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What is the difference between bioscience, life science, and biotechnology?
March 12, 2009 8:05 AM   Subscribe

What is the difference between bioscience, life science, and biotechnology?

I'm writing a paper on the bioscience industry. My biggest problem so far has been defining the scope of my research. Specifically, biotechnology seems to have a much narrower scope than bioscience but I'm not sure how to precisely define either of those terms.

For example, BIO states that there are 1.2 million direct jobs in bioscience in the U.S., but Ernst and Young, on pg.22 of this recent report, states that there are about 135,000 employees in biotechnology.

I also see life science often used, which I think is the equivalent of bioscience.

Also, if anyone has knows good data resources aside from EY, BIO, BLS on this stuff I'd love to hear about that as well.

posted by Idiot Mittens to Science & Nature (9 answers total)
Essentially, there is no difference between bioscience and life science.

Biotechnology, however, is about the application of biology in technology - vaccines, medicine, etc.
posted by kldickson at 8:49 AM on March 12, 2009

But isn't bioscience also the application of biology in technology? How is it distinct from biotechnology?
posted by Idiot Mittens at 9:01 AM on March 12, 2009

No, the biosciences are just that -- the biological sciences. Applied biological sciences = biotechnology.
posted by peacheater at 9:18 AM on March 12, 2009

But according to BIO:

The biosciences are a diverse group of industries and activities with a common link-they apply knowledge of the way in which plants, animals, and humans function. The sector spans different markets and includes manufacturing, services, and research activities. By definition, the biosciences are a unique industry cluster and are constantly changing to incorporate the latest research.
posted by Idiot Mittens at 9:25 AM on March 12, 2009

What kldickson said. Bioscience is biological science. This may not be technological at all. A guy walking through the forest counting trees is a biologist, but there may be little tech involved.

Life science is the same thing. The term is to distinguish biology from chemistry, physics, etc. (with the caveat that biochem, biophysics, et al may fall under the life-science category)

Here's how Nature Biotechnology (a journal) defines the biotechnology.

Also, I'd be wary of relying on numbers you find online as good estimates. There are going to be huge discrepancies based on what jobs they consider for inclusion and what sort of statistics they use for estimation.
posted by chrisamiller at 10:05 AM on March 12, 2009

Also remember that the terms are fluid and there will me much overlap. I work in any and all of the following fields: bioinfomatics, biotechnology, biology, life-sciences, biomedical research, cancer biology, computational biology, etc.
posted by chrisamiller at 10:09 AM on March 12, 2009

I have no idea what definitions people use when they're counting, but when I was in industry, the biggest informal delineator was mostly related to size/reputation. Smaller companies and startups tended to be referred to as "biotechs", while Agilent--despite being heavily involved in application of technology to life sciences--is just Agilent; everybody knows who they are, so there's no real need to classify them one way or the other.

This is probably of no use to you, though.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 10:12 AM on March 12, 2009

Bioscience is the greater subset. Life sciences is bioscience that focuses on helping people - not necessarily just clinical science, but other stuff that relates to human health and disease. Biotechnology is the development of tools for the study of bioscience and/or for facilitating the study and/or practice of life sciences.

Like chrismiller mentions, there are a lot more subdivisions as well.
posted by porpoise at 11:48 AM on March 12, 2009

Life sciences is bioscience that focuses on helping people

I'd disagree with this. I think that's biomedical science. The life sciences certainly includes things like ecology.
posted by chrisamiller at 1:56 PM on March 12, 2009

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