'Chemical biology' is a term that has been associated with research at the interface of chemistry and biology for over 20 years, yet its definition is still debated by scientists in the field and remains misunderstood by the broader scientific community. At Nature Chemical Biology, we have aimed to provide a forum for chemical biology to define itself through the publication of leading research and commentary that reflects the diverse scientific landscape of the field. In many ways, the experiment has been a success. Yet, as the journal celebrates its 10th anniversary, a central question remains: has chemical biology achieved a distinct identity or defined more clearly what it means to be a chemical biologist?

Over the last decade, we have written extensively about chemical biology, exploring its disciplinary heritage (Nat. Chem. Biol. 1, 3, 2005; Nat. Chem. Biol. 6, 847–854, 2010), its defining characteristics (Nat. Chem. Biol. 2, 283, 2006; Nat. Chem. Biol. 4, 1, 2008) and its promising future (Nat. Chem. Biol. 6, 385 & 845, 2010). In selecting papers for publication, the editorial team has always been guided by a broad definition of chemical biology that includes research in all areas where chemistry and biology intersect and that combines scientific concepts and experimental approaches from these fields to understand and manipulate biological systems with molecular precision. In addition to welcoming an expansive array of interdisciplinary science, we also have attempted to take our scientific cues and derive our editorial standards from the diverse disciplines that we serve. We truly thank the members of the chemical biology community for their ongoing support and guidance, and acknowledge that Nature Chemical Biology would not be what it is without them.

In honor of our 10th anniversary, we will be presenting a collection of articles that celebrates chemical biology, beginning with a series entitled "Voices of chemical biology" that shares your views of the field. In this issue, we kick things off by asking the fundamental question: "How would you define chemical biology?" The responses (p. 378) reflect the field's differing views on this topic, but they also reveal common themes. First, contemporary definitions tend to be inclusive of all research at the chemistry-biology interface. This arises, in part, from the increasingly diverse group of scientists who self-identify as chemical biologists, but also from the recognition that an expansive definition is a necessary and positive characteristic of a dynamic and evolving field. Second, although the scope of modern chemical biology research is vast, its practitioners share a set of representative traits. Independent of their scientific backgrounds, chemical biologists approach scientific questions from a cross-disciplinary perspective that integrates concepts of parent fields, but pursue answers with a molecular mindset and a toolbox comprising both inherited methodologies and new, bespoke approaches inspired by practical questions. Further, they are motivated by the fearless conviction not only that their efforts will reveal a deeper understanding of biology and chemistry, but that these fundamental insights will provide the blueprints necessary for designing new systems and the knowledge required for harnessing their practical applications.

Chemical biologists are also characterized by their willingness to learn and their enthusiasm for new discoveries at the nexus of chemistry and biology. As part of our anniversary collection, we looked back through ten years of research papers published in Nature Chemical Biology and identified some 'greatest hits'—studies reporting fundamental discoveries and cross-disciplinary insights that we felt best reflected the scope, excitement and accomplishments of chemical biology in the past decade—which we highlight in a feature article (p. 364). We hope that we chose a few of your favorites, but also that the anthology encourages you to delve into some unfamiliar areas. In this spirit, through the rest of 2015, we will publish a collection of Commentary articles that examine scientific and topical areas in chemical biology. For example, in a commentary in this issue, Tanaka and Komi (p. 373) analyze how chemical biology approaches have shaped a mechanistic view of protein aggregation that may inform future therapeutic interventions for neurodegenerative diseases.

Most chemical biology research focuses on basic science questions, but the field's tools and molecular insights have wide-ranging applications in diverse areas including synthetic biology, materials science and biotechnology. Yet, with its historical origins and proficiency working with synthetic small molecules and natural products, chemical biology has been most influential in the drug discovery arena. As outlined in a Commentary by Bunnage and colleagues (p. 368), academic chemical biology efforts focused on small-molecule chemical probe development and target identification synergize with numerous priorities of the pharmaceutical industry. More broadly, enhanced academic and industrial connections illustrate the scientific and practical benefits of the collaborative model of research in chemical biology that are likely to expand to other areas of applied science in the coming years.

Though chemical biology retains a focus on molecular-level insights, the field's scientific scope is not confined to the nanometer scale. As it has evolved, chemical biology has expanded its dynamic range to increasing length scales and layers of chemical and biological complexity, moving from an atomistic focus on biomolecules to direct interrogation and manipulation of chemical and cellular processes in situ. As noted in a Perspective by Stagljar and coworkers (p. 387), systems biology techniques combined with chemical biology tools offer opportunities to profile and perturb cellular systems more precisely and comprehensively than ever before. Given the field's current trajectory, 'in vivo chemical biology'—chemical biology applied in tissues, in whole organisms, and potentially in organismal communities (such as microbiomes)—defines one of the next frontiers of chemical biology, one that is tantalizingly within reach.

So, has chemical biology clearly defined itself? By the standards of our contemporary era, which require that we capture ideas within 140 characters, perhaps not. But if we allow a broader perspective and time for thoughtful discussion, it becomes clear that the early chapters of chemical biology have mapped out the main storyline, its central themes and the motivations of the novel's protagonists. The artistry of current and future generations of chemical biologists will carry the storyline forward from here.