Description of the five NWO Research Communities (RC) for Life Sciences

RC1. Biology of Molecules, Cells and Tissues

Knowledge on the basic units of life is fundamental. Cells and viruses use RNA, proteins, metabolites and ions to exert their vital functions. These molecules provide structure, regulate storage and use of energy and information. Chemical and mechanical cues regulate these functions to control cell fate and behaviour. In multicellular organisms, cells differentiate into tissues that contain an extracellular matrix. Breakthroughs in technology (‐omics, gene editing, biophysics and [super‐resolution] imaging) and informatics are revolutionizing the field of the molecular life sciences. As the molecular biology is of increasing importance for a wide variety of (sub-)disciplines within the life sciences, this research community can provide an excellent platform for scientists from different backgrounds but sharing similar approaches and methodologies.

RC2. From Genes to Organisms

How does an organism’s genotype determine and affect its phenotype? Understanding the phenotypic variation and physiological/ecological functioning of organisms requires understanding of the interactions between genetic diversity and evolution. This theme addresses the mechanisms directing development and functioning of tissues, organs and organisms, through interaction of genetic and environmental factors in individuals and populations in single and multiple generations. This research community welcomes all scientists with genetic, physiological and ecological backgrounds that share the interest in the origin of life and aim to unravel the molecular and physiological mechanisms underlying the gene-environment interactions that shape the structure and functioning of biological organisms, including research on model organisms.

RC3. Organisms in their Environment

Life is dynamic: any organism continuously reacts to and interacts with the environment on a scale from seconds to seasons, and from early development to aging. Organisms are nodes in multi‐dimensional networks of conspecifics, predators and prey, microbes and hosts, males and females, parent and offspring. Organisms can therefore only be understood as a product of interactions with their environment. Studying the interplay between biological entities and environmental factors, from the physiological to the behavioural level with the aim to understand causes and consequences of individual differences forms the scientific core domain of this research community. In brief, this research community acts as an umbrella for the biological sub disciplines addressing all questions regarding whole organisms across their whole lifespan.

RC4. Life and Planet

Living systems play a key role in the sustainable use and management of natural resources and our planet. The theme “life and planet” aims to understand the performance, distribution and abundance of organisms and especially populations, species and ecosystems, as well as their interactions with their (a)biotic environment from a functional and evolutionary perspective. It also aims to apply this knowledge to unravel drivers of ecosystem/landscape functioning and services and explores the interface between biological systems and all aspects of environmental global change. This research community will bring together ecologists, conservation biologists, agronomists (food security) and environmentalists, who share interest in understanding in biodiversity and the role of life in the sustainable use and management of ecosystems.

RC5. Advanced Methods, Data and Analyses to understand Living systems.

The theme "Advanced Methods, Data and Analyses to understand Living systems" is an overarching theme that focuses on the tools and innovations for life sciences in the broadest sense. Modern life sciences needs to expand and innovate state‐of‐the‐art methods that allow researchers to investigate life at all of its different scales of temporal and spatial organization. This theme brings together scientists at the forefront of these technologies and methods that transform generated data into biological knowledge. Data reduction, artificial intelligence and data integration or key elements in understanding the complexity of life. With the interconnection of established methods and the new prospects, these techniques impact all levels of the life sciences. This research community represents instrumental and methodological research and education that drive the development of quantitative biology and life science analysis.