in which the work was carried out. This change will liberate scientists of the pressure of having first author publications to continue with a prosperous and self rewarding academic career. Consequently the rate of retractions will drop down. Because papers will come from institutions rather than from individuals, scientists will be hired on permanent contracts just as many companies do with their employees (industrialization of research institutes). The Nobel prize foundation will have to change the eligibility criteria as discoveries (most of them) from today, the past and the future are, were and will no longer be a one-man work, but that of a multidisciplinary and international team. In order to accelerate the communication of results, open access platforms will be used by scientists as an "online lab notebook" with which other users in the world could track "live" the results of their contemporary scientists. This open lab notebook will carry freshly generated and unpublished results and will permit scientists to communicate, coordinate publications and diminish the costs that come with redundancy of projects.
Luis Miguel Guachalla
Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, A-1090 Vienna, Austria.
E-mail: luis.guachalla{at}

There is a clear need for faster learning and communication methods. Currently it takes a third of the average lifespan to reach the frontiers of knowledge and to begin making contributions to one's field. There is technology with potential to provide these faster methods. It is already possible to read the activity of individual neurons. Within a lifetime, there will be means to write information into the brain directly, which opens new possibilities of communication between minds and computers. This will greatly accelerate scientific progress, as the large amount of time spent reading research papers and attending talks and conferences is reallocated to thinking and discovery. The formats of published paper, research talk, and conference will disappear when each piece of new information can be transferred from a mind to the internet almost in real time, and read from there immediately. Currently the speed of this data transfer is still limited by the time to translate meaning into language in the mind, type the result as a text on the computer, disseminate it, and on the other end, read the text and understand it, translating the language back to meaning. The main challenge remaining is the deciphering the connection between electrical signals in the brain and the semantic concepts in the mind. Creating precise pulses through single neurons is the secondary challenge.
Sander Heinsalu
Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520-7007, USA.
E-mail: sander.heinsalu{at}

Although several exciting inventions will be made, will those inventions have a huge impact on the practice of science? No, people will still have to work in the lab, although working with new techniques and machines. What will change in the practice of science is the social/economical context. Nowadays most people working in science are doing or already completed a PhD. However, I expect that more and more technicians will work in science without promoting. Technicians are often more focused on how to optimize techniques and also like to publish these. The publication of protocols in magazines such as Nature Protocols/Methods will dramatically increase. Sharing protocols will increase the efficiency of research and will be supported by governments. Naturally, many professors long working in science will resist to these developments. Other professors will like it because of the extra publications. Slowly protocol publications will become just as normal as traditional publication.
Menno Hofman
Sanquin Blood Supply Foundation, Department Plasma Proteins, 1066 CX, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
E-mail: m.hofman{at}

The practice of science will change in one very important way: the scientist. If all the projected population trends hold, then we shall see an equivalent shift in education and ultimately educators and scientists. The scientist of the future will be a more diverse population than ever seen before. This diversity shall improve science in general, and provide the world with differing ideas, thoughts, and approaches across the gamut of research domains. Likewise, we shall see an increase in culturally based organizations of all sorts. This however may introduce some difficulties in the sense that research communities shall be required to keep cognizant of their discipline(s) in the global community. Further exacerbating the issue, the costs of attending internationally sponsored events may be budget-breaking. Although it is advantageous to attend seminars and conferences in person, perhaps the future holds more of a reliance on the virtual conference environment. There then is an obvious tradeoff: Attend fewer events and retain some resemblance of a "community" network, or go the virtual route and sadly forego the networking opportunities in order to save some budget. These and other challenges will somehow work themselves out and science will prosper and advance beyond our wildest dreams as a result of variety and diversity!
Victor Ingurgio
University of Oklahoma College of Liberal Studies, Oviedo, FL 32765, USA.
E-mail: victor.j.ingurgio-1{at}

Scientific research is already very specialized, increasingly requiring scientists to collaborate to get access to the necessary equipment and expertise. The ever faster development of new technologies will drive even greater specialization during my lifetime. This change will have big implications for the way scientific research is conducted. As the world becomes smaller, researchers will have the ability to access specialized expertise and equipment on a global scale. Rather than relying on local personal networks to establish collaborations, scientists will increasingly use online tools to connect with other researchers in order to conduct cutting-edge research. This will improve the efficiency of scientific research by connecting specialists globally but challenges in project management and data sharing will arise. Greater collaboration in science will also have big implications for the way that science is funded. Increasingly it will not make sense to fund projects that are restricted to a single laboratory. Current funding models (whereby funds are allocated to individual grant holders who spend the majority of the money within their own laboratories, buying equipment and learning new techniques to complete experiments) will be replaced by new funding models that recognize the need to access the specialized expertise and equipment of colleagues and core facilities by "outsourcing" parts of the project. These new models will substantially reduce the cost and increase the speed of scientific research. They will also promote greater collaboration between researchers as they exchange funds for expertise. Challenges will emerge in coordination and management of funds being transferred between researchers at multiple institutions. As a consequence of these changes, we will see the "do-it-yourself" ideology of science replaced by a new "global collaborative research" ideology which should dramatically increase the efficiency of scientific research.
Elizabeth Iorns
Palo Alto, CA 94301, USA.
E-mail: elizabeth{at}

I think during my lifetime, the scientific community will see a marked increase in the number of multiplatform/multi-institution/internationally funded projects like the Human Genome project or the LHC program. This is already being seen in areas dealing with problems of immediate global importance. For instance, in the case of solar fuel generation, two multi-institution initiatives come to mind: the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis and the Energy Frontier Research Centers. Funding agencies, policymakers, and also researchers seem to be of the opinion, and to some extent rightly so, that such super-collaborations have a more serious chance of successfully solving important multifaceted scientific problems, by optimum utilization of expertise and cutting-edge techniques of diverse teams from across the globe. However, it is likely that the latter will be at the expense of the confidence and support shown by policymakers, funding agencies, journal publishers, and reviewers for sole investigator research. But the truth remains that there is no replacement for scientific creativity at the individual level.
Prashant K. Jain
Department of Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.
E-mail: jain{at}

I predict a shift in the current paradigm of practicing, sharing,and conducting science in the future. The different science disciplines will collaborate closely, leading to novel scientific structures, metalabs, and disciplines/metadisciplines. For example studying cognition will involve psychologists, clinicians, molecular biologists, and physicists working under the same roof, not just collaborating between separate labs. One can expect that grouping science forces and disciplines in this manner will result in higher orders of scientific knowledge production. In the same way that the assembling of distinct biological elements can result in a construction with novel properties, it is not predictable initially. Sustainable technology advancement will allow for unprecedented experimental possibilities that will combine multimodal approaches in a much easier manner, accelerating decoding of complex biological mechanisms. Data sharing between institutions will be the regular rule. However, we will face three major challenges: translational, economical, and leadership challenges. The translational challenge derives from the increasing society pressure to design science with direct benefit for society. For example, group of patients will order scientific research that aims at fixing their disease in a customized and affordable manner. The economical resources of scientific research will be mostly directed toward projects that aim at society/everyday life improvement. The leadership challenge will emerge as a consequence of multidisciplinary science. Science leaders will cope with so many technical aspects that they will not be able to master all the approaches used for the projects they will conduct. Future metalabs and metadisciplines should be able to address these challenges.
Béchir Jarraya
CEA NEUROSPIN Inserm Avenir/Versailles University, Gif-sur-Yvette 91191, France.
E-mail: bechir.jarraya{at}

Once at a meeting I had a thoughtful conservation with someone who later wanted to invite me to a conference. Forgetting my name, he only remembered that I was a black female graduate student studying water-related issues at Duke. With this description, an e-mail chain eventually reached me. I was thankful, because he became my mentor, but I was also sobered. There were so few black women in marine science that I was found based on my race and gender. In my lifetime, I hope the face of the science community will come to reflect that of our society. This is critically important for environmental science. A more diverse science community may frame research questions differently and in doing so address the needs of the whole society. Such reframing is crucial if we hope to galvanize our society to improve environmental practices. The challenge of balancing environmental protection with disparities such as economic opportunity and health cannot be left to other fields. The environmental science community can meet this challenge by creating a community of scholars that is diverse and integrated across race, gender, ethnicity, discipline, methodology, and perspective. Recently, I was mistaken for someone else at a conference. Rather than feeling chagrin, I was excited. Likely the searcher was told to look for a bBlack woman. This other black woman, who studied black fishermen, gave me cause for hope. She was evidence of progress, suggesting the promise of a more inclusive future and significant science that truly prioritizes diversity.
Lekelia D. Jenkins
University of Washington School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, Seattle, WA 98105, USA.
E-mail: kikij{at}

Although foretelling the future is notoriously difficult, the best prediction of the future is often steady continuation of current developments. Taking that as a starting point, we may expect that future science will be increasingly faced with a public expectancy of concrete improvements to quality of life as a return for investments. Consequently, the science of the future may be increasingly conducted in large-scale cooperative groups, with a strong focus on testing standardization and replicability. Those scientific fields with a collaborative approach and clear questions that can be answered by the application of technology, such as testing of the standard model of physics, or the identification of the genetic risk for complex human disorders, may garner an increasing share of funding, whereas more fractioned fields that focus on questions that are difficult to test experimentally may suffer. For individual scientists, the pursuit of knowledge will be a little less free and independent, but the reward will be the opportunity to be part of a process that delivers genuine progress. In addition, we may expect future scientific research to uncover staggering levels of complexity in biological, physical and social systems. Making sense of that complexity will be an increasingly difficult challenge for the future scientist. Could the pace of progress in uncovering complexity slow within the lifetime of young scientists, as understanding nears more complete levels? It is certainly hard to imagine in this point of time, but it may just be within the reach of a lifetime.
Sietse Jonkman
The Scripps Research Institute, Jupiter, FL 33458, USA.
E-mail: sjonkman{at}

My intuition is that over the next 50 years the practice of science will become more focused, interdisciplinary, multicultural, and transparent. First, as we achieve satisfactory understanding of basic phenomena, and gain greater technological and methodological capabilities, we will increasingly turn to narrower, more concrete questions. Scientists will focus less on discovery and more on precision and process, delineating phenomena's causal mechanisms, variability, and boundaries. As problems turn more specific, the ways we tackle them will diversify across disciplines and levels of analysis. In my field, newer approaches integrate evolutionary, neurochemical, psychological, social, and cultural processes in the study of a single phenomenon. Despite its potential, interdisciplinary research is challenging. Scientists must foster an appreciation of other fields' theories and methods and be comfortable exploring literatures outside their expertise. Funding agencies must also evolve to accommodate proposals that defy simple categorization. We will also see greater diversity in our community. Emerging economies will continue to invest in high quality training and recruitment, potentially weakening the hegemony of U.S. journals as the foremost scientific outlets. Like interdisciplinarity, diversity brings exciting opportunities along with challenges. Researchers will have to overcome preconceptions, and cultivate a mindset of openness, sensitivity, and respect for foreign collaborators. Finally, I anticipate a growing push for more accessible and transparent science. Already we see a call for open-access publishing and public availability of data. In addition to benefiting researchers directly, I believe greater transparency will ultimately increase the public's interest in and respect for science and scientists in general.
Spassena Koleva
Department of Psychology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089, USA.
E-mail: koleva{at}

Scientific publishing will be revolutionized as open access and open evaluation replace the traditional journal system. Peer review will no longer be done in secret before publication, but scientific papers will be published instantly online and evaluated on an ongoing basis by post-publication peer review.
Nikolaus Kriegeskorte
Medical Research Council, Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, CB2 7EF, UK.
E-mail: nikolaus.kriegeskorte{at}

Information overloading will be greatly decreased. Scientists would be able to record their research in a multimedia format, such that other scientists do not have to read the new journal article. Instead the research will be streamed onto personal hand-held computer or phones, and users will listen to and watch the new science. This will keep the scientists up to date with the new information in a short time. New findings emerge every day—for example, every year 10,000 articles on the atmospheric science are published, and it is not possible to keep up with this kind of information. In most of the scientific fields approximately 1000 articles are published every year. Scientists cannot read this many articles. Therefore, the only way to grasp the new science is via a multimedia format. Animations, an actual interview, and the figures will be covered in 3 to 5 minutes. I think this will revolutionize the publication process.
Gourihar Kulkarni
Pacific Northwest National Lab, Atmospheric Measurement Lab, Richland, WA 99354, USA.
E-mail: gouriharkulkarni{at}

During my lifetime, the genomes of unicellular and multicellular organisms have been sequenced. The next step, interpretation, is currently being tackled. Issues of genetic privacy and discrimination may quickly become relevant before appropriate measures are set in place. The average citizen may be required to be more versed in science to understand the major ethical issues of scientific advances such as genetic sequencing and stem cell therapies as they become commonplace. The obligation of academic research institutions to engage with non-scientists may become more pressing and should be taken seriously. It is tempting to speculate that there will be an increased globalization of scientific research—while the major research centers currently tend to be located in the US and Europe, other parts of the world, in particular, Asia, are building up attractive programs. Another change I hope to see is in the training of scientists. The current program favors a training period longer than other fields after which, only few tenure track positions are open. Shorter specialized master's programs combining biotech and business may become more popular. Perhaps the choice to go into industry will lose its stigma in the hallowed, but detached, ivory towers. Perhaps the idea of the PhD may fall entirely out of favor or may morph into something more relevant or "well-rounded" and therefore useful in more contexts.
Gloria K. Lefkowitz
Department of Dermatology, University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, La Jolla, CA 92093-0869, USA.
E-mail: lorikuo{at}

Scientific results appear at an accelerating rate. In addition to the growth of science proper, scientist are no longer the only individuals generating valuable knowledge. Powerful personal computers allow hobbyists to produce scientific results: a bright high-school student armed with open-source tools can answer questions that were out of reach to the statistician, sociologist, anthropologist, and philosopher of 15 years ago. The central problem is that even with narrowing specialties, no individual can absorb everything relevant from the fire hose of new results—and once we relinquish the ability to form a "big picture," we are at risk of losing the ability to see the patterns that could lead us towards future scientific breakthroughs. To continue to build on the rapidly accelerating cache of knowledge, we will need to organize and process this enormous network of individual results. I foresee a solution arising from humans and computers working together to capture patterns in collections of information far larger than what can be contained in a single human mind. This "meta-science" will rely on two central elements: A constantly updated collection of current knowledge with the ability to distinguish between the valuable, the redundant, and the plainly incorrect—i.e., the next iteration of Wikipedia—and computer algorithms that can recognize patterns in such collections, work closely with scientists (whose role will be to critically evaluate the value of the suggested patterns), and use suggestions to form new (testable) hypotheses.
Sune Lehmann
DTU Informatics, Technical University of Denmark, DK-2800 Kgs Lyngby, Denmark.
E-mail: slj{at}

As a researcher within the field of Environmental Toxicology I clearly see the need for scientists to cooperate in interdisciplinary projects. The vast improvement is that a more holistic approach to finding broad solutions covering many issues and perspectives will result. The new emerging challenges are many, for instance finding suitable partners to cooperate with. Also, not all constellations necessary will be easy to determine in the beginning of projects but will emerge as needs during a project. And in such a situation one needs a "soft approach" to the project composition to allow for new participants and perhaps reduce the part for others, a very tricky challenge. Another challenge will be to seek funding as interdisciplinary projects might cover several different disciplines with completely different "traditional sources" of research funds. Yet another challenge is that the projects might be huge and expensive without immediate results and gain. So, it takes visionaries to create the projects, but also visionaries to give funding, and to keep on giving funding. The researchers of today, who are working on very short projectsand accustomed to receiving 1 to 4 years of project funding (and at the absolute minimum project cost) with the need to produce several papers during this time, will also have to be visionaries and work toward creating interdisciplinary longer projects. This change of perspective clearly is a challenge.
Katrin Lundstedt-Enkel
Department sof Organismal Biology and Environmental Toxicology, Uppsala University, SE-752 36 Uppsala, Sweden.
E-mail: katrin.lundstedt-enkel{at}

"Science in service to society" will be the hallmark of change as we realize that our research cannot be conducted in isolation from problems facing the planet. Funding agencies will continue to shift more resources toward supporting applied science, as already seen within some private foundation funding and several new NSF granting programs for sustainability. Our challenges, however, will be at least threefold. First, applied science needs to be widely valued and rewarded; it is currently accepted as a worthy pursuit in only some disciplines. The recent congressional hearings questioning the role of social, behavioral, and economic science research at NSF highlights that attitudes need to change. We suggest that scientists engage in the government budgeting process, communicating to officials the value of applied science. Second, we need closer working relationships across disciplines and sectors to contextualize and calibrate applied research with society's needs. Many institutions are creating institutional structures to support applied research and degree programs or opportunities for embedded cross-disciplinary experiences, but this approach is still the exception, not the norm. Grassroots efforts to support fellow scientists such as publicly applauding the applied work of others can result in large-scale shifts. Third, we will need to strike the balance between applied and basic science. While applied science provides the paths for a more sustainable future, this research is often built on the scaffolding of basic research that informs our core understanding of the world. Dialogue within our respective fields that continually questions this balance is necessary to provide the scientific foundation for change.
Sara M. Maxwell1* and Lekelia D. Jenkins2
1Marine Conservation Institute, University of California, Santa Cruz Long Marine Laboratory, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, USA.
2University of Washington School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, College of the Environment, Seattle, WA 98105-6715, USA.
*To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: smaxwell{at}

I would summarize the upcoming trend as this: From Hypothesis to Data-Driven Research, or the End of the Age of Science, and the Dawn of the Age of Systemics. We can observe a paradigm change in science, and two computer developments are responsible. The first is the enormous storage capacity in the cloud. The second is that a huge number of computers have been connected and organized in social networks. These changes have resulted in huge quantities of data and complex systems, a problem normal science cannot solve. The traditional hypothesis method can deal with simple correlations between A and B. But the method fails if the problem becomes more complex. Science has been synonymous with a separating, reductionistic approach. Contemporary science has come to a point where we will change the perspective from reductionism to holism. We now move to a position that sees things together: short systemics. The data-driven science approach changes the scientific method and results in a practice called "science 2.0" (named after web 2.0). "Science" will happen in the cloud, with new publishing formats such as direct publishing on blogs, new and fast ways of collaboration in social networks, and systems theory as the new "science" paradigm. Systems theory is already important in fields such as systems biology and its practical application synthetic biology.
Gerd Moe-Behrens
Leukippos Institute for Synthetic Biology, 10777, Berlin, Germany.
E-mail: leukipposinstitute{at}

The practice of science will be more quantitative and integrative with the support of computers and mathematical models. Improved software and databases will enable complex simulations, which will shift more experiments from laboratories to computers. This will especially affect drug design and trials and will reduce costs of drug development. Science feeds technology and technology feeds science. This mutuality has helped research intensively so far and will serve scientists in the future. For example, novel equipment will help molecular biologists track molecular events simultaneously in vivo or astronomers discover deep space in a more detailed way. In the future, the need for cooperation will ever increase to get over deeper scientific problems which require both comprehensiveness and specialization concurrently. Therefore, interdisciplinary and international interaction between scientists will be common. Rapid exchange of ideas and sharing of experience will accelerate research and will improve position of science as a common value of humanity. Despite all of these improvements, scientists will have to face some challenges. It is not easy to predict economic trends in the future, but funding of research and development may decrease. Or distribution of funding to scientific research areas may be more unbalanced, which would probably distress especially research areas that do not promise practical outcomes. Another challenge may be controversial patent issues such as patented genes that make some important research interests exclusive and restrict or delay potential public benefits.
Gürkan Mollaoğlu
Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Koc University, 34450 Sariyer, Istanbul, Turkey.
E-mail: gmollaoglu{at}

I can only speak for the field I am working in, which is Molecular Biology. There, I think, we will see a transition from the classic Molecular Biologist mostly dealing with wetlab science to a more information driven Systems Biologist. High volume data sets are generated more and more by technologies like sequencing and proteomics. Other -omics are slowly becoming more popular (such as Metabolomics). I suppose there will always be a need for somebody doing "follow-up" type of experiments, but ever so slowly a lot of the data will be out there and just need to be uncovered following the lead of a previous discovery. Therefore, I would predict our future job as Molecular Biologist will involve large amounts of data-mining of already existing large-scale data sets and our toolkit will have to expand beyond wetlab work into programming and proficiency with various data-handling and extraction tools.
Markus K. Muellner
Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, A-1090 Vienna, Austria.
E-mail: mmuellner{at}

Societal, economical, geo-political, cultural, and technological transformations are going to have significant influence on the practice of science in the coming decades, affecting who is practicing science, how they do so, and where. Technological advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and computing in general already enable collection and processing of information scents from "big data" and will keep driving computational methods into social science. AI will also automate parts of the research in life and natural sciences. Progress in our understanding of large-scale distributed collaboration, coupled with trends of specialization will foster larger collaborations and crowdsourced science. Continuous instability in global economic and geo-political environments herald financial challenges for universities, posing threats to science as a vocation. Norms, social structures and institutions such as peer-review and tenure may drastically change, as would the scientific publishing industry. Increasing stratification will cause many talented people to give up academic careers for work in rising multinational corporations, who will fund applicative research. As larger data sets become owned by companies, free dissemination and open scrutiny of findings will be challenged. That said, the trend of open science will continue to strengthen, and provide an opposite force. Our prosperity depends on open science.
Yiftach Nagar
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02142 USA.
E-mail: ynagar{at}

Rapidly accelerating technologies, increased access to information and the growing multi-sector involvement of government and private sector is forcing multidisciplinary dialogues. Science has long held the last say in many areas of life, but with growing ethical issues related to advances in for example genomics and synthetic biology, inclusion of more stakeholders in science, including lawmakers, policymakers, and ethical committees has become relevant. Interdisciplinary approaches enable critical engagement, introduce opportunities to make new interpretations, as well as find new connections that allow the consideration of new perspectives in ways that traditional disciplines would not normally address. There is also greater room for innovation. For example, nanotechnology is expected to provide incredible opportunities for future medicine, and we are witnessing engineers involved in the creation of new biological matter. Indeed, the opportunities are limitless. However, as we look into a future of promise, a range of ethical and regulatory issues arise as disciplinary boundaries blur. And not only that, we see a move toward a science that is focused issues related to human enhancement. The doing of science for commercial and aesthetic purposes introduces new potential to nuance social prejudices. Additionally, science is expensive and requires a specific set of expertise. This is likely to widen the class divide.
Emily Ngubia Kuria
Institute for Medical History, Charitè University School of Medicine, 10117 Berlin, Germany.
E-mail: Emily-benice-ngubia.kuria{at}

Do we really need science to change? Shouldn't we keep its essence? Probably the most overwhelming and increasing trend in science is that of globalization. We are going toward the collective creation of knowledge, as has never been seen before, by means of the every-day-faster developing technological resources, providing tons of data. At the same time science is involving more and more people day by day, is spreading to multiple micro-topics, focusing on smaller and smaller knowledge niches. It seems that in the realm of super-specialization, in the era of the 'omics' papers signed by hundreds of people or mega-laboratories such as CERN concerning many countries, there is no place for fundamental individual contributions, for discoveries with a broader scope such as gravity, relativity, evolution, or genes. One reason is probably that no human mind can embrace the expanding universe of science, even in one single discipline. Will we miss something if we are not able to connect everything? Is this going to be the end of classical science as we know it? In my opinion, the great challenge will be to make sense of the increasing amount of data. Will we be capable of extracting new general laws able to explain all that we can measure? Can computers really help us to extract valuable information, general relations? If we manage, one way or another, to accomplish it, a greater and unimagined order behind nature will be revealed, without doubt....I hope so.
Laura Orellana
Molecular Modelling and Bioinformatics Group, Joint Research Unit, Institute for Research for Biomedicine and Barcelona Supercomputing Center, 08028 Barcelona, Spain.
E-mail: Emily-benice-ngubia.kuria{at}

In fact the practice of science is the reproducible research methodology applied by scientists to address systematically the natural phenomena. In future, it will not necessarily follow a linear path, proceeding from a question through observation, hypothesis formation, experimentation, result and conclusion. The practice of science will entirely be focused on the collection and interpretation of data rather than reasoning based philosophical explanations of natural events. The present trend of bibliometrix has immense potential to jeopardize future scientific research in which the publishers and editors of JCR indexed journals will continue to play a pivotal role in determining the direction and type of research rather than the need of the research. The acceptance and publication of research or review articles with a view to improve the journal's impact factor irrespective of the innovation and utility of the research will lead to lopsided development of science and creation of an incomplete science literature. This practice will keep on ignoring a vast amount of scientific knowledge published in low impact journals. To get the benefit of high impact factor in faculty selection, academic promotions and project funding, the tendency of citing articles published only within two years will forcefully cause many important previous and early investigations to become obsolete. The practice of science has to face certain challenges including the measures to overcome environmental deterioration as well as adverse effects of genetic manipulations. If no effective practice is developed and brought into effect, our lovely planet will witness a massive catastrophe.
Bam Deo Pandey
Department of Fisheries, Margdarshan Sansthan Agriculture College, Ambikapur, Sarguja- 497 001 (Chhattisgarh), India.
E-mail: bamdeo_pandey{at}

Science will change in a number of ways. However, the most predominant way would be replacement of human labor with automation. Many of the bench research techniques that are currently being done by humans will be done by robotic devices instead. This change will be gradual and not all at once, and probably will not fully occur in my lifetime. This change will help science in the long run because there will be less room for error and the success rate of the experiments should rise phenomenally. However, failures in this system will surface if the robotic device malfunctions or is programmed wrongly. The biggest caveat with this system of labor transition, however specious it may be, is that there will be a loss of jobs (human labor being replaced by automation). This assessment is specious because jobs will be created in other venues of science, such as duties involving analysis of data gathered by the robotic devices as, well proper programming, manufacturing and maintenance of the robotic devices. The pitfalls with this system will be eclipsed by the advantages—namely, a rapid accumulation of strong, less nebulous data leading to a faster rate of procurement of scientific findings, and ultimately breakthroughs. In retrospect, science will benefit greatly by automation as more and higher quality experimental data will be obtained in a shorter span of time as compared with that done by a human workforce.
Trivikram Rajkhowa
Baltimore, MD 21211, USA.
E-mail: trajkhowa1{at}

Within my lifetime, I believe that science will most fundamentally change in terms of access and involvement, and that these changes will be driven both by improved capability and increased responsibility. The phenomenon of crowdsourcing has emerged rapidly due to improved connectivity and access to education, and has recently led to major breakthroughs in the scientific realm. The solution of HIV's retroviral protease structure by Foldit gamers garnered enormous publicity, but scientific crowdsourcing has also been proven successful by portals such as Innocentive where many individuals have solved technical problems for cash rewards in their free time. Crowdsourcing is here to stay and I believe we will see a rapid expansion of the technical subfields in which its power is harnessed. On the responsibility side, automation technology is rapidly improving to the extent that even high-tech suppliers such as Foxconn are replacing thousands of factory workers with robots. As robotic labor overtakes humans in efficiency across many industries and at many points along the value chain, new types of jobs must be created to ensure stable employment for the working-age population. I believe that going forward, scientific enterprise will absorb some excess labor supply both through remote work such as crowdsourcing, and through the establishment of training programs that allow skilled laborers to work in science performing tasks that don't require a PhD but are currently performed by trained scientists. This will increase the job pool while allowing scientists to concentrate on their roles as knowledge workers.
Vyas Ramanan
Department of Medical Engineering and Medical Physics, Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.

We are training more and more scientists, yet NIH funding (and therefore job opportunities) is limited. I keep hearing tell of budgets being cyclical by more senior scientists, but I have to question whether or not this is really true or just the perception of those who were fortunate enough to be employed during the budget doubling period. Even if times improve, and I believe they will, I can't imagine the expansion of the job pool will keep up with the ever-expanding job demand. And with industry lay-offs being what they are, the private sector doesn't look any more promising. It is unfair to continue to train more scientists at the current rate. When we encourage people to become scientists, we are making empty promises. As a society, we need to think about what the optimal number of scientists is, and work toward that instead of training as many as we can convince to sign up. So what does this mean for the practice of science in my lifetime? Hopefully there will be a shift in who's doing the science away from scores of graduate students. This will require a change in NIH program funding: Money should be moved away from training programs and instead spent on salaries of those already trained. I just hope the scientific community can learn to adapt to the ever-changing economic landscape. I worry that we will instead continue with the status quo, our fingers crossed that politicians will decide to expand science spending infinitely.
Rebecca Roof
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, MD 20852, USA.
E-mail: roofra{at}

In my lifetime, science will see new advances and new challenges, primarily driven by new technology. One major improvement will be a continued increase in data. New technology will continue to increase data availability, and such data will challenge our analysis ability. Fortunately, the tools to turn data into information will exist, but it will take effort to put them to work and answer questions. We will therefore see an increased focus on computer skills. A more subtle change in science will happen in the way we communicate results. Communicating results is a large part of science, and the way we communicate affects the way we do research. The internet has already challenged the traditional publishing model, and it will continue to do so. As our attention span decreases, people rely more on short, effective communication, so the scientific publishing industry will adapt. Publications will decrease in length and increase in frequency, improving rapidity of research. However, this will cause at least two major challenges: First, as publication becomes more frequent, the literature will become more saturated with noise. We will more commonly evaluate research post-publication. Second, we will have to rethink the way we distribute credit. It will not be enough to count publications, but impact will be measured in different ways, mostly online. Overall, these changes will lead to improved research efficiency; however, scientists may have to learn new skills and challenge old habits in order to take full advantage of the improvement.
Nathan C. Sheffield
Program in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy, Duke University, NC 27708, USA.
E-mail: sheffien{at}

Next Generation Science. A senior researcher who was about to retire recently told me of a colleague who, in the 1970s, spent 3 years trying to find a six-base-pair gene sequence recognized by a restriction enzyme. Today we routinely generate thousands of genome sequences in a matter of days. In like manner, an accelerated advance in scientific research is anticipated in the next generation. Advances in robotics, software engineering and electronics will enable us to develop high-throughput techniques for most scientific procedures so that multiple analyses can be done on an unprecedented scale. Furthermore, current studies have revealed that many physical and biological systems, though complex, are controlled by variables within their environment, making them predictable by computational modeling approaches. We can therefore anticipate that researches in the future will not rely solely on laboratory and field experimentation, but also on computational modeling. These advances will usher in a new multidisciplinary approach in scientific research. These anticipated improvement in scientific research will enable us understand our world better and will also help in developing generic and targeted innovations that will not only be useful for industries but more importantly, will improve the livelihood of the everyday person. But these changes bring their challenges. Besides the problem of managing the huge volume of data that will be generated, one main challenge will be the regulation of scientific researches such that ethically acceptable techniques will be used and that new discoveries are not exploited for inhumane purposes.
Oluwaseyi Shorinola
Department of Molecular Microbiology, John Innes Centre, Norwich, NR4 7UH, UK.
E-mail: oluwaseyi.shorinola{at}

One of the great changes that is likely to take place in the practice of science in the coming years and decades is a great increase in public involvement in science. Much science is paid for by the public, and people are beginning to demand more say in how their money is spent. I believe we need not cow from this involvement and that there are two paths open to us as scientists to deal with this situation: (i) Increase the distance between the public and scientific research, including the funding thereof. In this way, governments can give money to scientific experts who can allocate funding with relatively little public interference. (ii) Increase communication with and education of the public by scientists so that they are better able to see the potential benefits of scientific research. This would allow the public to engage in informed criticism and support of scientific programs. Neither of these strategies would be easy, but I think it's clear that the second is greatly preferable. The scientific community cannot consider itself separate from society as a whole. Indeed we should be seeking to make science as central to our culture as literature or music. Why shouldn't people demand accountability from scientists? This is not something we can do alone—we must work together with the media, governments, educators and communities. It will be difficult, but the benefits of a scientifically informed public could be enormous—to both scientists and to society as a whole.
Paul Southworth
Laboratory of Malaria, Immunology, and Vaccinology, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, MD 20852, USA.
E-mail: paul.southworth{at}

For science to advance, researchers must follow the discoveries of their peers and keep abreast of new knowledge and ideas. Over my lifetime, the number of practicing scientists in the world will continue to rise as new global powers such as China expand their research output. This will mean that the number of papers each researcher needs to read to keep up with developments in their field will increase significantly. Many scientists currently read papers online, and that trend will continue as the number of journals in print declines. The switch to online consumption affects the total length of research articles, which can expand infinitely without page restrictions. Even in journals with strict space allowances, the provision of extensive supplementary material means that we face an ever-increasing mountain of knowledge to climb. In the face of this information-overload, the scientific community and journals need to work together to ensure that they provide a rigorous, but fair review process; an increase in the quantity of research must not lead to a loss in quality. But most importantly, journals and academics must ensure that new discoveries and significant advances are disseminated to a wide audience. We can improve our ability to identify the best research by using the amazing power of the internet to evaluate and discuss new developments in online forums. Good scientists try to assimilate all knowledge relevant to their area; as the amount of research increases this will continue to present new challenges.
Mair Thomas
Department of Microbiology, Centre for Molecular Microbiology and Infection, Imperial College, London, SW7 2AZ, UK.
E-mail: mair.thomas{at}

We are living in a very interesting time of our history. Look around, our world and our technology are changing before our eyes. Could people even imagine 50 years ago what science and technology would be able to explain? It seems we are facing the biggest and most important changes in the human history. How will the practice of science change in my lifetime? One can expect that as in the 20th century, mathematics will play a bigger and bigger part in all fields of science. This is the so-called process of mathematization. Even now we can observe the increased role of mathematics and its penetration into all spheres of human activity. There is no doubt that the role of information technologies will also increase in the future. More and more research will require serious computing power and hence the development of computing facilities. The branches of science will change in the sense that the most of scientists will be working on the intersection of extremely different scientific fields. What new challenges will emerge? One of the main issues of the future science will be the problem of ethics. The advancement in genetic engineering, microbiology, the creation of nanomachines, and medicine will bring up a lot of philosophical questions about the human nature and the line of development of our society. I am also sure that it is our generation who will have to solve the problem of climate fluctuation and finding new renewable energy sources, given the latest events that have shown how important it is.
Anton Ushakov
Institute for System Dynamics and Control Theory of Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, 664033, Irkutsk, Russia.
E-mail: anton.v.ushakov{at}

The advancement of the internet, computing power, and the interfacing of hardware apparatus has already and will continue to drastically change the way science is conducted. In my lifetime I expect that people will not be required to be physically present to operate sophisticated apparatus and that remote and robotic operation will become more normal. This will enable access to the state-of-the-art facilities to researchers from around the world and in particular open doors for people from developing nations. We will see more international collaboration in science and the ability to access publications easier. We will face the challenge of how to move vast amounts of data between regions and countries, with experiments now producing quantities of results that our current infrastructure struggles with. The way we publish our results will change. We have been using the book two-dimensional print approach for hundreds of years. We have not yet fully embraced video, audio, and digital media for contents in journals. Print just cannot capture all of the information we can generate and this limits our current wide-spread dissemination of knowledge. Online open-access journals will emerge. The major challenge facing science is not to stifle creative basic science in the aim of forcing application driven research that is geared primarily for boosting the nation's economy. A balance of both applied and fundamental research is key for science to continue to be a fun, interesting and attractive option for students of the future.
Jamie H. Warner
Department of Materials, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX1 3PH, UK.
E-mail: jamie.warner{at}

The Internet has long been heralded as this era's printing press, allowing for an unprecedented explosion in scientific progress. Web sites like Wikipedia and initiatives like the NIH's Public Access Policy have been integral in making information more accessible. We are also beginning to see the creation of systems to aggregate, standardize, and open knowledge to analysis; computable knowledge platforms such as Wolfram Alpha and IBM's Watson have proven the value of this nascent technology. In the past, the most groundbreaking discoveries were made by polymaths—individuals who knew a bit about everything. The development of large, standardized databases of scientific knowledge will allow us to bypass the Renaissance man and use computational analysis to help uncover valuable links between seemingly disparate fields. As we move into the era of full-genome sequencing, genetics has been one of the first fields to realize the power (and necessity) of leveraging automated analysis. The movement of our knowledge into standardized databases will allow us to leverage these analytical systems to spot gaps in our learning that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. One can imagine a future where scientific results, even those that aren't publishable, can contribute to standardized databases and act as data points that may be correlated with previous results or analyzed to help provide more intelligent hypotheses and insights. Should researchers be afraid of being replaced? Not for a long time—scientists will continue to provide the creativity. Computers will simply help us identify what we do (and don't) know.
Andrew Warren
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.
E-mail: adwarren{at}

In my view, there are two incipient trends that could have a great impact on how science is practiced during my lifetime: open access and larger datasets. Each brings its own set of potential improvements and challenges. The growing open-science movement has inspired the foundation of several open access scientific journals, as well as open access efforts by well-established and highly reputable journals. A great benefit of this is that the general public can have a look at real science, rather than just at its representation in popular press, which sometimes sacrifices accuracy for a more sensational depiction. Nevertheless, care needs to be taken to continue ensuring a rigorous peer-review process, as well as proper funding of the journals. Advances in (online) technology, such as crowdsourcing, have made ever greater data sets possible. The benefits in terms of greater accuracy and potential knowledge are obvious. However, challenges arise as well. The larger the data set, the more difficult to handle it adequately. To deal with this, new methods of storing (and sharing) data, as well as ways of selecting the relevant information to address a specific research question, should continue to be pursued. In conclusion, more open access and bigger datasets are trends that can, and are likely to, affect the way science is practiced in the (very) near future. Both ways, of course, interact with each other, and, if we are willing to face the challenges they bring, are likely to contribute to great new discoveries.
Gunnar De Winter
Bristol, BS1 3NW, UK.
E-mail: gunnardewinter.2011{at}

The practice of science will not change much in my lifetime (within 50 years). Tools or techniques used in science practice will improve. New challenges will emerge: Real scientists are losing their freedom to think and to work. Scientists will be more influenced by human societies. Scientists' thinking power will be "caged" in a specific society, and their power of creation and innovation will be declined. Some scientists with "successful social status" will increasingly put negative power on new creative brains to come out. It will get more difficult and more deviated for scientists to think and do science freely. Solutions for improving the practice of science are education. Education should be available for everybody anytime and anywhere. The practice of science should be accessible to everybody.
Jingying Yang
Fayetteville, AR 72704, USA.
E-mail: jy2278{at}