Research in the life and environmental sciences has recently given rise to a number of significant advances and discoveries, ranging from methods to systematically map out the basic building blocks of complex life forms, through new techniques designed to treat a variety of diseases, to novel environments and mechanisms to aid those with disabilities. These important discoveries profoundly affect both the way in which research is conducted in the biosciences as well as our everyday lives, since the delivery of health care itself, and the relationship with our environment, are being continuously redefined. Importantly, these advances and innovations are generally viewed as only the beginning of a trend that promises to lead to a period of even greater growth and more startling discoveries: the Age of Biology.
Clearly, as research in the biomedical and environmental sciences evolves and expands, there is a concomitant growth in the volume and types of information that emerge from this research. It thus becomes increasingly important to properly acquire, process, store, retrieve, transmit, understand, and communicate about this ever-expanding information. Furthermore, these information-intensive tasks ideally need to be performed in a timely, reliable, and efficient manner, allowing easy and intuitive communication between investigators who may be located throughout the globe, or between users, including physicians and patients who are the eventual beneficiaries of the work and who may be geographically separated. Therein lies the importance of computer science and, more generally, computing: a field that also promises explosive growth and is likely to bring about profound changes in our lives - and which, to some extent, has already experienced both. It may perhaps be said that we are poised to see the Age of Biology meet the Information Revolution. Indeed, evidence of such an interdisciplinary fusion has already appeared in numerous multiagency programs, including the Human Genome Project, the High Performance Computing & Communications (HPCC) initiative, the Human Brain Project, and other related programs such as the National Information Infrastructure and Digital Libraries initiatives, which have strong bio-related components.