of the BIO Advisory Committee
April 26-27, 2001
THURSDAY, APRIL 26 - Morning
Welcome and Introduction of New Members, Dr. Mary E. Clutter, Assistant Director
for Biological Sciences (BIO)
Dr. Clutter welcomed new members Dr. Vicki Chandler, Dr. George
Liggins and Dr. Marian Johnson-Thompson. Dr. Norine Noonan, formerly
an ex officio member, is now a full member. This meeting will focus
on proposed priorities for the FY 2003 budget request.
Remarks, Dr. Ellen Goldberg, Chair
FY 2002 Budget and BIO Emphases, Dr. Mary E. Clutter
Dr. Clutter presented slides on the FY 2002 request to Congress.
Discussion areas included grant size and duration, and protecting
Approval of Minutes (November 2000)
The minutes of the previous meeting were approved by voice vote.
Report on Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and
Education (AC-ERE), February 2001, Dr. James Collins, Convenor
and BIOAC Representative
Dr. Collins reported on the second
meeting of this AC. The AC established three task forces, Strategic
Plans for R & D, Environmental
Infrastructure, and Assessing Outreach and Education. The first
meeting in October 2000, covered Biocomplexity, Environmental Research
and Education, and Strategic Plans. The AC was formed as a result
of NSB report recommendations that NSF develop an environmental
science portfolio across the disciplines.
NSF/BIO Education Activities:
NSF Education Activities, Dr. Judith Sunley, Interim Assistant
Director, Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR)
Dr. Sunley presented slides on Education and Workforce Issues.
NSF has a major role in the Administration's FY 2002 Math and Science
Partnerships initiative; in fact some aspects of the overall initiative
were begun at NSF. Enhanced interaction between EHR and other NSF
directorates is needed. Discussion centered on ways NSF can contribute
to solving current problems in science education including outreach,
encouraging scientists to become teachers, applying research on
learning to teaching, catalyzing partnerships between school and
business or universities, and helping underserved populations.
BIO Education Philosophy, Dr. Judith Verbeke
Dr. Verbeke presented
a document that had been prepared by BIO Staff that attempts
to define the directorate's role in education activities. BIO's
role includes responding to changing paradigms in biology, education
and technology; ensuring that investigator-initiated proposals
integrate science and education; focusing on specific areas where
BIO plays a unique role; and enhancing partnerships with EHR
and others. Discussion issues included developing a list of suggested
ways to interact with the education community.
Working Lunch - Discussion with Dr. Rita Colwell, NSF Director
Colwell discussed the April 25, 2001, House Science Committee hearing.
Chairman Sherwood Boehlert favored an increase in the FY 2002 appropriation
over the President's request. Other topics of discussion included
the FY 2002 Math Science Partnership initiative, increasing grant
size and duration and stipends, the international activities program,
and community outreach.
THURSDAY, APRIL 26 - Afternoon Session
BIO Science Retreat
Introduction - Current Scientific Issues, Dr. James Edwards, Deputy
Assistant Director, BIO
Dr. Edwards presented slides on the results of the FY 2001 BIO
Science Retreat. He discussed four guiding questions; the steps
involved in selecting priority areas; and criteria for developing
priorities. The retreat participants selected suggested areas for
development: Genome-enabled Science, Biology of Complex Systems,
and Beyond the Genome. Presentations on these three areas of emphasis
Genome-enabled Science, BIO Staff: Dr. Machi Dilworth, Dr. Maryanna
Henkart, Dr. Judith Verbeke, Dr. Terry Yates; AC Members: Dr. Claire
Fraser, Dr. Frank Harris, Dr. John Wooley
Genome-enabled Science includes three more specific topics: Microbial
Genomics, the Evolution of Development (EvoDevo) and the Tree of
Dr. Henkart presented slides on the Microbe Project, within Microbial
Genomics. Goals of the project include sequencing microbes of scientific
and practical interest, developing tools for research, and enhancing
support for new research.
Dr. Yates and Dr. Greene presented slides on EvoDevo and the ToL.
EvoDevo intends to support the creation of Bacterial Artificial
Chromosome and cDNA libraries for 100 key taxa, to serve as resources
for the community at large. These taxa will be selected by community
consensus by means of a solicitation. The ToL project intends to
determine the relationship of key branches on the phylogenetic
tree, based on genomic, morphological and other data. The ToL will
have predictive value in locating a gene of interest in a taxonomic
Biology of Complex Systems, BIO Staff: Dr. Eve Barak, Dr. Frank
Greene, Dr. Joann Roskoski, Dr. Mary Jane Saunders; AC Members:
Dr. James Collins, Dr. Marvalee Wake
Dr. Roskoski presented slides on this area which includes the
study of interactions of parts of biological systems, from cells
through ecosystems. Research would be encouraged by cross-disciplinary
teams of individuals who understand both biological and physical
(including mathematical) approaches.
Beyond the Genome, BIO Staff: Dr. Frank Greene, Dr. Maryanna Henkart;
AC Members: Dr. Ellen Goldberg, Dr. George Jones
Dr. Henkart presented
slides on this area. The ultimate goal of the effort is to understand
how living systems work - from individual biomolecules to ecosystems.
Two components include the use of sequence information to deduce
structure and function, and the development of information (in
addition to the information that can be deduced from genome sequence)
that will be required for a complete understanding of living systems.
Types of information that cannot be deduced from genome sequence
include the architecture and dynamics of living systems. Discussion
included the need to involve theorists and mathematicians.
General Discussion - BIO Proposed Thrusts
The BIOAC endorsed these
areas, but were concerned about overlap among them, as well as
with other agencies. The BIOAC recommended rethinking these areas
and making them crisper and more distinctive.
Dr. Clutter thanked the group for their suggestions and noted
the importance of having scientific priorities with well-defined
FRIDAY, APRIL 27 -
BIOAC Activities - Status Reports
Annotation and Standards - Microbial Genomics, Dr. Claire Fraser,
Dr. John Wooley
Dr. Fraser and Dr. Wooley led the discussion, which
focused on the need for standard terminology, interoperable databases,
and timely release of information. They are planning a workshop,
to be held in the Fall.
Most Challenging Questions in Biology, Dr. Ellen Goldberg
presented 11 highly challenging questions, ranging from the origin
of the universe, through the Tree of Life, to the integration of
all biological systems. A workshop is planned for the fall at the
Santa Fe Institute, to refine and present a report to BIO.
LTER 20-Year Review
Dr. Krishtalka led the discussion. This independent
review will examine past accomplishments, current challenges and
future opportunities, and will build on the 10-year Long Term Ecological
Research Program (LTER) review. There will be three meetings, including
a site visit. Questions to be asked include: what are the contributions
of LTER to ecology; how has LTER capitalized on new technology
such as GIS and genomics; how have events changed LTER; and how
has LTER contributed to the education of new scientists, publications
and long-term databases. A report will be submitted to BIO in December
2001 or early in 2002.
Long-Term Management of Databases - Informatics, Dr. Leonard Krishtalka
Dr. Krishtalka noted that access to information is critical, and
that, whenever possible, informatics standards should precede research.
The longer it takes to develop standards for interoperability,
the more balkanized information will be, the more likely data will
be lost, and the more costly it will be to manage the data. Ideally,
40% of any research budget should be for informatics. Potential
solutions involve workshops; an informatics organizing center such
as a virtual center; help from disciplinary societies (provide
standards; rethink their role beyond print journals and annual
meetings); and funding from the Major Research Equipment account
for databases. Dr. Edwards noted that preservation of legacy data
should be part of this effort and that international implications/involvement
should be considered.
Information Infrastructure, BIO Staff: Dr. Mary Jane Saunders,
Dr. Terry Yates; AC Members: Dr. Gwen Jacobs, Dr. Leonard Krishtalka
Dr. Saunders noted that possible five-year goals include new techniques
for data management, integration of disparate databases, common
data management systems for PIs, and long-term management of databases.
Immediate goals for FY 2002 include workshops and coordination
with other Directorates in NSF. Potential competitions for FY 2003
include informatics aspects of the Microbe Project and of environmental
programs. Discussion included ways to ensure information infrastructure
is addressed, including requiring awardees to make tools available,
and working with professional journals to disseminate information.
Major Research Equipment (MRE) - BIO Possibilities, BIO Staff:
Dr. Joann Roskoski, Dr. Terry Yates; AC Members: Dr. Burt Ensley,
Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones, Dr. Larry Vanderhoef
Dr. Yates reviewed the
features of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON).
As proposed in the FY 2001 budget, NEON would consist of 10 networked
observatories that would serve as research platforms for integrated,
cutting-edge research in field biology at a regional scale. This
research would allow greater understanding of how ecosystems function
and respond to change, and facilitate predictive modeling.
Diversity, Dr. Marian Johnson-Thompson, CEOSE Liaison
presented data on staffing and grantee demographics for NSF. For
comparison, Dr. Johnson-Thompson presented preliminary data on
NIH and NIEHS demographics, which will be refined and shared with
the group by the next meeting. Discussion focused on ways to support
minority students including encouragement and mentoring, and funding
for institutions or programs that have a track record of success.
Some factors are beyond our control, including a decline of interest
in science among students as whole in favor of more lucrative professions,
higher value placed on medical education, low pay for teaching,
instant-gratification culture, and loss of critical thinking skills
as children spend less time reading.
BIOAC Working Groups Follow-on Activities
The Government Performance and Results Act working group will
consist of Dr. Steward Pickett, Dr. Claire Fraser, Dr. John Wooley,
and Dr. Norine Noonan. The working group will use information posted
on the BIOAC website (Committee of Visitors' reports, annual reports
and the BIO self-evaluation) to produce an independent evaluation
by November 8, 2001.
The Major Research Equipment working group will focus on large
scale infrastructure needs and will be coordinated by Dr. John
The Most Challenging Questions working group will be coordinated
by Dr. Leonard Krishtalka.
The Information Infrastructure working group will focus on information
infrastructure and the long term management of databases It will
be coordinated by Dr. John Wooley.
The LTER 20 year review will be coordinated by Dr. Leonard Krishtalka
and Dr. Frank Harris.
Future Meeting Dates:
Fall 2001 - November 8 - 9, 2001
Spring 2002 - April 25 - 26, 2002
/S/ Ellen Goldberg 11/9/01
Ellen Goldberg, Chair Date
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