Harvard University
  Foundational Questions in Evolutionary Biology
FQEB Research Projects

Under the intellectual leadership of Martin Nowak, Professor of Biology and of Mathematics at Harvard University, the Foundational Questions in Evolutionary Biology [FQEB] initiative aims to fund at least ten research projects to study foundational questions in evolutionary biology. The purpose of the FQEB initiative is to generate new kinds of knowledge and understanding in core areas in biology where there have been serious "missing knowledge problems." There are two core themes of this initiative:

Theme 1: "Evolutionary Origins and Dynamics"

Research questions include:
  • What is the transition from chemical kinetics to evolutionary dynamics, and can the transition from non-evolving to evolving systems be defined precisely and formally?
  • Are there different kinds of evolution, and is there evolution in the context of evolution itself?
  • What are the natural laws of evolutionary change, and can we derive a complete mathematical theory of evolutionary laws?
  • How does population structure affect evolutionary dynamics, and what role might coordination/cooperation play?
  • What are the differences between genetic and cultural evolution, and how can these differences be formalized?
  • What is the role of chance (stochasticity) in evolutionary dynamics?
Theme 2: "Evolvability and the Evolution of Increasing Complexity"

Research questions include:
  • What are the typical limits of evolvability, and how are these transcended?
  • Why does evolution (sometimes) lead to increasing complexity?
  • What are the evolutionary origins of emergence?
  • How does cooperation affect construction?
  • Can we build precise models for the evolution of cells, multi-cellular organisms, animal societies and human language?
  • What is the role of multi-level selection in the larger evolutionary process?
Associated research projects will receive funding of up to $200,000 for 24 months. Work which has significant philosophical implications for evolutionary biology and science more broadly will receive priority. Applicants must have P.I. eligibility at their institution and an excellent track record of scientific productivity, as evidenced by publications.

Letters of interest should include an outline of proposed research projects related to any of the questions posed above (no more than 3 pages) and CVs of project leaders. They should be sent by e-mail to FQEB@NPTRUST.ORG, or by regular mail to: FQEB GRANTS c/o National Philanthropic Trust, 165 Township line Road, Suite 150, Jenkintown, PA 19046 by January 31, 2012.

The FQEB research projects are supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.
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