of the BIO Advisory Committee
April 9-10, 1997
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 9
Welcome and Approval of Minutes
The Spring 1997 Advisory Committee for Biological Sciences (BIOAC)
meeting convened at 9:00 a.m. with a greeting from Dr. Clutter.
Dr. Nina Fedoroff, Chair of BIOAC, encouraged everyone to introduce
themselves to the newest member, Dr. Laura Hoopes. The minutes
for the November 1996 meeting were unanimously approved by the
Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) and Current Budget
Dr. Clutter reviewed the current status of the FY 1998 Budget for
NSF noting a total budget request of $3.367 billion. In BIO, the
request reflects a 3.3% increase overall. The FY 1999 budget, which
is now in the planning stages, is the first budget to have performance
plans attached to it as required by GPRA. Dr. Clutter discussed
the importance of the meeting in light of GPRA.
Dr. Clutter requested the committee to think about the following
questions during the course of the meeting:
- If NSF continues along
a flat line budget, can we continue to deliver on our broad
mission and rising expectations?
- Can we keep the scientific enterprise robust and productive?
Should we be more entrepreneurial? More proactive with our approach
to international activities?
- Do we need a major change with relationship to K-12?
- Should we take bolder steps in partnerships?
Neal Lane, Director, National Science Foundation
Dr. Neal Lane, Director of the National Science Foundation, discussed
NSF’s response to the Government Performance and Results
Act. He thanked the committee members for their advice which
enables NSF to remain strong and get the resources that are needed.
In terms of GPRA, Dr. Lane stated the NSF response would include:
updating the strategic plan every three years, continuance
of evaluation of performance based on peer review, solving the
question of how to maintain being on the front edge of science
while working on a flat budget. He emphasized that we look to the
BIOAC for guidance.
Dr. Lane discussed the new merit review criteria to be implemented
in the Fall and, the importance of getting the community to pay
attention to them. He also discussed fundamental research problems
that need to be resolved. In particular, he discussed Knowledge
and Distributed Intelligence (KDI), the Next Generation Internet
(NGI) and research education. He noted that NSB board meetings
have been reduced to four times a year. The results from the Partnerships
in Advanced Computing Infrastructure (PACI ) competition were also
In response to BIOAC questions, Dr. Lane reminded the committee
that NSF cannot lobby, but inviting congressmen to their institutions
can make a tremendous impact.
BIOAC discussed whether the budget needed to be reformatted to
include GPRA. Other issues included: how will NSF restructure to
meet the limitations set by OMB by the year 2003, can performance
be leveraged to prove NSF is doing a super job. In addition, the
committee asked if there was an advisory committee composed of
industrial members; should they be concerned with anything other
than dollars; and, what are the best ways for NSF to better educate
Priorities for Budget Planning
Dr. Clutter reminded the BIOAC of how priorities for the budget
request are developed and gave an update for Fiscal Year 1997.
This discussion included updates on the new merit review criteria
and a review of the new programs: Professional Opportunities
for Women in Research and Education (POWRE), Integrative Graduate
Education and Research Training (IGERT), Partnerships in Advanced
Computing Infrastructure (PACI), and Knowledge and Distributed
Report from the BIO Science Retreat
Dr. Bruce Umminger, Division Director of IBN, gave an update on
Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence (KDI), beginning with
a historical perspective of KDI. Other issues included:
- Proposed strategy by a BIO working group to develop a solid
approach to KDI.
- Program announcement encourages technology development to solve
- Best ways to prepare the scientific community and train postdocs.
- Need to accelerate genomic research on Arabidopsis by making
sure necessary analytical tools are developed.
- Development of biological information standards and architecture
through accessing databases for knowledge networking: a real
- Look at new ways of doing things using virtual laboratories,
equal access to new technology, issues of shared credit, etc.
- Will the development of biological information standards reach
across all agencies?
- Information coming out of genomics should be subsumed under
- What is the timeframe?
Dr. Julius Jackson, Division Director of MCB, gave an update on
Life and Earth's Environment (LEE) that included:
- Discussion of Life in Extreme Environments (LExEn) and NSF's
commitment to study microbes in extreme geophysical environments.
- How to develop a strategy to study microbial diversity in a
variety of environments.
- Vision: how to capture the idea of sustainability.
- Where do we go from here? BIOAC needs time to reflect
on this one.
- How does it relate to what we have now? Is it new? Is it an
umbrella to sweep existing programs or does it lead in completely
- How is it viewed internally related to programs in place already?
- Will submissions be multidisciplinary, with multiple approaches?
- Need to explore the idea of virtual laboratories, think about
- Urban Approaches idea within the LEE framework could be powerful.
Working Lunch Discussion
Informal Discussion with Sue Schafer, NIGMS, and Ari Patrinos,
Sue Schafer, NIGMS, discussed how NIH makes communicating its mission
easier. One way is to provide a package for NIH's advisory counsel
spokespersons to present to the public. NIH Program Officers write
their researchers reminding them to give NIH credit for supporting
their research, especially in press releases.
Other issues being
studied by NIH include how to make integrative biology databases
more accessible, are new investigators receiving enough support
and what are the consequences of bringing new people into the
system? In addition, NIGMS's new program for bridge funding for
investigators who just missed the cut was discussed.
- Is the bridge funding limited to second-time applications?
- Any difference in the way NIGMS will handle a grant in light
of the new review criteria? (Answer: Not fully decided, the scores
will be rounded to the nearest tenth and a new announcement
will be put out on high risk research.)
Aristides A. Patrinos (DOE)
Discussion of DOE current status included:
- Delight with budget negotiations at present, flat budget request
is better than expected.
- OHER (Office of Health and Environmental Research) is focused
on the DOE Genome Institute; it will have academic collaborations
by soliciting proposals from the community.
- Microbial Genome Project seeking $7 million increase in funding.
- Beefing up structures like the neutron source facility in Los
Alamos and Oak Ridge Labs.
- New initiative: Bioremediation Research.
- DOE approach to environment found in Global Change Research
Report on the Human Resources Development Working Group by Dr.
Dr. Jackson discussed three recommendations made by the Human Resource
Development Working Group (HRDWG). The working group was charged
with recommending a strategy and implementation plan that will
help the Foundation better achieve -- through best practices – the
goals set forth in the Science and Engineering Equal Opportunities
Act of 1980. The objective is to "achieve full inclusion and
participation by historically excluded U.S. citizens and to sustain
world leadership in scientific research." Dr. Jackson discussed
the recommendations made on Graduate Student Support Strategies,
Management Strategies, and "Best Practices" Dissemination
Breakout Groups Discussion
Breakout Groups looked at
reports from BIO Working Groups on Graduate Students and Postdoctoral
Reports from Breakout Groups
4:10 p.m. group reconvenes
Discussion Leader: Barbara Webster
The following recommendations were made by the group:
- Individual postdoctoral fellowships should continue, they bring
visibility to NSF and are important to the community.
- Targeting should continue and should be followed up.
- Conditions of the fellowship should include other aspects of
learning such as:
- linkages with industry
- international activities
- GOALI was cited as an example that
encourages the postdoc to get a supplement to work in industry.
Related to Environment Program should be terminated. A generic
announcement should replace both Molecular Evolution and Biosciences
Related to the Environment; need to think more about these
- Minority Postdoctoral Program has been successful,
half of the recipients have found jobs in academia. A web page
lists them. Group recommends the program continue but as a
Discussion Leader: William Greenough
The following suggestions were made:
- Graduate students should be funded by an add-on to a regular
grant that includes: bio sketch, how student got there, current
status, description of plan, and research training record.
- Two modes of application: as part of the research proposal
or as a supplement.
- Group reached consensus that following this procedure will
mean that the student will have more access to training, increased
likelihood of getting a job; and, this procedure will therefore
contribute to the national interest overall.
- Disagreement within the group as to whether or not U.S.citizenship
or permanent residence status should be a requirement.
- More emphasis should be placed on research training grants.
With the faculty working together you get a much better training
- Part of the objective is to change how graduate students are
trained. Is it better to do this in a group mode than by individuals?
- What problem are we trying to fix? Why fix what is not broken?
Plenty of journal clubs, cross-talk, etc., already exist in
most graduate programs.
- Making teaching a part of your training is difficult in terms
of getting the time to do so.
- Question of accountability, what are the students doing and
are they benefiting?
- What constitutes good training, is the current training too
narrow as reported by NRC?
- Limiting training to U.S. citizens will have an impact on the
quality of science and is a major change.
THURSDAY, APRIL 10
Discussion on BIOAC Workshops
Report on "Integrating Life
Sciences" Workshop by Dr. Gregory Florant
Purpose of the workshop: Two main areas of focus for the workshop
were interdisciplinary research and preparation of undergraduate
and graduate education in terms of teaching and research for the
Interdisciplinary aspect: Much of the cutting edge research is
cross-disciplinary. Is the structure at land grant institutions
still viable; now, the department system is in use, is this still
a good idea? Is reorganization the answer for meeting the interdisciplinary
Preparing students for the 21st century: broad training is necessary
in biological or life sciences; teaching of critical thinking and
concepts in problem solving is needed. Giving undergraduates research
experience is recognized as important but is difficult to manage.
Report on Current Environment at EPA by Robert Huggett
This report included the status of the EPA budget reflecting an
increase of $50 million that will be in several major areas:
- Particulate matter and its effect on humans. There is controversy
that has arisen over an order to release all data used in these
studies irregardless of confidentiality.
- IMPACT program where, through five pilot studies, citizens
in larger cities have real time access to information on their
- An effort to study risks to children that includes mercury
level effects and endocrine disruptors.
- AMI, Advanced Monitoring Initiative, used to monitor instrumentation
- Focus on UVB radiation and its effects on plants and animals.
- $100 million estimated to go toward external grants program.
- $3.5 million toward sediments.
- Three hundred new positions to be obtained in the fellowship
Dr. Ruddle made a motion to have NSF staff evaluate the idea of
having a new panel for molecular evolution. The molecular evolution
postdoctoral competition has stimulated a group of individuals
in this new area. Molecular evolution is an important field. We
should review molecular evolution and other subject areas of like
kind which might also need a dedicated panel. Recommend the staff
look into the matter and review findings at next meeting.
Motion is agreed to and seconded: VOTE: 13 - In Favor 0 - Opposed
1 - Abstained
Report on Advisory Committee Chairs Meeting by Paul Magee
GPRA becomes effective in FY 1999. How do you really measure discovery
within a given time line (five years and on). NSF wants to discuss
qualitative measures, not quantitative. COVs will be a major
part of the NSF approach.
Issues on the existing GPRA document include:
- Level of abstraction and complexity overwhelming.
- Objectives: too many to convince external observer of progress.
On abstraction and complexity:
- Different people were involved in
putting document together, shows two different views: selling
a budget, or focusing on assessment.
- Two things are mixed up here: NSF as a managed entity and NSF
in terms of how well it fulfills its mission.
On where NSF will be in the year 2002:
- Need to formulate a statement
in 1997 that says this is where we decided to be five years from
now. Produced "x" number
of discoveries, developed a workforce, etc.
- State how NSF is on the leading edge by work in facilities/instrumentation,
promotion of math/science literacy, workshop outcomes; streamlining
of NSF review process over the Internet, for instance.
- Issue of how NSF will deal creatively with a flat budget.
The BIOAC Executive committee agreed to craft a letter summarizing
the discussion and send it to Dr. Neal Lane.
Reconvenes at 12:30 p.m.
Recommendations from Breakout Groups
Postdoctoral Fellowship Report
Individual fellowships to support postdocs are important to the
community and should continue. Targeting specific areas of biology
should also continue. We must make conscious decisions on areas
of importance; and, there should be follow-up on these areas.
Sunset the Biosciences Related to the Environment Program and narrow
the focus of the Molecular Evolution Program to evolution of
development. In the first year of the latter program, look at
the numbers that are coming in and make an assessment. Continue
the program for no more than three years.
On visits to Industry by applicants for NSF
Postdoctoral Research Fellowships
Dr. Paul Magee reports
Two types of visits exist: the first is to take advantage of facilities
and opportunities for the particular purpose of advancing the
research proposed in the individual investigator's grant; the
second is for the purpose of pursuing a project of joint interest
to the industry and to the individual investigator's grant. In
the former case, cost-sharing should be arranged between the
company and the principal investigator in a mutually satisfactory
fashion. In the second case, industry should assume at least
50% of the total cost, including salary and research support.
Graduate Students Report
Dr. Greenough reports
1) The Graduate Students breakout group supported the idea of developing
new research experiences for graduates (REG) supplements. To
the extent that an award is "training" driven, NSF
policy mandates restriction of the award to US citizens or Permanent
residents. The guidelines of the proposed REG supplements specify
that they are primarily training driven, in terms of the selection
process. That suggests that these awards should be restricted
to citizens and permanent residents. However, there was not consensus
among the BIOAC that all BIO-supported graduate students should
be citizens or permanent residents.
2) Because the new NSF merit review criteria mandate "promoting
teaching, training and learning," the emphasis placed upon
the graduate education process in the separate evaluation of REG
components of individual investigators-initiated proposals is appropriate
3) Whenever possible, the REG application should be submitted
as a component of the research proposal and should be funded as
a single award.
4) Multidisciplinary, multiple-investigator training grants such
as Research Training Groups (RTG’s) and Integrative Graduate
Education and Research Training (IGERT) are of great value because
of their explicit orientation towards integration of education,
training and learning. We recommend that two size categories of
RTG/IGERT awards be evaluated separately; those with 3 or fewer
principal investigators and those with 4 or more. We further recommend
that BIO resources directed to such training groups be doubled.
Report by Dr. John Fray on the Multidisciplinary Review Experiment
The MULE group was charged with designing an experiment to compare
disciplinary and multidisciplinary review processes utilizing a
subset of selected multidisciplinary proposals. It decided to do
a "shadow" review of a set of multidisciplinary proposals,
using a specially constituted panel composed of multidisciplinary
Design of Experiment:
- Select group of proposals that are being reviewed by at lease
two program elements;
- Timing of the "shadow" panel: concurrent with regular
- Composition of MULE panel: individuals who are multidisciplinary
in their interest based on their publication record and training.
Will report results at next meeting.
Three BIOAC members volunteered to serve on Committees of Visitors
- Dr. Jacobs will serve on the Division of Integrative
Biology and Neuroscience COV.
- Dr. Villa-Komaroff will serve on the COV for the Cell Biology
- Dr. Harris will serve on the Long Term Projects COV.
Discussion of potential meeting dates for next meeting: October
20 - 21, or October 23 -24 or October 27- 28. At the next meeting,
topics to discuss include GPRA and the recommendations from the
Equal Opportunity report.
Meeting concluded at 1:55 p.m.
Hardcopy minutes approved by: Lydia Villa-Komaroff, Chair
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