This is a question that I keep asking myself. I am starting work on the third edition of my textbook “Essential Developmental Biology”. Over the years the quantity of published material in developmental biology keeps rising exponentially. Papers nowadays are extremely detailed and technical compared to the way they were in the 1980s when the shape of current molecular-genetic developmental biology was being established.
People always tell me that the thing they like about my books is their brevity and conciseness. But brevity can’t be maintained without being extremely selective, and this inevitably offends people whose research topics get left out.
Suppose an undergraduate (or beginning graduate student) has taken a lecture course in developmental biology, comprising maybe 40 hours of contact. What do you expect them to know when they appear in your lab as a PhD student ?
Do they need to know about sea urchin as well as mouse fertilization ?
Zebrafish pancreas development as well as mouse pancreas development ?
Enhancer traps in mouse as well as Drosophila ?
Would you expect them to know what the amnion is ? What are the properties of neuronal stem cells ? Which end of a Hydra is the head ? Anything about Dictyostelium ?
Or none of the above…?
Is there areally a core set of principles of Developmental Biology as a science, or is it just a bunch of topics that can be varied without limit depending on the interests of the instructor ?
If anyone has comments on this matter, and particularly about what they would like to see included in, or left out of, my third edition, please let me know.