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President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology

For Immediate Release February 13, 1998
             Scientists call for Next Generation Computing 
                    to Better Manage Biodiversity

An expert panel of scientists and information specialists, chaired by Dr. Peter Raven, has responded to President Clinton's request for recommendations to strengthen our understanding and management of the Nation's biological resources. The panel, under the auspices of the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), is releasing today the Executive Summary of its report, "Teaming with Life: Investing in Science to Understand and Use America's Living Capital".

The panel found that, "new technology can provide us with the tools of discovery and techniques of analysis that will catapult us into position to meet the challenges of 21st century environmental and economic planning. In the age of biology, policies that enhance human health and wealth will be the same policies that protect the biological resources of our Nation and the world. At this moment, our society is blessed with a dazzling array of new tools, from gene sequencers to global satellites. These tools can enable us to explore environmental questions at several different scales simultaneously, from sub-cellular to global."

The panel's report provides a road map for research on management of natural capital to ensure a sustainable future for our Nation. Its focus ranges from exploration of fundamental ecological principles, through application of leading-edge technologies for monitoring and information management, to integration of up-to-date knowledge into education and management of biodiversity and ecosystems. The research recommended is not restricted to ecology, but rather, it incorporates economics and social science into a research program that will serve both society and the environment. The report to follow later this month describes, in detail, the research needed to integrate ecology and economics, so that the true value of our natural resources can become an intrinsic part of our decision-making.

The panel recommends that the vast advances in information technology and communication be harnessed to develop a "next generation" National Biological Information Infrastructure. Such capabilities will allow researchers and resource managers worldwide to organize, interlink, and make full use of information generated on ecosystems and biodiversity. Through agriculture, forestry, fisheries, pharmaceuticals, eco-tourism, clean air and water, and many other activities, our use of biodiversity and living capital contributes hundreds of billions of dollars to the U.S. economy. The Nation can reap substantial benefits from development of the techniques and strategies outlined in the panel's report.

The panel membership includes nineteen eminent leaders in academia and industry. The work of the panel will be presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Philadelphia, PA (February 12-17th) by two panel members, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, retiring president and chair of the board of directors of AAAS, and Nobel-laureate Dr. Murray Gell-Mann.