Systems Biology is a big-picture approach to science. Traditionally, biologists have practiced what is known as "reductionist thinking", which means breaking things down into smaller pieces in order to understand them. However, in recent years it has become clear that living systems are too complicated to be understood in this way. All elements of a system, whether it be a gene-regulatory network or an ocean ecosystem, are constantly influencing one another. The relationships between these parts are dynamic and can only be accurately modeled by taking every input and output into account. This is why in 2000 the Institute for Systems Biology was founded by Leroy Hood, Alan Aderem and Ruedi Aebersold.
The goal of a systems approach is to be able to predict what will happen to a system if any part, or parts, are perturbed. This type of research enables the prevention of problems, in both human and environmental health, before they ever occur.