of the BIO Advisory Committee
April 24-25, 2003
THURSDAY, APRIL 24th
Welcome and Introduction of New Member: Dr. Mary E. Clutter, Assistant Director
Dr. Mary Clutter, Assistant Director for the Biological Sciences (BIO), introduced
BIOAC members attending the meeting for the first time – Dr. Mary Lou Guerinot,
Dartmouth College; Dr. Lynn Jelinski, Sunshine Consultants, International; and
Dr. Cassandra Manuelito-Kerkvliet, Dine College (Navajo Nation). Dr. Clutter
reviewed the BIO organization chart including Emerging Frontiers, a new virtual
division of the Biological Sciences.
Remarks, Approval of Minutes: Dr. James Collins, Chair
The minutes for the November 2002 meeting were unanimously approved
by the BIOAC.
LONG RANGE PLANNING - 21st Century Biology - Next Phase
FY 2003 Appropriation, FY 2004 Request, Dr. Mary E. Clutter
Dr. Clutter reviewed the FY 2003 Appropriation and the FY 2004
Request, noting that Congress has authorized a plan to double
the NSF budget over the next five years. The Final FY 2003 Appropriation
resulted in a 12.3% increase for BIO, despite an earlier Senate
Recommendation of 3.5%. She noted that, due to timing, the FY
2004 BIO Request was less than the FY 2003 BIO Appropriation
but was optimistic that Congress would resolve the dilemma. Lastly,
Dr. Clutter reviewed the virtual division, Emerging Frontiers,
and how it will be an incubator for 21st Century Biology.
The BIOAC discussed:
- The challenges NSF faces in educating Congress that NIH does
not fund all areas of biology.
- The importance of interagency
partnerships and the need for NSF/BIO to be ahead of the curve
by funding research on the environmental and human health impacts
- The management and staffing of Emerging Frontiers and the continuing
downward pressure on Salaries and Expenses. (Dr. Clutter noted
that Rita Colwell has made Administration and Management a
NEON Status: Dr. Joann Roskoski
Dr. Roskoski updated the committee on the status of the National
Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), noting the overall budget
structure planned for each observatory and a brief overview of
the budget history. Dr. Roskoski reviewed FY 2003 activities
in the community, including the establishment of a NEON Steering
Group and the publication of a white paper, Rationale, Blueprint,
and Expectations for the National Ecological Observatory Network.
She also discussed a National Academy of Sciences study on NEON,
community and NSF discussions with House and Senate staffers,
and a planned interagency meeting.
The BIOAC discussed:
- Concerns that, with regards to NEON, Congress has been presented
with a moving target thus far.
- The difficulties of presenting the NEON concept and exact budget
numbers to Congress without losing flexibility and planning
opportunities for the community.
- Lessons learned from Earthscope – a longer planning period,
community involvement, and a specific, yet understandable, concept.
- The importance of the planned interagency meetings.
- The need to include minority-serving institutions in the NEON
- How BIO might structure discussions on the Hill and refine
guidance to NAS for the NEON Study.
AC-ERE Decadal Report, Dr.
Dr. Collins briefed the committee on the activities and reports
of the Environmental Research and Education Advisory Committee.
He discussed the follow-on activities including a workshop
held at NSF on The Academy of the 21st Century: Institutionalizing
Interdisciplinary Research and Education (see later minutes
for details), and the evolution of Biocomplexity in the Environment.
NSB Infrastructure Task Force, Dr. Mary E. Clutter
Dr. Clutter discussed the National Science Board Infrastructure
Task Force Report, Science and Engineering Infrastructure for
the 21st Century: The Role of the National Science Foundation,
noting the reason for the study, the charge to the Task Force,
and the principal recommendations resulting from the study:
- Increase the share of NSF’s budget devoted to S&E
Infrastructure towards the upper end of the historical range
- Give special emphasis to: advancement of instrument technology,
increased need for midsize infrastructure, increase support
for large facilities, develop/deploy an advanced cyberinfrastructure.
- Expand education and training opportunities at new and existing
- Strengthen the infrastructure budget and planning process.
- Develop interagency plans and strategies.
Sonya Mallinoff, Planning and Budget Officer for the Biological
Sciences, presented FY 2002 dollars spent on Infrastructure. The
percentage varies from 10-23% depending on the definition used
The BIOAC discussed:
- How the percentage spent on Infrastructure might be affected
by the changing scientific and budget environments as the NSF
budget doubles over the next five years.
- How BIO might respond to the recommendations in the report.
Cyberinfrastructure, Dr. Deborah Crawford, Deputy Assistant Director,
Dr. Crawford presented to the AC the promise that cyberinfrastructure
holds for science and engineering, noting early adopters (NEON,
BIRN, NEES, ETF). She reviewed the integrated layers of cyberinfrastructure,
the long-term investments needed, the challenging context in which
the work will be done, and the plan of action for the future of
cyberinfrastructure at NSF.
The BIOAC discussed:
- Lessons learned from the Internet.
- The challenges and natural tensions created when technological
change is more rapid than institutional change.
- Concerns regarding sustained support in a multi-agency context.
- The need to involve the larger cyberinfrastructure community
(academic, government, international).
- The need for accessibility for all institutions.
Priority Setting, Dr. Mary E. Clutter
Dr. Clutter briefed the AC on the inputs, processes and criteria
for developing and setting priorities in the Biological Sciences.
BIO Leading Edge Presentations:
Division of Integrative Biology and Neuroscience, Dr. William
Dr. Zamer briefed the AC on new technologies used to investigate
the evolution of animal movement including videos of wing-assisted
incline running, forces affecting swimming speed of fishes,
and transducers recording movement of fluid around robotic
insect wings. He noted that these new technologies promote
21st Century Biology collaborations and provide training grounds
for cross-disciplinary studies.
Division of Environmental Biology, Dr. Michael Bowers
Dr. Bowers briefed the AC on the importance and timeliness
of research on Exotic Invasive Species (EIS), noting the
practical, economic, and ethical reasons to research EIS.
He suggested that NSF/BIO/DEB can bring an evolutionary perspective
to the problem of EIS and that EIS research is an excellent
example of leading edge science as well as 21st Century Biology.
Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences,
Dr. Clare O’Connor
Dr. O’Connor briefed the AC on the leading edge field of
single molecule biochemistry. She discussed the advantages and
components of single molecule experiments, and the chemical and
physical challenges involved in single molecule biochemistry. She
described new technologies – quantum dots and atomic force
microscopy (ATM) – and how these are being used to address
the chemical and physical challenges of this leading edge field
Division of Biological Infrastructure, Dr. Anne Sylvester
Dr. Sylvester briefed the AC on evolving tools in plant genome
research using examples of NSF funded research in the Plant
Genome Research Program. She discussed the “plant genome toolkit” and
the need for a transformation of this toolkit to fit the enormous
amount of information being generated. Dr. Sylvester concluded
by giving an overview of evolutionary genomics, noting the
importance of finding the right organism to answer the right
BIO Education Plan, Drs. Penelope Firth and Judith
Dr. Firth reviewed the strategic plan, Nurturing Discovery:
Biology Education for the 21st Century, noting the purpose,
vision, and the goals of Biology Education – broad career
horizons, experiential learning, and biosphere literacy. She
discussed the framework for integration of research and education
and the context for the recommendations made in this report.
Dr. Judy Skog briefed the Committee on the present BIO education
portfolio, the balance of its investments, and its relationship
to the goals of this strategic plan.
The BIOAC discussed:
- The importance of including an analysis of EHR education programs
in the context section of the plan and presenting BIO’s
investment relative to that of NSF/EHR.
- The fact that the largest allocation of BIO Education resources
is to upper level activities and that some funding could be
(cautiously) moved from graduate and postdoctoral activities
to those for K-12. The Committee noted that this would be an
immense undertaking but suggested working with EHR to leverage
their K-12 funds and programs.
- Concerns regarding the lack of RAMHSS awards being made and
possible underlying problems.
- The effort and difficulties involved in reaching out to minority
high school students, suggesting possible resources – leveraging
existing relationships (e.g. using the Louis Stokes AMP program
as a conduit) or tapping into Women in Science and Engineering
or Native American organizations, in particular the American Indian
Science & Engineering Society (AISES), the Society for Advancement
of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), the National
Indian Education Association (NIEA), or the National Action Council
for Minorities in Engineering (NACME).
- How BIO should continue to address barriers that keep students
from going on in science and engineering – stipend levels,
length of time to PhD degree, lack of jobs after PhD – and
to investigate how the current portfolio impacts teachers.
- The idea of combining RET sites with RAMHSS so that teachers
and students would have a research experience together, possibly
facilitating increased participation from both groups.
FRIDAY, APRIL 25th
LONG RANGE PLANNING – 21st Century Biology – Next
Transforming Universities and Colleges, Drs. James Collins and
Dr. Collins summarized a meeting held to discuss The Academy of
the 21st Century: Institutionalizing Interdisciplinary Research & Education,
including points on timeliness of the effort, possible barriers
and costs, suggested innovations for universities, and differences
in marginal or large-scale change at institutions (“Fitness
Landscapes”). Dr. Vanderhoef reviewed the report (and subsequent
meeting on), Preparing for the Revolution: Information Technology
and the Future of the Research University, which aimed to address
broadly defined problems facing senior level administrators, including
changes needed in individual evaluations, IT concerns on campuses,
and the influence of widely-accessible large data collections (NEON
was noted as an example). He also noted the six conclusions of
the report: (1) the extraordinary pace of the technology evolution
will continue; (2) the uncertainty of the impact on universities;
(3) digital technology will change how universities are organized,
financed, and governed, (4) inaction and procrastination on part
of universities is dangerous, (5) it is very difficult to predict
the changes information technology will bring, and (6) it is very
important to have a larger contingency in the universities overseeing
The BIOAC discussed:
- How to possibly expand IGERTs by capitalizing on the idea of
students bringing faculty together and defining new interdisciplinary “disciplines” (i.e.
- The difficulties of maintaining Centers over long periods of
- How funding agencies might drive this process, noting that
universities would have to be flexible. However, several members
were skeptical of total reliance on federal agencies and advised
not to forget about industry funding, despite any strings attached.
- The recommendation to push the Tenure and Promotion process
to a higher level and possibly “turn it upside down” with
maximum flexibility early on in careers and later tenure based
Transforming the Core – Preparing for
Dr. Roskoski reviewed the BIO themes for FY 2003, 2004, and 2005
budgets, noting that the FY 2005 Budget theme is Transforming
the Core: Research, Education, and Infrastructure Across Scales.
Dr. Judy Verbeke, Acting Division Director of IBN, discussed
how BIO themes map onto Budget Priority Areas and the need for
synergy between the core and priority areas. Dr. Quentin Wheeler,
Division Director of DEB, reviewed two current, obvious signs
of 21st Century Biology and this transformation of the core – the
large-scale international collaborations, Assembling the Tree
of Life and Planetary Biodiversity Inventories. Dr. Maryanna
Henkart, Division Director of MCB, reviewed the challenges of
the complexity of microbial biology, noting interagency efforts
and the practical applications of “Metagenomics” for
studying microbial impacts on the environment. She also gave
an overview of experimental projects in MCB aiming to address
the comprehensive review process. Dr. Machi Dilworth, Division
Director of DBI, reviewed the history of the Plant Genome Research
Program, noting how it encourages collaborations and the positive
transformation seen in the young investigators. She reviewed
the elements contributing to this transformation: a significant
level of resources, a ready community, the NSF merit review process,
the ability to give supplements and take risks when given the
opportunity, the management of the awards, and the oversight
and long range planning by the National Plant Genome Initiative
(OSTP/NSTC). Dr. Judy Skog presented the goals of Frontiers in
Integrative Biological Research (FIBR), discussing the high number
of proposals received, the scope of current FIBR proposals, and
early insights gained from the FIBR proposals.
The BIOAC discussed:
- How the peculiarities of the FY 2004 budget will affect transforming
- Single awards versus collaborations.
- The complexity of management plans and funding large (especially
- The “external forces” moving the community to engage
in more interdisciplinary activities.
- The transformation of the field of plant genomics since 1998.
- The need to monitor progress of FIBR awards over the full five
- The potential for cross directorate and interagency interactions.
- Genome sequencing and the discovery that information from multiple
genome sequence projects can complicate the definition of a
- The synergy between the Core and Priority Areas.
- Whether “transformation of the core” could result
in increased funding.
Discussion with Rita Colwell, Director, NSF
Based on questions from AC members, Dr. Colwell discussed the following:
- The importance of interagency cooperation when dealing with the
continuing NIH/NSF confusion, noting the recent NIH/NSF Math-Bio
Symposium and other joint NIH/NSF programs.
- The A&M budget as a top priority – in particular, the
need for more FTE’s; the importance of Program Directors
having adequate travel money; and the need for continued support
from Advisory Committees and the community.
- Revisiting PhD programs, including the combination of social,
economic, and academic factors contributing to the increased
length of time to PhD – “indentured” students, low salaries
for scientists, a lack of business and management courses in the
curriculum, a lack of mentors, and the impact of foreign students
(>50%). She discussed her support of The Math Initiative and
the importance of quantitative sciences in the future, suggesting
remedial education at the postdoctoral level in mathematics/statistics
and business/ management as well
- 21st Century Biology: the importance of interactions with computers,
the use of biology and its interface with every other science,
ethical issues (food and vaccines), public awareness, improving
the condition of high school labs, and attracting American
citizens, including women and minorities to science careers.
- NEON – in particular, the importance of educating fellow
scientists, partnering with industry, and highlighting the
practical outcomes from NEON. Dr. Colwell reminded the AC members
that MREFC funding is a very long process, noting the length
of time to funding for ALMA and Earthscope, and urged them to
continue to spread the word in the community.
- Women and minorities, including the importance of targeting
NSF efforts; Science of Learning Centers, with higher education
and industry as partners, as resources for teachers; and using
workshops and summer institutes to increase percentage of women
and minorities in S&E.
Information Item - Data Release Policy, Dr. Claire Fraser and
Dr. John Wooley
The BIOAC discussed the complexities of the NIH NHGRI data release
policy, noting the difficulties in defining a community resource
project and the problems caused by inconsistent penalties for not
publishing your data versus illegally mining that of others. A
motion was unanimously approved to submit a “Statement Concerning
the NIH NHGRI Rapid Data Release Policy” from the BIOAC to
NIH signed by the Chair, Dr. James Collins.
21st Century Biology – Collins
(Chair), Vanderhoef, Wooley, Fraser
Education – Brady (Chair), Chandler, Guerinot,
Environment – Krishtalka,
Stafford (Co-Chairs), Melillo, Ensley
Future Meeting Dates
Fall 2003 - November 13-14, 2003 (confirmed)
Spring 2004 - April 22-23 or 29-30, 2004 (tentative)
/S/ James Collins 11/13/03
James Collins, Chair Date
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