Cross Cutting Workshop: Reflections on NSF's Understanding the Rules of Life Program

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) have been requested by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to conduct a retrospective analysis of its Understanding the Rules of Life (URoL) program (NSF's 10 Big Ideas - Special Report | NSF - National Science Foundation), which was established in 2016 with the aim of identifying generalizable rules that govern biological systems at micro and macro levels. This retrospective analysis will be conducted through a series of virtual workshops in order to understand the program’s achievements; integration of multi-disciplinary, systems-level approaches; broader implications for studying highly-complex systems, future scientific questions, and future societal needs; and the production of generalizable rules that apply to different fields and scales (for more information about the workshop series and the planning committee, please visit


The workshop goals are as follows:


Discuss individual and collective scientific advancements toward understanding heuristics, predictable processes, and their exceptions for biological systems;

Understand the contributions of disciplinary convergence in enabling or driving the scientific advances;

Determine how research groups incorporated multi-disciplinary, systems-level approaches into their projects;

Identify the broader implications of the scientific advances and research ecosystem (e.g., multi-disciplinary research) from research funded by the URoL program to address highly complex, interconnecting systems (e.g., the biosphere) and discuss the future of life-science research and education;

Explore future societal needs and scientific questions that may be addressed by the achievements from the URoL (i.e., identify opportunities for exploration); and

Highlight rules of life that are generalizable across fields and scales.

Full event details


Tuesday, March 28, 2023, 12:00 PM - 3:00 PM ET


Location: Virtual