Species spreading beyond their native ranges are important study objects in ecology and environmental sciences and research on biological invasions is thriving. Along with an increase in the number of publications, the research field is experiencing an increase in the diversity of methods applied and questions asked. This development has facilitated an upsurge in information on invasions, but it also creates conceptual and practical challenges. To provide more transparency on which kind of research is actually done in the field, the distinction between invasion science, encompassing the full spectrum of studies on biological invasions and the sub-field of invasion biology, studying patterns and mechanisms of species invasions with a focus on biological research questions, can be useful. Although covering a smaller range of topics, invasion biology today still is the driving force in invasion science and we discuss challenges stemming from its embeddedness in the social context. Invasion biology consists of the building blocks ‘theory’, ‘case studies’ and ‘application’, where theory takes the form of conceptual frameworks, major hypotheses and statistical generalisations. Referencing recent work in philosophy of science, we argue that invasion biology, like other biological or ecological disciplines, does not rely on the development of an all-encompassing theory in order to be efficient. We suggest, however, that theory development is nonetheless necessary and propose improvements. Recent advances in data visualisation, machine learning and semantic modelling are providing opportunities for enhancing knowledge management and presentation and we suggest that invasion science should use these to transform its ways of publishing, archiving and visualising research. Along with a stronger focus on studies going beyond purely biological questions, this would facilitate the efficient prevention and management of biological invasions.