Developing a predictive science of the biosphere requires the integration of scientific cultures

Brian J. Enquist, Christopher P. Kempes, Geoffrey B. West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Increasing the speed of scientific progress is urgently needed to address the many challenges associated with the biosphere in the Anthropocene. Consequently, the critical question becomes: How can science most rapidly progress to address large, complex global problems? We suggest that the lag in the development of a more predictive science of the biosphere is not only because the biosphere is so much more complex, or because we do not have enough data, or are not doing enough experiments, but, in large part, because of unresolved tension between the three dominant scientific cultures that pervade the research community. We introduce and explain the concept of the three scientific cultures and present a novel analysis of their characteristics, supported by examples and a formal mathematical definition/representation of what this means and implies. The three cultures operate, to varying degrees, across all of science. However, within the biosciences, and in contrast to some of the other sciences, they remain relatively more separated, and their lack of integration has hindered their potential power and insight. Our solution to accelerating a broader, predictive science of the biosphere is to enhance integration of scientific cultures. The process of integration-Scientific Transculturalism-recognizes that the push for interdisciplinary research, in general, is just not enough. Unless these cultures of science are formally appreciated and their thinking iteratively integrated into scientific discovery and advancement, there will continue to be numerous significant challenges that will increasingly limit forecasting and prediction efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e2209196121
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number19
StatePublished - May 7 2024


  • Earth Sciences
  • Scientific Transculturalism
  • biosphere
  • science
  • three cultures of science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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