Science & Technology

Planting the Seeds of Discovery: Scientists Identify 100 Important Questions Facing Plant Science

An international panel of scientists has identified 100 important questions facing plant science in order to tackle global challenges such as climate change, biodiversity crises, and feeding a growing population sustainably. A new panel was formed in 2022 to re-evaluate research priorities and gathered over 600 questions about plant science from various sources. A team of 20 plant scientists from 15 nations was then assembled to identify the 100 most important questions. The findings are published in a letter in the journal New Phytologist.

An international panel of scientists has identified 100 of the most important questions facing plant science.

What are the key research priorities that will help tackle the global challenges of climate change, the biodiversity crises and feed a growing population in a sustainable way? Ten years after these priorities were first debated and summarised by a panel of scientists and published in New Phytologist, the panel reflects on the changes to plant science and the progress made to address these research areas, published today (March 16) in a Letter in the journal New Phytologist.[1]

To re-evaluate research priorities, a new panel was formed in 2022 to provide an international perspective on the important areas for plant science research. This project, led by Prof. Claire Grierson (University of Bristol, UK), is a novel piece of research that gathered over 600 questions about plant science, from botanically curious members of the public to scientific and industrial leaders around the world. A team of 20 plant scientists from 15 nations was assembled to identify 100 of the most important questions facing plant science.

An international panel of scientists has identified 100 of the most important questions facing plant science. The international initiative has identified key research priorities and highlights the importance of diversity, collaboration, and funding for plant research to tackle climate change, the biodiversity crisis, and sustainable food production.

These 100 questions are published today in a Viewpoint in New Phytologist[1] and highlight how climate change, biodiversity loss, and interdisciplinary and international collaborations are critical global priorities across diverse plant science research fields. The study demonstrates how critically important plant scientists believe the fight against climate change is, highlights global disparities in science funding, and showcases a diverse range of important future research topics.

This inclusive study demonstrates how a global community of plant scientists, with a wide range of expertise, view the strategic priorities for plant research and offers insight into how different areas of research are important to different global regions. The study emphasizes how an inclusive, international exercise can be used to identify diverse research questions. As panelist Dr. Shyam Phartyal (Nalanda University, India) said, “One of the most significant steps of this study is maintaining a high level of diversity – not only in question gathering but also in the selection of panelists from the Global South.”

Another panelist, Dr. Ida Wilson (Stellenbosch University, South Africa), said “My work is solution driven and needs to directly address the challenges that farmers in South Africa and Africa face. As part of the Africa panel, I am also very proud of the African inputs, and grateful for the opportunity to have our voices heard. I mentor young scientists too, and the excitement the publication has generated is tangible.”

Prof. Claire Grierson said, “These two papers form a unique and valuable resource for researchers and newcomers to plant science, including collaborators on interdisciplinary projects, students and early career researchers, and for policy development.”

Together, these two papers provide an excellent introduction to how plant science is developing and the significance, range, and depth of research that needs to be addressed.

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