Oxford University Press
Integrative and Comparative Biology
Individual variation in morphology, physiology, and behavior has been a topic of great interest in the biological sciences. While scientists realize the importance of understanding diversity in individual phenotypes, historically the “minority” results (I.e., outlier observations or rare events) of any given experiment have been dismissed from further analysis. We need to reframe how we view “outliers” to improve our understanding of biology. These rare events are often treated as problematic or spurious, when they can be real rare events or individuals driving evolution in a population. It is our perspective that to understand what outliers can tell us in our data, we need to: (1) Change how we think about our data philosophically, (2) Fund novel collaborations using science “weavers” in our national funding agencies, and (3) Bridge long-term field and lab studies to reveal these outliers in action. By doing so, we will improve our understanding of variation and evolution. We propose that this shift in culture towards more integrative science will incorporate diverse teams, citizen scientists and local naturalists, and change how we teach future students.
Cook, Chelsea N.; Freeman, Angela R.; Liao, James C.; and Mangiamele, Lisa A., "The Philosophy of Outliers: Reintegrating Rare Events Into Biological Science" (2021). Biological Sciences Faculty Research and Publications. 880.
ADA Accessible Version