Original Paper

Theory in Biosciences

, Volume 131, Issue 2, pp 117-123

First online:

Transformative research: definitions, approaches and consequences

  • J. T. TrevorsAffiliated withSchool of Environmental Sciences, University of Guelph Email author 
  • , Gerald H. PollackAffiliated withUniversity of Washington Email author 
  • , Milton H. SaierJr.Affiliated withDivision of Biological Sciences, University of California at San Diego Email author 
  • , Luke MassonAffiliated withBiotechnology Research Institute, National Research Council of Canada Email author 

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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.


Biosciences Transformative research Future science Humanistic knowledge Intuitive thought Implementation Scholarship Scientifc method Profound discoveries