Systems biology is certainly fashionable. In the UK, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council has put forward the majority of an investment of well over £70 million to set up six university-based ‘centres of integrative systems biology’. Other countries are making similar investments. A few years ago, however, as with ‘bioinformatics’ a decade or so earlier, it seemed that there were almost as many definitions of systems biology as there were practitioners. It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that almost any computer analysis of a biological problem might have been badged in that way.

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