Theory in Biosciences

, Volume 131, Issue 2, pp 117–123

Transformative research: definitions, approaches and consequences

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s12064-012-0154-3

Cite this article as:
Trevors, J.T., Pollack, G.H., Saier, M.H. et al. Theory Biosci. (2012) 131: 117. doi:10.1007/s12064-012-0154-3


In this perspective a definition of transformative research (TR) is proposed and discussed. We define TR as that which “transforms” or causes a major change in thought patterns concerning an area of scientific endeavor. This type of research is often elusive, requires different approaches and sometimes depends on a bit of luck. TR concerns intangibles such as human intuition, serendipity, unpredictable events, implausible hypotheses, a well-prepared mind and often interpersonal communications. Examples are provided to illustrate how TR may unfold. Contributions it makes to basic and applied humanistic knowledge are highlighted.


BiosciencesTransformative researchFuture scienceHumanistic knowledgeIntuitive thoughtImplementationScholarshipScientifc methodProfound discoveries

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada
  2. 2.University of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  3. 3.Division of Biological SciencesUniversity of California at San DiegoLa JollaUSA
  4. 4.Biotechnology Research Institute, National Research Council of CanadaMontrealCanada