Scientists and engineers are teaming up to answer fundamental questions about the microbiome – the billions of microorganisms that live on and in us, our homes, our food, and our planet. Questions such as, “What is a healthy microbiome?” and “How can we manage microbiomes to keep them resilient?” are applicable to microbiomes in habitats as diverse as oceans, soil, and the human body. The basic principles common to all microbiomes are more likely to emerge from interdisciplinary teams that draw on a variety of expertise rather than a single scientist with knowledge of only one field. How microorganisms assemble to form a newborn baby’s microbiome may be fundamentally similar to how microorganisms assemble on a budding cherry blossom, for example, and how an ocean microbiome responds to a disturbance such as an oil spill may shed light on how the human gut microbiome responds to Thanksgiving dinner. Moreover, the same tools may help researchers understand processes in a wide variety of systems.
To make progress in understanding microbiomes, scientists need interdisciplinary research, new methods, technologies, and standards to foster groundbreaking discoveries about microbiomes. Meeting these needs will require funding for basic and applied research that spans diverse areas, as well as the implementation of systematic mechanisms to provide opportunities for cross-fertilization of ideas, and for collaborations for solving experimental challenges and answering complex questions.
To achieve a new degree of insight into microbiomes across the Earth’s habitats, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is seeking input from all who care about and work in this area of research. In particular, we are interested in any new or expanded work, in the public and private sectors, that you or your organization may be undertaking in the near to long-term.
Examples of relevant work in this area include:
If you or your organization would like to connect with us about future efforts that you are planning to further the field of microbiome research, please use this web form to tell us about your work by February 22, 2016.
Jo Handelsman is Associate Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Elizabeth R. Stulberg is Senior Policy Advisor for Food and Life Sciences at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.