One Lumper or Two

Those who make many species are the 'splitters,' and those who make few are the 'lumpers.' --The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, vol. II. Extending the above analogy from taxonomy to biology, "splitters" have had the best of things recently, generating massive amounts of data on genes and their networks, proteins and their pathways, cascades and cassettes. But unifying this torrent of information into a seamless whole now requires "lumpers," integrative scientists. Two types of lumpers

Richard Gallagher
Nov 10, 2002

Those who make many species are the 'splitters,' and those who make few are the 'lumpers.'

--The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, vol. II.

Extending the above analogy from taxonomy to biology, "splitters" have had the best of things recently, generating massive amounts of data on genes and their networks, proteins and their pathways, cascades and cassettes. But unifying this torrent of information into a seamless whole now requires "lumpers," integrative scientists.

Two types of lumpers exist. One is the tech whiz, applying engineering sensibilities and computational methods, sans "wet-lab" research. This "human as machine" approach is capturing the imagination of everyone from grad students to the directors of funding agencies.

For the other lumper, the experimental system transcends wet-lab biology: It is hot, twitching, furry, and wet biology; in other words--real animals. This type of integrative science is not faring well. In fact, the dearth of trained, talented...