Until six months ago or so, ecologist H. Ronald Pulliam never bothered with fax machines. Now his work depends on them. Every day he and 20 colleagues use the machines to iron out the details of a multimillion-dollar, multidisciplinary, multi-university proposal to study how plants interact with the atmosphere.

But fax machines aren't the only things that have changed the way Pulliam, director of the Institute on Ecology at the University of Georgia, carries out his work on global change. Indeed, his proposal this month to the National Science Foundation marks the emergence of global change as "big science." The equivalent of the human genome project for earth and environmental scientists, the proposal heralds a new era of collaboration, not only among scientists from many disciplines, but also among federal agencies and even among countries.

Worldwide, investigators and policymakers are gearing up to understand and deal with myriad factors that...

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