of the BIO Advisory Committee
April 22-23, 1999
THURSDAY, APRIL 22 - Morning
Welcome & Introduction of New Members, Dr. Mary Clutter
Dr. Mary Clutter, Assistant Director for the Biological Sciences
(BIO), welcomed the new members in attendance, Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones
and Dr. Leonard Krishtalka, and noted that Dr. Larry Vanderhoef
was also joining the committee but could not attend this meeting.
She announced that Dr. Gwen Jacobs will be the new chair of the
committee in FY 2000. Dr. Clutter then extended a welcome to the
new ex officio member from EPA, Dr. Norine Noonan, and announced
that the new liaison from CEOSE, Dr. Joe Martinez, also could not
attend this meeting. She then announced that later in the meeting
Dr. Stephanie Pfirman, Chair of the Polar Program AC, would join
the meeting in a liaison capacity.
Dr. Machi Dilworth introduced a visiting scholar from Japan, Dr.
Miki Ohba, spending her developmental leave in the United States
studying the US system for support of scientific research.
Remarks and Approval of Minutes, Dr. Frank Harris
The minutes of
the October 22-23, 1998, meeting were unanimously approved. Dr.
Harris welcomed Dr. Jacobs as the next chair and stressed the importance
of interactions with other AC chairs and Director's office. He
then gave a brief summary of the March 1999 meeting of AC Chairs
with Dr. Colwell. He noted that many of the issues discussed at
that meeting were embodied in their agenda and that Dr. Colwell
asked the ACs to discuss these issues and provide feedback, especially
in the following areas:
- cost sharing;
- broadening participation in NSF programs, particularly
in increasing the diversity of institutional participation.
A real opportunity exists to achieve integration of education
and research as increasing numbers of graduate students enter
academia outside of the top 100 research institutions. Dr. Harris
expressed the opinion that BIO could be a strong player.
technology and the tie between its development and application;
and the role of biology in the environment;
- international science-the
role of NSF and BIO; he noted the establishment of an NSB Task
Force on International Collaboration and Partnerships;
evolution of GPRA-the first "real" report is due
March 2000-in preparation for this, directorates (including BIO)
and NSF have been generating mock reports.
These are some of the questions and issues that will be addressed
throughout this BIOAC meeting.
Discussion of FY 2000 Budget Request and BIO Initiatives, Dr.
Dr. Clutter conveyed Dr. Colwell's budget planning perspective
to the group. Instead of looking at outyear budgets as a dismal
picture, Dr. Colwell is looking at what we need to accomplish our
goals in the outyears - a very liberating perspective. As to the
FY 2000 budget request, Congress must take into account many issues
and it is likely that there would not be any feedback until late
Dr.Clutter went on to outline some of the Administration initiatives
included in the NSF FY 2000 budget request: IT2 - a $366M investment
for FY2000. There is $146 million in NSF's FY 2000 budget request
that would fund a grid of machines and software forming a terascale
computing system ($36M), with the remaining $110M to be spent on
research, including ethical, social and workforce issues.
Another big initiative deals with the environment -- Integrated
Science for Ecosystem Challenges -- $90M is requested for this
area in the President's budget request. Within NSF's request, Biocomplexity
in the Environment gets $50M for Phase 2 in FY 2000. Dr. Goldberg
asked if Biocomplexity is limited to ecology and ecosystems. Dr.
Clutter replied that it is not and that input from the BIOAC will
help to shape the Biocomplexity initiative.
In the area of plant biology, the sequencing of Arabidopsis will
be completed by the end of CY 2000 providing an excellent resource
for plant functional genomics. In the first year of the Plant Genome
Program, NSF funded 12 virtual centers and convened a meeting of
the plant genome PIs that turned into an exciting and interesting
In the area of Education for the Future (EFF), BIO has requested
$51.39 million for FY 2000, an increase of $2.8 million. This includes
REU, IGERT, CAREER and microbial postocs.
Dr. Quatrano asked if the decrease in number of proposals over
the last couple of years coincides with BIO's decision to no longer
fund duplicate submissions to another agency. Dr. Clutter clarified
that the BIO policy is "no simultaneous review." BIO
will still accept duplicate proposals but will only review them
at the same time as another Federal agency if they meet one of
two exceptions-(1) prior agreement by both agencies to joint review
with possible joint funding or (2) proposals from beginning investigators
(as defined in the Grant Proposal Guide). She went on to say she
does not think this policy is the reason for the recent decline
in proposal submissions. Dr. Horsch reported that a recent committee
of visitors concluded that even if the NSF budget were quadrupled,
the agency would still have plenty of high-caliber reviewed awards
to fund that are normally forced to be left on the table. Dr. Noonan
speculated that perhaps new investigators are easily discouraged
after a couple declines. Dr. Villa-Komaroff agreed that young faculty
are very easily discouraged. Dr. Wake suggested that in the time
it takes to write a good grant you could write two research publications.
She asked where is the time investment best applied?
Dr. Chuck Liarakos pointed out that the problem in MCB is not
with funding rates but with award size.
Dr. Clutter briefly discussed FY 2001 in terms of opportunities
and unmet needs. Each Assistant Director was asked to provide examples
of unmet needs that could be met by a substantial increase in the
The BIOAC responded:
- strengthen discipline research by (1)
increasing success rate to 35%, (2) increasing award size to
$200,000, and (3) incorporating genomics technologies more broadly;
- establish a National Ecological Observatory Network, consisting
of 20 observatories from pole to pole to enable the study of
biocomplexity (molecular to ecosystem level), in a consortium
approach. The Network would be able to predict dynamics of species
distribution and abundance, lead toward global climate understanding,
link universities, involve K-12 participation, and provide outreach
to the public;
- establish a total plant genomics project. By 2010, we could
determine the functions of the 25,000 genes of the Arabidopsis
Dr. Fraser commented on current approaches to functional genomics
and the need to develop technology on a genomics-wide scale. She
asked how NSF can help develop this technology. Dr. Quatrano said
that by expanding plant genomics to include a wider range of plants,
beyond crop plants, with today's technology we will get more function.
Dr. Jacobs said that partnering with the CISE directorate for the
IT2 component is a necessity to tackle these goals.
In summary, the cost of these unmet needs in BIO alone is over
$1 billion. Several "speed bumps", such as sharing of
information will have to be resolved. There is some duplication
of federal and private sector funding in genomics, but this is
necessary because government focuses on the long-term while the
private sector generally focuses on the short-term. Dr. Noonan
reemphasized this, and added that confidentiality agreements are
becoming more commonplace and that universities need to be prepared
to stand up to industry and private sector contacts and agreements.
There is a tremendous benefit from private sector collaboration,
but the pitfalls need to be identified and worked through. Education
of industry and of academia is needed.
Information Technology for the 21st Century
Discussants: Dr. Ellen goldberg (lead), Dr. Ralph Quatrano,
Dr. Leonard Krishtalka, Dr. Gwen Jacobs
NSF Staff: Dr. Maryanna Henkart (Lead), Dr. Machi Dilworth, Dr.
Dr. Maryanna Henkart opened with a quote by Michael Levitt: "Computers
have changed biology forever, even if most biologists don't know
it yet." She presented the PITAC (President's Information
Technology Advisory Committee) report recommendations - development
of enhanced, robust software; development of scalable (internet-like)
information infrastructure; development of high-end computing;
and socioeconomic impacts and needs for training and education.
She then summarized BIO's IT2 needs including: robust software,
electronic networking, wireless technologies, high-end computing,
and education and training.
Dr. Gwen Jacobs served on an NIH panel looking at these issues
and presented a brief report. The group was charged with identifying
the challenges and opportunities in biomedical computing. In this
arena, NSF is way ahead of NIH. Two major areas where there are
needs and challenges are: (1) work-force issues, including the
lack of trained personnel in the labs and lack of student interest
in this arena; and (2) access to resources. She talked about the
need for access to supercomputers to conduct research. Resource
access including computer clusters and reliable software is needed
at home institutions.
The NIH panel report is due out in the first week of June. It
will include stories and descriptions of what the centers will
do. Two solutions are to establish two levels of resources at a
total funding level of $200 million - $250 million; (1) training
centers driven by a scientific question, where students will receive
bioinformatics training, solving shortage of trained personnel;
and, (2) providing more equipment at the institutions in the forms
of computer clusters, access to supercomputers, and software development.
Questions NIH will need to consider are: Is there a review mechanism
for handling such proposals? Would panels be willing to fund a
programmer as a member of a laboratory? How are physicians going
to be trained to use these resources (i.e. immersion training at
the centers)? She also asked what the money for these centers will
actually do. Will it drive institutional change to hire faculty
members in bioinformatics? Institutions need to embrace this new
area and be prepared to bend departmental boundaries. She said
that the only way that this can happen is to require biology students
to take more math and more computer science.
In the panel discussion, bioinformatics was defined as the computer-assisted
acquisition and integration of data within and across disciplines
in a research context. The panel said that there is a need to encourage
cross-training between biological and mathematics/computer science
disciplines. Such cross-training should start at the undergraduate
level while also including faculty so that they may develop adequate
skills to teach students. The panel's concerns regarding IT in
bioinformatics included the fact that biologists often consider
it to be a "service industry," involving the curation
of databases, software, etc. We need the inclusion of hypothesis-driven
bioinformatics to maintain research-driven bioinformatics. There
are not enough people to meet both the service and research needs
of informatics, which leads to rapid burnout of creative people.
Integrating biology and computer science would require the presence
of theory-, modeling-, and hypothesis-driven research across the
Opportunities for future biology/computer science informatics
research include considering research on some aspects of biocomplexity
as potential models for complex behavior of computers and computer
networks since computer networks are themselves complex systems.
Thus, NSF could take the lead on developing software that will
make complexity tractable. NSF should serve as facilitator for
cross-discipline research. Possibilities include developing initiatives
to encourage biology and computer science graduate students to
work together, with graduate students work in teams involving biologists,
computer, political, and social scientists.
The steps we need to take now: (1) develop a white paper regarding
what bioinformatics is and what NSF (BIO and CISE) can do to help
it develop in ways useful to biologists; (2) what type of initiative
and activities NSF can then do to encourage this type of research;
and, (3) more advisory committee cross-talk. The current and incoming
BIO chair were encouraged to facilitate cross-AC collaboration.
LUNCH -- "What's Happening at EPA Overview", Norine
Dr. Norine Noonan, presented a brief synopsis on EPA. The EPA
was created 30 years ago from pieces of other agencies and doesn't
have any organic statute. EPA's major responsibility is regulatory.
Fully half of EPA's portfolio is the protection of human life.
The EPA has strong, active collaboration with NSF and other federal
agencies, international bodies, industry, as well as state, local
and tribal governments. Dr. Noonan gave a summary of EPA's current
funding plan. She then gave examples of ongoing ecological research
and collaboration with NSF and other agencies (SBER, Water and
Watersheds, etc.). The EPA awards around $100 million in competitive
grants each year. There are no unsolicited competitions; requests
for proposals are only in specific areas. Dr. Noonan gave a summary
of the EPA GPRA plan. Monies are allocated by goal in accordance
with GPRA. EPA is relying on its Science Advisory Board, NAS, and
ORD committees to develop goal reporting on such questions as:
How can they demonstrate that goals are being met? Smaller applications
of pesticides would be an output. How that affects human health
would be an outcome. That is difficult to get a handle on.
Clutter took this opportunity to announce that in the week to
follow, Dr. Robert Horsch would be awarded the National Medal of
Technology for his work on recombinant DNA, plant tissues, and
somatic cell genetics. The committee members took great pleasure
in this and congratulated Dr. Horsch on his accomplishments.
THURSDAY, APRIL 22 - Afternoon Session
Biocomplexity in the Environment
Dr. James Collins (Lead), Dr. Claire Fraser, Dr. George Jones
NSF Staff: Dr. Joann Roskoski (LEAD), Dr. Bruce Umminger, Dr. Charles
Dr. Joanne Roskoski presented summary slides of biocomplexity-like
research at NSF over the last 10 years (though it was not called
biocomplexity at the time). Dr. Roskoski summarized the Biocomplexity
Phase I competition. This competition focused on micro-organisms
in biological, chemical, geological, physical and social environments
to keep the first competition small. There were 113 pre-proposals,
which involved 525 involved researchers and requested a total
of $325 million; 34 pre-proposers were requested to submit full
proposals. The full proposal panel is August 5-6. A total of $11
million is available for the Phase I competition.
The working group for the Phase II competition, representing all
of NSF, was charged by Dr. Colwell to come up with a scope and
plan for Phase II implementation. They are looking to publish an
announcement for Phase II later this year. Advice for planning
the Biocomplexity Phase II Program Announcement suggested that
consideration be given to (1) requiring inclusion of a specific
model, and (2) focusing on properties of complexity (such as emergent
properties, feedback, hierarchies, sensitivity to initial conditions,
etc.) that could be illustrated and understood in biological systems
in conjunction with other disciplines. There was concern that there
be focus so that not every area of science could apply.
Question 1: Why do biological systems afford a special opportunity,
offer special challenges, and serve as special models for understanding
- Unlike physical or chemical systems, each biological system
has some unique properties.
- Biological systems are self-replicating and self-sustaining,
whereas other systems are not.
- Biological systems are scalable and hierarchical in space and
time whereas other systems are not scalable the same way; multidimensional
across all levels of hierarchy whereas other fields are not.
- Components of biological systems are individuals.
- We have the conceptual framework along with the computational
tools to examine complex biological systems and explore the
field of biocomplexity.
- Cautionary note: In order to address biocomplexity adequately,
model building must transcend to all areas of biology.
Question 2: What are the special opportunities at the interface
of biology and other disciplines for studying complexity?
- Opportunity for understanding the mechanisms by which connections
between the different levels of biology occur - i.e. signal
transduction at cellular level and its impact on other levels,
social sciences impact at the biome level, etc.
- Biology lies at the interface of order and chaos. By investigating
complexity, we may discover that a narrow focus and lack of
understanding led to the classification of some systems as chaotic.
- Opportunity for biologists to learn from other disciplines,
i.e. physicists who believe there is always an answer while biologists
do not. Other disciplines develop analysis tools that can be
adapted to and applied to biology.
Question 3: Does our approach to doing science and the nature
of the research effort change for complex systems? How can we foster
research in biocomplexity?
- Encourage working in groups and overcoming the "language" barrier
between disciplines; this needs to be fostered in the institutions.
- Shift focus from hypothesis-driven proposals to proposals that
are a combination of hypotheses and also built around a working
model of the system.
- Will limited budgets discourage groups of people
from pulling together to submit proposals?
- Will focus fall towards
larger institutions with more resources already
- Ways to address concerns:
- Tools of the
computer and internet may allow collaboration at
individual institutions to spread to multi-institutions.
- Groups and conferences can facilitate discussion between
institutions and across disciplines. It may be important
to bring modelers and experimentalists together in groups
to talk before reaching the large STC-scale grants.
overlook virtual centers in favor of STC centers. Value
that could be added from any institution would be lost going
with an STC-type organization versus a virtual center-type
Dr. Marvalee Wake (Lead), Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones, Dr. Robert Horsch
NSF Staff: Dr. Machi Dilworth (Lead)
Dr. Wake remarked that although relatively few US scientists are
involved in international/industrial partnerships, overall interest
is increasing. Many scientists do not know how to set up or look
for such partnerships. Possible ways or avenues to encourage partnerships:
- Hold meetings, symposia, etc. to bring industry and researchers
together. Encourage industry involvement in editing journals,
reviews, etc. to expose industry to research and influence
the way they think.
- Opportunities for partnerships in bioinformatics are probably
much wider spread in industry than other educational institutions.
Partnerships with industry are important in order to reduce
the tremendous duplication of effort in scientific areas such
as genomics. The issues surrounding intellectual property values
would have to be addressed. It was suggested that since industrial
partnership is such a complex topic, it may be helpful to focus
future discussion on a single issue within this topic.
Foreign countries tend to view NSF as unwilling to fund broadly
international science and also view US scientists as relative isolationists.
How can NSF shake this misperception?
- Facilitate new types of collaboration, posing a question on a
grant that would lend itself to international or industry collaboration.
Research that contributes to biomedicine and agriculture can be
easily used to forge industrial partnerships although other areas
need to find ties with industry. Set up areas for matching support.
- Biology is gaining more interest worldwide, and foreign agencies
will be looking at what NSF and BIO can do. NSF needs to spend
time developing a program, understanding the players, and understanding
the "rules" of the partnership design. Complexity is
a global issue, and centers, virtual or realized, will be important
to establish worldwide and need international cooperation.
- NSF could set aside a sum of money earmarked for international
projects. The new European community now has a European pot
of money for research, which could provide an avenue for NSF
to get involved in international funding.
NSF can and should play a unique role in fostering science-based
(not politics-based) international partnerships. The value of these
partnerships include realization of the political and social issues
of the other parts of the world.
New Approaches to Undergraduate Biology
Dr. Laura Hoopes (Lead)
NSF Staff: Dr. Grace Wyngaard (Lead)
Dr. Hoopes led the panel discussion which can be summarized by
- Undergraduate education must incorporate the needs
of the biocomplexity scientist by incorporating problem-solving
coupled with writing, collaboration with humanities and sciences,
as well as more mathematics, statistics, and computer science
coursework. CISE and BIO directorates may be able to facilitate
- The institutional barriers for reforming curricula and providing
interdisiciplinary education for students are considerable.
Universities should avail themselves of 'renegade faculty' who
cross traditional departmental and disciplinary boundaries to
develop IGERT-like activities for undergraduates. The BIO Directorate
should explore modifying the current IGERT competition to accomplish
- Team-teaching classes and problem-solving sessions with other
departments could serve to challenge students across disciplines.
We could provide funding for faculty to develop and implement
new curriculum changes.
FRIDAY, APRIL 23 -
Remarks, Dr. Rita Colwell, Director, NSF
Dr. Colwell said that we need to increase NSF's budget to reflect
the importance of basic research and education. Current success
rates (low) do not reflect the quality and caliber of the proposals.
NSF should make a case to Congress that insufficient funds prevent
NSF from supporting and doing important projects.
Biocomplexity is an important issue in that it brings together
the complexity that has been fermenting in all disciplines. Building
prediction models will help reach decision making goals in environmental
policy. Dr. Colwell also said that BIO and CISE need to work together
on the IT2 project to develop a white paper initiative. In addition,
EHR and BIO AC should work together to develop initiatives with
undergraduates to encourage bioinformatics and that perhaps an
undergraduate IGERT could foster this development.
She also said that STCs and similar ways of increasing the quality
of science and building infrastructure provide important ways to
change communities. STC's need to be strongly encouraged to strengthen
the education and diversity of their own institution in addition
to reaching out to other institutions. Also, more minority post-docs
and graduate fellowships are needed to increase PI diversity.
NSF Issue Discussion: Proposed Cost Sharing Policy
Discussant: Dr. Lydia Villa-Komaroff
NSF Staff: Dr. Thomas Quarles (Lead)
Dr. Clutter noted that the NSB has not yet passed the cost-sharing
policy. Dr. Villa-Komaroff said that cost sharing hasn't been much
of a problem in BIO much, but in other directorates it is an issue.
Some BIO programs, like instrumentation, require 30% to 50% cost-sharing,
written up front. However, sometimes a cost-sharing requirement
is not written in the announcement and not mentioned in the proposal,
and then at panel such a lack may hurt a proposal with no mention
of cost sharing. Program Officers sometimes impose cost sharing
as a way to spread small budgets across a larger number of awards.
She then summarized the new cost-sharing draft policy. When applicable,
cost-sharing must be mentioned in announcements. No bargaining
on cost-sharing is allowed after awarding a proposal. Differential
cost sharing for different size programs can occur.
In the panel discussion, Dr. Collins pointed out that with some
larger grants, such as LTERs, cost-sharing may be an issue, and
that cost-sharing is also required on IGERTs. Dr. Jacobs asked
if there could be any hope of a cost-sharing sliding scale? Dr.
Villa-Komaroff said that there is a problem with enforcing the
cost-sharing policy in the review process. Dr. Edwards said that
program officers must play a role here. Dr. Harris said that we
must eliminate perception that increasing cost-sharing above required
amounts will give proposals advantage, and eliminate games institutions
can play games with overhead. Dr. Ensley suggested that the cost
sharing component could be submitted separately so it isn't an
issue at review. He pointed out that institutions with the largest
overhead can play the most games with cost-sharing. Several examples
were mentioned regarding institution cost-sharing and overhead
policies and STC cost-sharing where the larger lead institutions
assumed more of the cost-sharing. Dr. Harris asked if the GPG language
would change? Dr. Quarles replied yes, when the NSB votes it into
policy. Dr. Lydia Villa-Komaroff suggested we make cost-sharing
issues clear to review panels before they begin looking at proposals.
Dr. Edwards asked for input on last paragraph of the draft. After
discussion on this issue, there was a motion to reword the last
paragraph to the effect that, with a reduction in budget, the PO,
PI and SRO will work together to determine the effect and any reduction
in scope. Dr. Lydia Villa-Komaroff provided the following rewording:
budget negotiations, reductions of 10% or more in proposed
budget should be accompanied by an assessment of the scope of
the proposal such that the scope of the proposal reflects the
work that can be carried out with no expectation of uncompensated
institutional contribution beyond those formally reflected as
cost sharing. In the event that the scope is modified, the modified
scope should be provided along with the modified budget."
Dr. Chuck Liarakos talked about the NSF CAREER workshop, giving
snapshot views of some of the break-out discussions. This meeting
of CAREER awardees was held in January 1999, with one day focussing
on all of NSF, and one day directorate-specific. The workshop was
attended mostly by 1st or 2nd year awardees, along with some 4th
year individuals. The overall consensus was that the awards allowed
them to do what they would otherwise not be able to do. Some indicated
that if CAREER was their only support, then publications and research
would suffer, which will have impacts at tenure time. But, overall,
they felt that the awards were good for their career. There were
some discussions on the future of the program. CAREERs aren't renewable,
but should that change? Should eligible PI's be expanded to include
mid-career folks, etc.? All participants were asked to comment
on the effect of CAREER awards on their careers. This was also
asked of non-CAREER awardee control groups. Questionnaires also
went to department heads. The resulting report is due out sometime
this summer. The biggest benefit of the meeting was the opportunity
for networking, sharing ideas and experiences and problems of education
and research integration. Enthusiasm was high for continuing CAREERs.
Dr. Joann Roskoski said administrators see curricular reform and
modernization as a big plus, and some CAREER awardees have been
hired for that. Dr. Jacobs asked if there was any mechanism for
long-term tracking of CAREER awardees? Dr. Liarakos said that NSF
is starting to ask for that type of information. Dr. Edwards said
that one of the GPRA performance indicators relevant to education
and research integration is that at least 25% of the research grant
proposals will specifically address said integration, and at least
25% of proposal reviews will address said integration.
GPRA Discussion, BIO FY 1998 Mock GPRA Report
Discussant: Dr. Burt Ensley
NSF Staff: Dr. James Edwards (Lead), Ms. Sonya Mallinoff
Dr. Edwards started by saying that NSF's budget is not specifically
oriented towards GPRA goals, rather GPRA goals permeate what we
do. In the case of NSF, outputs include numbers of awards, personnel
supported, publications produced, etc. NSF is going to try and
focus on outcomes, where committees of visitors and ACs come into
play. He then presented a summary of the GPRA process. COV templates
have been modified to address GPRA goals. Only 1/3 of NSF's programs
are reviewed every year, so there will be a lot of material needed
to bring to bear GPRA results for the other 2/3 - program annual
reports for example. BIO will present FY 1999 data at the December
1999 AC meeting, and the AC will evaluate BIO on the GPRA criteria.
The AC's report will then go through AD, OD, NSB and then the Congress.
Ms. Sonya Malinoff presented a Directorate Annual Self-Assessment
Report, a mock report for FY 1998. The COV process is probably
the most important component, program annual reports cover the
rest. Only one BIO COV to date was specifically structured to address
GPRA. This year COV and annual reports have very structured templates
to address GPRA requirements. This implementation for 1999 will
make the GPRA reporting process easier.
Dr. Ensley said that no one likes generating or assessing reviews,
but they can be very valuable and give a lot of information. There
are three areas of performance evaluation:
- Performance - what have
you done well?
- What have you done that you could have done better, or done
better with outside contribution?
- Goals should be specific, measurable, achievable and challenging
He asked what are the NSF BIO goals and are they SMAC?
Dr. Horsch said that the two benefits of reporting include: reporting
to get a grade to be able to keep going, and secondly improve internal
performance; i.e. developing best science and high-risk portfolios,
use of and improving peer review system, increasing and promoting
Dr. Ensley said that we have expressed the need for a diverse,
globally-oriented science and engineering workforce. NSF takes
this very seriously, and has done a tremendous job, however, this
is difficult to evaluate objectively. Dr. Ensley doesn't think
that NSF has identified the factors affecting performance over
which NSF has no control.
Dr. George Jones asked what happens to a minority PI after a decline?
Does he or she resubmit? Is there any help or encouragement provided
to encourage resubmission? We need to look at successful programs
in other agencies to help increase minority success rates at NSF.
Dr. Ensley said that improved mathematics and science skills are
needed by all Americans. The rating of N/A for this area in the
BIO Mock Report suggests BIO did nothing and does not care. This
is a shared responsibility of all NSF directorates, and some reporting
needs to be included in the BIO report. Dr. Jacobs said that PI's
need to report both on the number of personnel receiving training
by working under a grant, and on how knowledge from a grant is
being shared in classroom experiences. Dr. Liarakos replied that
CAREER reporting will address some of Dr. Jacob's points.
During the panel discussion, Dr. Ensley asked if, as written,
the NSF GPRA goals are appropriate. Dr. Horsch said that we could
include indicators as to what the connections and discoveries are.
Dr. Pfirman said that questions that are asked in PI annual and
final reports should be aligned with the GPRA goals. Also mentioned
was the danger in that the agencies that will gain the most and
need to gain the most from GPRA will do the worst job in reporting
and give themselves the highest grade.
Dr. Edwards said that the
new project reporting system allows PIs to add future results
to their final project reports. He asked how we can encourage PI's
to continually submit updates, and then how would NSF get at
and report on this information.
BIOAC will form a GPRA subcommittee to review, in detail, the
yearly GPRA report and come to the December meetings and give a
report card report to the full committee for discussion.
WORKING LUNCH, Report on BIOAC Workship, "Computing in Life
Sciences", Pomona College, April 25, 1998, Dr. Laura Hoopes
Dr. Clutter briefly described a series of workshops developed
and organized by AC members around the theme "integration
of research and education." There have been nine workshops
to date each addressing an area or topic of interest to the AC
member's community and/or region. Dr. Clutter invited other members
who might be interested in organizing a workshop to contact her.
Each workshop must produce a report that the AC member can present
at a subsequent meeting. BIO can provide limited funds for incidental
expenses such as conference space and limited travel expenses if
necessary. Reports of the workshops are available on the BIOAC
Dr. Hoopes said that two main questions were asked at the workshop
- Is computing in the life sciences bringing teaching
and research closer together? She summarized the speakers
comments. There was a general discussion on whether or not research
and teaching are brought together via computer resources in the
life sciences. The problem of support was addressed. For example,
computers must be reliable, personnel able to troubleshoot, to
keep the systems running, and to train users, must be made available.
Virtual versus real lab experiences were discussed - some real
lab experience must be there, but the two could work together.
It was asked what could be measured to determine if computers
are bringing education and research together. Biology alumni
at Harvey Mudd were asked what was most important aspect of undergraduate
education. They responded that writing experience and real life
research experience were the most important.
- What concerns are there about computer infrastructure in biology?
Dr. Hoopes summarized the discussions of infrastructure needs
that arise from the increase in use of computing in the life
sciences. Students need to have more knowledge of the techniques
that students are using. Too many undergraduate students have
weak chemistry and physics backgrounds from high school. Concerns
were raised about the expense of replacing and upgrading infrastructure.
The consensus feeling was that institutions are not stepping
up and keeping infrastructure current. Other discussions included
Internet 2 and its importance to institutions.
During the panel discussion, Dr. Collins expressed concern with
improving infrastructure in universities. Dr. Clutter addressed
the previous suggestion that NSF could establish regional state-of-the-art
computing and instrumentation centers that are kept cutting edge,
and asked if that would make sense. Dr. Hoopes said yes, but several
logistics would need to be worked out, such as staffing, training,
and ability of people to travel to the centers. Dr. George Jones
indicated that that is how science works in Europe. He asked how
you determine at the end if the students have learned more biology,
or if they have learned the same biology just in a different way.
Dr. Wake strongly supported the idea of shared technology centers
- both to benefit smaller schools that have no other means of acquiring
such resources, and to foster more interaction between large and
FRIDAY, APRIL 23 - Afternoon Session
Role of Advisory Committee in the 21st Century, Dr. Frank Harris,
Dr. Harris started by saying that the caliber of people attracted
to the BIOAC means that the AC could be of greater assistance
and have greater influence on NSF. He pointed out that similar
committees at other agencies look at 3 budget cycles at a time,
and therefore have more flexibility to platform back and forth
as needed. He suggested that thinking in these broader time frames
would be useful, but take more time. Some augmentation and activity
in-between current meetings would be needed. Dr. Harris cited the
following areas as ripe ones for the AC to consider developing
short whitepapers: technology development for functional genomics;
bioinformatics and IT2 and development of new software; education;
research integration with examples of how to increase undergraduate
participation and diversity; and the GPRA process and planning.
He asked for committee input as to taking on more and longer term
During the panel discussion, Dr. Hoopes said that she felt that
the rewards of putting more time would be worthwhile. Dr. Harris
gave a model example of how BIOAC members would form outreach committees
to investigate some of the cited examples. Dr. Jacobs asked to
get more reporting on the "new exciting programs" from
previous years so investment and impact can be better evaluated.
She emphasized BIO's position to be ready to take a lead in NSF
regarding biocomplexity and biotechnology.
Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones addressed the need of the AC to develop short,
concise whitepapers addressing the topics discussed, and the need
to move quickly but also questioned what influence said whitepapers
would have. Short papers could have an impact on future budgets.
Two roles for the AC to take up are (1) more intensive internal
follow-up, and (2) being external voice for the community, increasing
community awareness. Dr. Harris said that he would like to see
the AC whitepapers written up in Science/Science News. Dr. Clutter
said that it would be extremely beneficial to have a subset of
the AC committee working with BIO and the community to develop
strategic plans for the next 10 years.
Dr. Harris said that the AC needs to be more proactive and proposed
areas with which to start: (1) BIO and CISE connection, (2) beyond
plant genomics, (3) educational component, and (4) biocomplexity
in the environment. Dr. Hoopes mentioned enthusiasm for an undergraduate
IGERT. Dr. Clutter commented that the educational initiatives are
important, and are an important part of Dr. Colwell's agenda. Between
now and December we need to take a hard look at all of the educational
programs and what the extent of the education actually is. Dr.
Clutter said that we will look strategically at issues and come
up with a charge to AC committee members.
Fall -- December 2-3, 1999
Spring -- April 24 -25, 2000 (tentative)
Hardcopy minutes approved by W. Franklin Harris for Gwen A. Jacobs,
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