The biological challenges facing humanity are complex, multi-factorial, and are intimately tied to the future of our health, welfare, and stewardship of the Earth. Tackling problems in diverse areas, such as agriculture, ecology, and health care require linking vast datasets that encompass numerous components and spatiooral scales. Here, we provide a new framework and a road map for using experiments and computation to understand dynamic biological systems that span multiple scales. We discuss theories that can help understand complex biological systems and highlight the limitations of existing methodologies and recommend data generation practices. The advent of new technologies such as big data analytics and artificial intelligence can help bridge different scales and data types. We recommend ways to make such models transparent, compatible with existing theories of biological function, and to make biological data sets readable by advanced machine learning algorithms. Overall, the barriers for tackling pressing biological challenges are not only technological, but also sociological. Hence, we also provide recommendations for promoting interdisciplinary interactions between scientists.
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