but also the utilization of knowledge. The next generation of scientists must be prepared to integrate the advances of rapidly progressing disciplines.
The history of science and technology demonstrates that many important advances have come from an interdisciplinary approach. For instance, laser surgery, which involved ophthalmologists, anatomists, and physicists, and has saved thousands of people from severe vision impairment or blindness; “designer” seeds, which were developed by geneticists, bioengineers, and botanists to create crops that resist damage from insects and herbicides. Examples in neuroscience and behavior include cloning the gene associated with Huntington's disease and understanding the contribution of stress to disease.
In recognition of the need to train scientists who can address the highly complex problems that challenge us today and fully use new knowledge and technology, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR), the National Institute on Nursing Research (NINR), and the National Institute on Aging (NIA) asked that an Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee:
Examine the needs and strategies for interdisciplinary training in the brain, behavioral, social, and clinical sciences to enhance the translation of brain/behavior to clinical settings and vice versa.
Define necessary components of true interdisciplinary training in these areas.
Examine the barriers and obstacles to interdisciplinary training and research.
Review current educational and training programs to identify elements of model programs that best facilitate interdisciplinary training.
The task of the committee is based on the premise that interdisciplinary research and training are important. Because input from nine NIH institute directors indicated full agreement with the premise, the committee focused on how, rather than if, interdisciplinary research and training should be pursued. The committee broadly interpreted its charge as a request to provide guidance on how to bring together scientists from different fields to explore new frontiers and to train new scientists so they would be prepared to interact with multiple disciplines.
Because evaluations of the success of interdisciplinary training programs are scarce, the committee could not specify the “necessary components” or identify the elements that “best facilitate” interdisciplinary training. Instead, after reviewing existing programs and consulting with experts, the committee identified approaches likely to be successful in providing direction for interdis-