Summary of FY2001 Budget Request to Congress - National Science Foundation


BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES $511,140,000

The FY 2001 Budget Request for the Biological Sciences Activity (BIO) is $511.14 million, an increase of $96.71 million, or 23.3 percent, over the FY 2000 Current Plan of $414.43 million.

(Millions of Dollars)

FY 1999
Actual

FY 2000
Current Plan

FY 2001
Request

Change

Amount

Percent

Molecular and Cellular Biosciences

101.27

105.26

133.15

27.89

26.5%

Integrative Biology and Neuroscience

90.68

94.63

119.69

25.06

26.5%

Environmental Biology

86.18

89.83

119.23

29.40

32.7%

Biological Infrastructure

63.64

65.08

79.44

14.36

22.1%

Plant Genome Research

50.33

59.63

59.63

0.00

0.0%

Total, BIO

$392.10

$414.43

$511.14

$96.71

23.3%

The Biological Sciences Activity provides support for research to advance understanding of the underlying principles and mechanisms governing life. Research ranges from the study of the structure and dynamics of biological molecules, such as proteins and nucleic acids, through cells, organs and organisms, to studies of populations and ecosystems. It encompasses processes that are internal to the organism as well as those that are external, and includes temporal frameworks ranging from measurements in real time through individual life spans, to the full scope of evolutionary time.

The highest priority within the BIO Activity is to support the vitality of the biological sciences at U.S. colleges and universities, especially in those areas where NSF has major responsibility. The Foundation is the nation's principal supporter of fundamental academic research on plant biology, environmental biology, and biodiversity.

The Multinational Coordinated Arabidopsis Genome Project is an example of fundamental research in the area of plant biology where BIO has provided leadership. The current goal of this international effort is to sequence the entire genome of Arabidopsis by the end of the year 2000. It will result in the first complete genome sequence of any plant. Since Arabidopsis is a model organism for plant biology studies, much of the knowledge generated from its genome sequence is readily applicable to many other higher plants. This project was highlighted in the journal Science, which devoted an entire issue to Arabidopsis thaliana and the sequencing project. In December 1999, the complete sequences of two of the five Arabidopsis chromosomes were published in Nature, providing new insights about the organization of eukaryotic genomes. By January 2000, over 80 percent of the Arabidopsis genome had been sequenced and had already contributed to new discoveries and potential applications to plant-based industries. Additional investments in Arabidopsis sequencing made through the Plant Genome Research Program will allow completion of sequencing by the end of the year 2000 rather than 2004 as initially expected. This is part of an international effort involving six groups in Europe, Japan, and the United States. The U.S. effort is jointly supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy, with NSF as the lead agency.

The genetic complement of an organism is like a blueprint: it contains the complete plans for the organism's development and functioning. Scientists visualize an organism's blueprint by sequencing its DNA. But having that sequence information does not tell a researcher what all the genes do or how they interact. In other words, sequence data is essential but is not enough to tell us everything about how an organism develops and functions. Building on the large and growing store of information amassed in the international sequence databases, biologists are now able to attack the next frontier in biology.

BIO's role in the area of environmental biology is equally important. The integrative role of environmental biology for all biological sciences has greatly expanded with the conceptual and technological advances of the last decade. Recent findings of the "Deep Green" project, a collaboratory started by a grant to three scientists at three institutions, which in five years blossomed to include over 200 scientists in 12 countries, offer a particularly good example. Armed with powerful computational and molecular tools and the conceptual underpinnings of modern systematic biology, this project made radical new discoveries about the history of plant life on earth. Ramifications of these findings span practical areas ranging from agriculture to economics. Knowing the family tree of all life is essential if we are to make correct choices in combating invasive species, restoring damaged ecosystems, understanding the functional role of genes, and discovering new biological compounds.

More than 80 percent of BIO funding is directed toward investigator-initiated, fundamental research, predominantly in colleges and universities, across the U.S. Emphasis is placed on support for studies that enrich the fundamental knowledge base, for projects integrating research and education, and for high risk/high potential research. BIO also places a high priority on support for new investigators beginning their scientific careers; approximately one-third of all new competitive research awards made by BIO are to new investigators. BIO plays a major role in support of research resources for the biological sciences including multi-user instrumentation, living stock centers, plant genome sequencing, systematics collections, biological field stations, and computerized databases.

People are NSF's most important product. At NSF, placing research and learning hand in hand is our highest priority, and the people involved in our projects represent both the focus of our investments and the most important products of them. Across its programs, BIO provides support for almost 9,800 people, including students, researchers, post-doctorates, and trainees. Support for BIO programs specifically addressing NSF's Strategic Goal of "People - A diverse, internationally competitive and globally-engaged workforce of scientists, engineers and well-prepared citizens" totals more than $49 million in FY 2001, an increase of 11.4 percent over FY 2000. Moreover, about 40 percent of the funding for research grants - an amount approaching $158 million in FY 2001 - provides support for researchers and students, including more than 5,700 post-doctorates, trainees, and graduate and undergraduate students.

In FY 2001, the BIO Activity will increase funding by a total of $96.71 million. A significant portion of the increase is directed toward enhancing support for research efforts related to the four focused NSF research initiatives: Biocomplexity in the Environment (BE), Information Technology Research (ITR), Nanoscale Science and Engineering, and 21 st Century Workforce.

Biocomplexity in the Environment (BE): BE research examines phenomena that arise as a result of dynamic interactions that occur within biological systems and between these systems and the physical environment. BIO support for BE increases by $84.81 million in FY 2001. Three areas will receive an increase:

  • Genomic Approaches to Biocomplexity: + $25.50 million

    "2010 Project": With the completion of the genome of the model plant Arabidopsis, researchers will begin a systematic effort to determine the functions of the 20,000 to 25,000 genes of this flowering plant. Such an effort would be impossible without the data provided by the Arabidopsis Genome Project. Research on this topic across the Activity will include development of new algorithms for searching sequence databases for similar genes; use of gene chips or microarrays to analyze the full complement of genes that are active in various plant tissues and at various times during development; continued research on plant physiology, development and cell biology, with the aim of understanding the role of metabolic and development pathways; and development of new functional genomics databases that will facilitate exchange of information. Scientists anticipate that the "2010 Project" will lead to construction of an integrated database of a "virtual plant" that will allow predictive approaches to the science of plant biology.

  • Integrated Science for Ecosystem Challenges (ISEC): + $14.0 million

    The interagency ISEC initiative, developed through the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), has identified four strategic focus areas: Invasive Species, Biodiversity, and Species Decline; Harmful Algal Blooms, Hypoxia, and Eutrophication; Habitat Conservation and Ecosystem Productivity; and Information Management and Integrated Assessments. BIO's support for these activities is currently $79.90 million for a total NSF investment in FY 2000 of $109.0 million.

    As part of the BE initiative, an increase of $14.0 million in FY 2001 is requested for research contributing to the ISEC initiative. The increase will fund research and operations activities associated with the development of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). NEON development costs are requested separately within the Major Research Equipment (MRE) account. Disciplinary and interdisciplinary research associated with NEON will explore the biology of our planet at all levels (molecules to ecosystems) in terrestrial, aquatic, and marine environments.

  • Additional Research related to Biocomplexity: +$45.31 million

    This increase, which includes $20.31 million redirected from other base activities, will support the continued development of other aspects of the biocomplexity portfolio. This research builds on activities supported in FY 2000 through the Biocomplexity competition for Integrated Research to Understand and Model Complexity. Areas of special focus will include: investigations on the origin and dynamics of complexity in biological systems; studies that integrate and synthesize extant and new information to achieve a predictive understanding of system behavior; understanding how organisms are adapted to their environment, including extreme conditions; and the incorporation of new tools and approaches, including functional genomics and phylogenetics, into all areas of biocomplexity research.

Information Technology Research (ITR): In FY 2001, an increase of $8.3 million is requested for activities that include:

  • Computational algorithms and search tools: High level tools of computation and communication are now absolutely required to approach complex biological problems. Additional research on advanced computational algorithms and functional linkages among diverse databases is required to organize, retrieve and make accessible the vast amounts of data required for functional genomics and computational modeling.

  • Development of new computational approaches: Biologists and computer scientists will collaborate on new approaches to several problems of long-standing interest to both communities. These include conducting research on visualization of a wide range of biological data, ranging from protein folding to ecological simulations; developing new scaling algorithms, which are essential in attempting to relate, for example, cellular functions to changes in ecosystems; and developing new kinds of data models that are able to accommodate the high degrees of complexity and ambiguity inherent in biological systems.

Nanoscale Science and Engineering: In FY 2001, an increase of $4.60 million, for a total of $4.90 million, for research related to nanotechnology will focus on living organisms that operate and replicate themselves using systems of exquisitely coordinated molecular machines. The proteins, DNA, RNA, lipids, and carbohydrates that make up these molecular machines can generate a wide range of minute, three-dimensional structures and perform a wide range of functions in a diversity of living systems. Such naturally-occurring molecular machines can serve as prototypes or suggest models for nano-science and technology. Research will focus on study of the structure and regulation of macromolecular machines and macromolecular complexes that are capable of self-replication and self-assembly. Nanoscale biosensors and information processors provide new opportunities for understanding cellular communication and detection of environmentally important signals.

21 st Century Workforce: BIO will provide an increase of $200,000 for a total of $1.70 million to support this initiative. Included is continued support for the NSF Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education and the Interagency Education Research Initiative program, a collaborative program with the Department of Education and the National Institutes of Health.

Disciplinary Research: Functional genomics is revolutionizing biological research in all areas. This emerging multidisciplinary area provides a new paradigm in biology by linking sequence data to the biological functions at the cellular, organismal, ecological, and evolutionary levels. For example, functional genomics tools allow researchers to conduct sequence comparisons among several different species to determine the similarities and differences between their genomes. This approach provides a way to determine which genes are common to all life forms, and which genes are unique to specific species. Identifying the function of genes of known sequence has great practical value for biotechnology applications, as they may be used to develop improved or novel crop plants of added value. In addition, gene chip technology can be used to determine all the genes active in an organism under a specific environmental condition or at a specific developmental stage; this information allows researchers to understand how genes interact to bring about normal growth and developmental processes. Complementing the "2010 Project," which is part of BE and will focus on the functional genomics of Arabidopsis, BIO will increase support for the disciplinary base by $54.46 million for a total of $258.03 million with particular emphasis on areas of emerging importance:

. Functional genomics of selected organisms. Funding will support functional genomics projects of key organisms with high environmental significance, including selected animals and microorganisms. This research will be of great value to environmental and agricultural biotechnology. It will provide the basic knowledge needed to develop predictive models that relate genomic-level structure and function to ecosystem functioning, and to understand and mitigate such challenges as invasive species, climatic factors (e.g., drought) and environmental contaminants

. Fundamental Plant Biology. Taking advantage of the massive plant genomics datasets and resources now being generated, plant biologists will address unanswered fundamental questions in plant biology such as how plants grow and develop, how plants perceive and respond to both biotic and abiotic environmental signals, or what determines the shape and size of the plant.

. Science of Learning. Cognitive neuroscience is bridging the fields of cognitive psychology and neuroscience, with a great impetus from new techniques for imaging the activity in normal brains during tasks like recognition, reading, and learning. The implications of these findings for education are beginning to be transferred to strategies for teaching and educational technology.

STRATEGIC GOALS

BIO's support for ongoing and new activities contributes as follows to NSF efforts to achieve its strategic goals, as well as to the administration and management activities necessary to achieve those goals:

(Millions of Dollars)

FY 2000
Estimate

FY 2001
Estimate

Percent
C hange

Ideas

315.31

391.45

24.1%

Tools

50.83

64.16

26.2%

People

44.47

49.56

11.4%

Administration & Management 1

3.82

5.97

56.3%

Total, BIO

$414.43

$511.14

23.3%

1 Includes only costs charged to the R&RA Appropriation

Ideas

The Biological Sciences Activity provides support for research to advance understanding of the underlying principles and mechanisms governing life. BIO's support for discovery at and across the frontier of science spans all the biological disciplines represented in BIO. BIO-supported research effectively builds the knowledge base for resolution of societal concerns in areas as diverse as: food, nutrition, and agriculture; protection of the environment; and education.

The NSF initiatives for Biocomplexity in the Environment (BE) and Information Technology Research (ITR) represent crucial enhancements in funding needed to build support for research, infrastructure, and education. BIO's participation in these initiatives recognize the Activity's role as the major federal source of fundamental academic research in plant biology and environmental biology. Within plant biology, sequencing capabilities and informatics tools are opening the door toward an understanding of the workings of all genes in plants. Likewise instrumentation, databases, and enhanced support for collaborative projects across disciplines have begun to create research programs and teams of researchers that are attempting to understand the complexity of biological systems, from the inner workings of the cell to the complexities of interacting components within a large ecosystem.

In FY 2001 as part of the BE initiative, $25.50 million is requested, which incudes $3.0 million under Tools, to begin the "2010 Project", a project with the goal of determining the function of all 20,000-25,000 genes of a model flowering plant by the year 2010. The transfer of knowledge from research supported in this area is almost instantaneous, as biotechnology companies seek to transform this information into better products for society, from food to pharmaceuticals to environmentally benign products. These funds are included in all Subactivities within BIO. The use of genome sequence information in combination with data from other biological research to study what genes do, and how sequence is related to function, is being incorporated into research paradigms from molecular and cellular biology to environmental biology. The need for tools and other resource infrastructure to support this burgeoning area of research is likewise impacting the resource programs under Tools within the Subactivity for Biological Infrastructure.

With the initiation of the "2010 Project", plant genome research across all BIO Subactivities will total more than $102 million in FY 2001, which includes $59.60 million provided through the Plant Genome Research Subactivity.

Modern biological science increasingly involves teams of scientists and students at all levels of education, and requires increasing access to supplies, equipment, and data, the latter often requiring the ability to access, analyze, and visualize remote databases. For these reasons, the cost of modern biological research is increasing and in FY 2001 BIO will focus on enhancing award sizes for new awards in the NSF initiative areas to fully enable the research. An average new research award within the BIO Activity in FY 2001 will total $435,000 over three years of support.

Centers

BIO-supported centers are another important component in the portfolio of activities supported that underpin the quest for new knowledge, ideas, and discoveries. The BIO centers facilitate the development of new knowledge and techniques and include Science and Technology Centers (STCs), Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites, the Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (CEAS), and Plant Genome Virtual Centers. In FY 2001, BIO will maintain support for all centers while focusing requested increases on individual research projects both to individual investigators and to group project support.

(Millions of Dollars)

FY 2000
Estimate

FY 2001
Estimate

Percent
Change

Science and Technology Centers 1

4.32

3.50

-19.0%

Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

2.00

2.00

0.0%

Long Term Ecological Research Program

13.79

13.79

0.0%

Plant Genome Virtual Centers

31.00

31.00

0.0%

Total, BIO

$51.11

$50.29

-1.6%

1 The reduction of support for STCs reflects the planned phase-out of the second class in FY 2000 and FY 2001.

 

The three remaining BIO-supported Science and Technology Centers (STC) have begun to phase down and will receive final funding in FY 2001.

The Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (CEAS), established in FY 1995, promotes integrative studies of complex ecological questions and serves as a locus for synthesis of large data sets. The goals of the Center are to advance the state of ecological knowledge through the search for universal patterns and principles and to organize and synthesize ecological information so that it will be useful in addressing important environmental problems.

In FY 2000, NSF supported 24 Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites. The LTER sites are representative of major ecosystems. Four sites are located in coastal ecosystems, two are in human-dominated, urban ecosystems, and the remaining 18 sites cover a broad range of ecosystems including the Arctic tundra of Alaska, the deserts of New Mexico, the rainforests of Puerto Rico, and the Dry Valleys of Antarctica. BIO provides support for 21 of these sites. This support will be maintained in FY 2001; no additional sites are to be established at this time.

The Plant Genome Research Subactivity supports virtual centers (centers without walls) or collaboratories where coordinated, multi-investigator teams pursue comprehensive plant genome research programs relevant to economically important plants or plant processes. Currently active centers range in size and scope, some with a focus on functional genomics and others with a focus on developing tools and resources for plant genomics studies for the scientific community. For example, one center's goal is to identify all the plant genes encoding plant responses to drought and salinity stresses. Another center is aimed at providing specialized plant materials and structural genome data to identify and map maize (corn) genes. All centers have a significant component to train a new generation of scientists well versed in plant genomics.

People

BIO places a high priority on programs to develop a diverse, internationally competitive workforce of scientists, engineers and well-prepared citizens. Support for these programs will seek to broaden participation in biology to encompass the diversity of the entire U.S. population. This emphasis ensures that the next generation of scientists is adequately prepared for a scientific future that increasingly blurs borders between scientific disciplines, and that is increasingly dependent on technology and on the sharing and analyzing of information from distributed resources. These efforts also aid in the development of a scientifically and technologically literate populace.

(Millions of Dollars)

FY 2000
Estimate

FY 2001
Estimate

Percent
Change

K-12

0.40

0.40

0.0%

Undergraduate

15.37

17.26

12.3%

Graduate & Professional

28.70

31.90

11.1%

Total, BIO

$44.47

$49.56

11.4%

BIO provides support for NSF-wide research programs which enable the development of human resources, including: the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program, Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site awards, the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) program, postdoctoral programs, and REU supplements to existing research projects.

Programs that seek to broaden participation in science will receive an increase in FY 2001 in BIO. A total of $5.09 million is requested to increase support for the Undergraduate Mentorships in Environmental Biology (UMEB) program, the REU sites program, Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program, and the NSF Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12) program. UMEB was initiated within BIO in FY 1995 specifically to address concerns about participation of underrepresented groups within environmental biology. Following the success of several experimental grants that demonstrated enhanced retention rates for minorities in science and in graduate school, the program will be expanded across BIO in FY 2001. In addition, BIO will increase its contribution to IGERT in FY 2001 by $1.5 million for a total of $5.70 million; this is offset by the planned phase-down of the Research Training Group (RTG) program, a forerunner of IGERT.

BIO also supports focused undergraduate programs via the Collaborative Research at Undergraduate Institutions (C-RUI) program, which was established in FY 1995. This program was designed to support new multidisciplinary collaborative research groups at primarily undergraduate institutions. Each group is composed of faculty members representing at least two disciplinary areas and includes up to 10 undergraduates.

Postdoctoral research fellowships are supported within BIO in priority areas where there are shortages of adequately trained scientists. BIO will invest a total of $5.28 million in FY 2001 for postdoctoral training, including continuing support for the minority postdoctoral program, the biological informatics postdoctoral program, and the postdoctoral fellowship program in microbial biology.

Tools

In FY 2001, BIO will increase support for research resources by $9.33 million for a total of $59.06 million. The BIO Activity supports research resources for the biological sciences that include databases, multi-user instrumentation, development of instrumentation and new techniques, living stock centers, marine laboratories and terrestrial field stations. Enhanced support for infrastructure ranging from databases and the informatics tools and techniques needed to manage them, to instrumentation development are essential to areas of research including the initiatives of BE and ITR, as well as across biology where functional genomics is becoming a significant component of many research portfolios.

(Millions of Dollars)

FY 2000
Estimate

FY 2001
Estimate

Percent
Change

Research Resources

49.73

59.06

18.8%

NEON

0.00

4.00

N/A

NNUN

0.30

0.30

0.0%

CHESS

0.80

0.80

0.0%

Total, BIO

$50.83

$64.16

26.2%

In FY 2001, $4.0 million is requested for maintenance and operations associated with the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). These funds will provide for data managers, informatics experts, and scientific support for the complex instrumentation requirements at each NEON site. NEON acquisition costs are requested separately under the Major Research Equipment (MRE) Account

In FY 2001, BIO will maintain support for the National Nanofabrication Users Network (NNUN) at the level of $300,000 to facilitate participation by biologists. This facility is supported in partnership with NSF's Mathematics and Physical Sciences (MPS) and the Engineering Activities.

The BIO Activity also provides $800,000 in support for the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS) in conjunction with the Materials Research Subactivity in the MPS Activity. CHESS is one of the premier facilities for synchrotron x-ray crystallography in the U.S. The high intensity electron beams of synchrotron sources are used for high-resolution studies of biological crystals such as viruses.

Administration and Management

Administration and management provides for administrative activities necessary to enable NSF to achieve its strategic goals. This includes the cost of Intergovernmental Personnel Act appointments, contractors performing administrative functions and, in FY 2001, travel by staff in the program offices.

BUDGET PRESENTATION

NSF has previously organized its budget presentation around four key program functions - Research Project Support, Research Facilities, Education and Training, and Administration and Management. In order to link the FY 2001 Budget Request to the NSF Strategic Plan, we have organized the FY 2001 Budget Request around the strategic outcome goals of Ideas, People, and Tools, as well as the Administration and Management activities necessary to achieve these goals.

The table below provides an FY 2001 crosswalk for Biological Sciences between funding for the strategic goals and the key program functions.

(Millions of Dollars)

 

Ideas

People

Tools

A&M Total,

BIO

Research Project Support

394.45

27.39

59.06

 

$480.90

Facilities

 

 

5.10

 

$5.10

Education & Training

 

19.17

 

 

$19.17

Administration & Management

 

 

 

5.97

$5.97

Total, BIO

$394.45

$46.56

$64.16

$5.97

$511.14

 

Number of People Involved in BIO Activities

FY 1999 Actual

FY 2000
Estimate

FY 2001
Estimate

Senior Scientists

2,149

2,230

2,680

Other Professionals

1,156

1,200

1,440

Postdoctorates

999

1,040

1,250

Graduate Students

1,851

1,930

2,290

Undergraduate Students

1,667

1,790

2,200

Total Number of People

7,822

8,190

9,860

 

BIO Funding Profile

FY 1999
Actual

FY 2000
Estimate

FY 2001
Estimate

Numbers of Requests for Funding

7,159

7,500

9,500

Dollars Requested (in thousands)

$2,790,963

$2,950,000

$3,640,000

Total Number of Awards

2,945

2,950

3,230

Statistics for Competitive Awards:

Number

1,370

1,380

1,500

Funding Rate

29%

27%

27%

Median Annualized Award Size 1

$94,078

$98,000

$108,000

Average Annualized Award Size 1

$125,938

$132,200

$145,000

Average Duration (yrs) 1

3.0

3.0

3.0

1 Statistics for award size and duration are for Research Grants only.

 

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