Using the Rules of Life to Address Societal Challenges

On March 15, 2022, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) held a Town Hall bringing together a multidisciplinary group of researchers to discuss using the ‘rules of life’ to address societal challenges and to identify challenges ripe for this approach. Further background on the event and how it fits with NSF’s Understanding the Rules of Life Big Idea can be found on nsf.gov.

The ideas from that Town Hall have been distilled into four topics that will serve as focal points for four workshops, as noted below. Each workshop will consider how all the STEM disciplines (including biology, chemistry, computer sciences, engineering, geosciences, mathematics, physics, social, behavioral, and economic sciences) could be used to tackle a specific problem. All workshops will incorporate cross-cutting themes of diversity, equity, and inclusion and STEM education, training, and workforce development. 

Applications opened on March 21, 2022 and close on March 29, 2022.

Participation in the workshop is by application only.

Additional ‘Incubator’ events will provide further engagement for postdoctoral scholars attending the workshops (scroll down for more information). Whether or not you are able to participate, we strongly encourage and request you share this information with postdocs in your networks.

Workshop 1: Stewarding an Integrated Biodiversity-Climate System (April 14, 2022, 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM EDT)
We are learning the Rules of Life that govern the essential role of biodiversity in controlling function, maintenance, and adaptation of every ecosystem on Earth. We are also learning that biodiversity and climate are inextricably linked and that everything affecting one affects the other. How might these lessons help us to predict, preserve, and harness the benefits of biodiversity for human society and the natural world?

Workshop 2: Achieving a Sustainable Future (April 19, 2022, 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM EDT)
We are learning the Rules of Life that govern the complexity of interconnected living systems at multiple scales, e.g., from natural and synthetic cells to organisms, populations, communities, ecosystems, and the biosphere. As we learn more about the ways that living systems use and re-use natural resources, how might these lessons help us devise strategies to improve sustainability?

Workshop 3: Harnessing Microbiomes for Societal Benefit (April 21, 2022, 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM EDT)
We are learning the Rules of Life that govern the individual and collective metabolism, physiology, signaling, and interaction of different microbiomes, as well as their composition and responses to evolving environments. As we learn more about the roles of microbiomes in all living systems, how might these lessons help us to improve human society and the biosphere?

Workshop 4: Leveraging AI and Data for Predicting Mechanisms (April 26, 2022, 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM EDT)
We are learning the Rules of Life that govern the prediction of an organism’s observable characteristics from interactions of its genome with the environment.  At the same time, novel research on artificial intelligence and data analytics is providing essential tools for integrating Rules of Life data.  How might these lessons help us to improve our ability to use AI and Data Science?

A Special Call to Postdoctoral Scholars

As the next generation of STEM leaders, you are invited to participate in the NSF-sponsored workshops listed above, and the accompanying postdoc-only “Incubators” on Using the Rules of Life to Address Societal Challenges. 

The postdoc-only Incubators are designed to aid your career development by providing an opportunity to brainstorm research directions for your future and a platform to meet other postdocs from different scientific backgrounds. You are welcome to share this announcement with colleagues who might be interested in attending.

Applications opened March 21, 2022, and close on March 29, 2022.

Workshop topics and dates are listed above.

Postdoc ‘Incubators’

  • Kick-off Incubator (all selected postdocs): April 12, 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM EDT
  • Writing Incubator A (for Workshops 1 & 2): April 22, 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM EDT *
  • Writing Incubator B (for Workshops 3 & 4): May 2, 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM EDT **
  • Wrap-up Incubator (all selected postdocs): May 17, 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM EDT

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