Summary of FY2002 Budget Request to Congress - National Science Foundation

BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES $483,110,000

The FY 2002 Budget Request for the Biological Sciences Activity (BIO) is $483.11 million, a decrease of $2.31 million, or 0.5 percent, from the FY 2001 Current Plan of $485.42 million.

(Millions of Dollars)

  FY 2000 Actual FY 2001
Current Plan
FY 2002 Request Change
Amount Percent
Molecular and Cellular Biosciences 105.74 124.22 121.24 -2.98 -2.4%
Integrative Biology and Neuroscience 95.14 111.66 112.64 0.98 0.9%
Environmental Biology 89.36 109.87 111.74 1.87 1.7%
Biological Infrastructure 65.03 74.82 72.49 -2.33 -3.1%
Plant Genome Research 63.03 64.86 65.00 0.14 0.2%
Total, BIO $418.29 $485.42 $483.11 -$2.31 -0.5%

Totals may not add due to rounding.

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 both internal and external processes of organisms, 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.

Since the early 1980s, the National Science Foundation has been the lead agency in the support of research using the model plant Arabidopsis, as well as in the effort to sequence the Arabidopsis genome. The achievement of the first complete plant genome sequence was announced by a consortium of scientists, called The Arabidopsis Genome Initiative, and became public on the cover of the December 14, 2000 issue of the journal Nature. This achievement represents 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 plants. Sequencing of the Arabidopsis genome was done through an international effort involving six groups in Europe, Japan, and the United States. NSF leads the joint U.S. effort that also includes support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy.

The biological sciences are experiencing the progressive integration of genomics across all research areas. Genomics is the development and analysis of sets of data representing the DNA sequences that encode the total genetic complement of an organism. The genetic complement is like a blueprint: it contains the plans for the organism's development and functioning. Scientists visualize an organism's blueprint by sequencing its DNA. 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 tackle the next frontier in biology, functional genomics, which uses the genome sequence information in combination with data from other biological research to study what genes do - that is, how patterns of sequence are related to patterns of function. Functional genomics offers unprecedented opportunity to understand living systems through use of large scale, genome-derived information.

BIO's first major program in functional genomics, the "2010 Project", was begun in FY 2001, and will continue through the year 2010. As described below, its goal is to determine the functions of the 25,000 genes of the flowering plant, Arabidopsis.

BIO's role in the area of environmental biology is equally important. Recent findings of the "Deep Green" project offer a particularly good example. During the past five years, this collaboratory has blossomed to include over 200 scientists in 12 countries. 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 and was featured as the cover story for the journal Nature on February 1, 2001. Using genomic tools, modern systematists are rewriting the textbooks on animal and plant evolution. 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 plays a major role in support of research resources for the biological sciences including multi-user instrumentation, living stock centers, systematics collections, biological field stations, and computerized databases, including sequence databases for plants and micro-organisms.

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 in FY 2000, BIO provided support for 8,500 people, including students, researchers, post-doctorates, and trainees. Support for BIO programs specifically addressing NSF's Strategic Goal of "People - developing a diverse, internationally competitive and globally-engaged workforce of scientists, engineers and well-prepared citizens" totals $48.55 million in FY 2002, an increase of 4.3 percent over FY 2001. Moreover, about 40 percent of the funding for research grants - approximately $145 million in FY 2002 - will provide support for researchers and students.

In FY 2002, the BIO Activity funding will decrease by a total of $2.31 million. However, support within important priority areas where the role of BIO support is particularly critical will be maintained or increased. Efforts to enable research awards by increasing the average award size of research projects will continue.

"2010 Project": In FY 2002, an increase of $5.0 million, for a total of $20.0 million, provides support for the next stage of the "2010 Project." With the completion of the genome of the model plant Arabidopsis, researchers began a systematic effort in FY 2001 to determine the functions of the 25,000 genes of this flowering plant. 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. 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.

In FY 2002, BIO will support research and education efforts related to broad, Foundation-wide priority areas in Biocomplexity in the Environment, Information Technology Research, Nanoscale Science and Engineering, and Learning for the 21st Century.

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 totals $16.90 million in FY 2002. Support will be provided for the NSF-wide competition as well as for more focused activities in Environmental Genomics.

  • Research builds on activities supported in FY 2000 and FY 2001 through the Biocomplexity competitions. Support will be provided for genome-enabled research to support the Microbe Project, which will build the knowledge base of genome sequences and primary databases for research on diverse microbes and support development of tools and techniques for microbial genomics; and for the Tree of Life research project, a systematic approach to the discovery of the genes that will yield the most robust tree and resolve the genealogical relationships among multicellular organisms. Areas of special focus will also include: 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 of how organisms adapt 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 2002, funding of $5.45 million will be used to support research as part of:

  • The BIO emphasis area in genome-enabled science. Examples of relevance include: exploiting the power and storage capacity of the DNA molecule for computing; support for microbial genome databases and algorithms for designing, managing, and linking primary databases, and development of new tools for microbial genomics; as part of the Tree of Life, development of innovative data base structures (both hardware and software) that support distributed storage of very dense files of genetic sequence and genomic data; development of relational authority files (databases); development of real time information networks linking researchers worldwide engaged in Tree of Life research.

  • The BIO emphasis area in systems biology, including modeling and assimilation of biological data, and improved access to this data; modeling of complex, multiscale, and interactive systems in biology; development of robust models to describe biological processes at multiple scales ranging from molecules to the global environment; and development of informatics tools necessary to enhance the predictive ability and broad applicability of these models.

Nanoscale Science and Engineering: In FY 2002, funding will be maintained at $2.33 million. Support within this priority area will continue:

  • Research related to nanoscience focused 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 nanoscience and technology.

  • Research focused on studying 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.

Learning for the 21st Century: Support for this priority area totals $1.70 million in FY 2002. BIO will continue to support NSF Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education program as well as the Interagency Education Research Initiative, a collaborative program with the Department of Education and the National Institutes of Health.

STRATEGIC GOALS

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

(Millions of Dollars)

  FY 2001
Estimate
FY 2002
Estimate
Percent
Change
People 46.57 48.55 4.3%
Ideas 369.02 364.73 -1.2%
Tools 64.16 64.16 0.0%
Administration & Management 1 5.67 5.67 0.0%
Total, BIO $485.42 $483.11 -0.5%

Totals may not add due to rounding.
1 Includes only costs charged to the R&RA Appropriation

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 reflect the diversity of the 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 analysis of information from distributed resources. These efforts also aid in the development of a scientifically and technologically literate populace.

(Millions of Dollars)

  FY 2001
Estimate
FY 2002
Estimate
Percent
Change
K-12 0.04 0.04 0.0%
Undergraduate 14.37 14.37 0.0%
Graduate & Professional 32.16 34.14 6.2%
Total, People $46.57 $48.55 4.3%

Totals may not add due to rounding.

BIO provides support for NSF-wide research programs that 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 addressing the People strategic goal will increase by $1.98 million or 4.3 percent over FY 2001. A total of $14.37 million is used to support undergraduate activities to broaden participation in science. Examples of some of the programs supported include the REU sites program, the Undergraduate Mentorships in Environmental Biology (UMEB) program, begun in FY 1995 specifically to encourage participation of underrepresented groups within environmental biology, and the Collaborative Research at Undergraduate Institutions (C-RUI) program to support new multidisciplinary collaborative research groups at primarily undergraduate institutions. Each C-RUI group is composed of faculty members representing at least two disciplinary areas and includes up to 10 undergraduates.

A total of $34.14 million is used to support graduate, postdoctoral, and professional-level programs, including the NSF Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12) program. BIO increases its contribution to the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training program in FY 2002 by $890,000 for a total of $6.78 million and adds $1.09 million to the ADVANCE program for a total of $2.43 million. ADVANCE is designed to increase the participation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers.

Postdoctoral research fellowships are supported within BIO in priority areas where there are shortages of adequately trained scientists. BIO will invest a total of $5.31 million in FY 2002 for postdoctoral training, including continuing support for the minority postdoctoral program, the biological informatics postdoctoral program, and the postdoctoral fellowship program in microbial biology.

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 across the frontier of science spans all the biological disciplines. BIO-supported research effectively builds the knowledge base for resolution of societal concerns in areas as diverse as food, nutrition, agriculture, protection of the environment, and education.

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 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.

BIO will continue to provide priority support within the disciplinary base to areas of emerging importance, such as Genome Enabled Science and Systems Biology. Genome Enabled Science encompasses three levels of activity: 1) genome sequencing and the assembly of primary sequence databases; 2) functional analyses, also known as "functional genomics;" and 3) integrative research. Systems Biology takes advantage of two areas of opportunity in biological sciences 1) integrative research focussed on complex biological systems and 2) enhanced opportunities for integrating rapidly accumulating, massive amounts and disparate kinds of data into understanding biological processes.

The NSF priority areas of Biocomplexity in the Environment (BE) and Information Technology Research (ITR) represent important areas of emerging scientific importance where funding is needed to build support for research, infrastructure, and education. BIO's participation in these priorities recognizes the Activity's role as the major federal source of fundamental academic research in plant biology and environmental biology. Sequencing capabilities and informatics tools are opening the door toward an understanding of the workings of genes in plants and organisms. 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.

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 2002 BIO will continue to focus on enhancing award sizes for new awards in the NSF priority areas to fully enable the research. An average new research award within the BIO Activity in FY 2002 will total approximately $152,900 per year over three years of support, compared to $139,000 per year in FY 2001.

Centers: BIO-supported centers are another important component in its portfolio of activities. 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.

(Millions of Dollars)

  FY 2001
Estimate
FY 2002
Estimate
Percent
Change
Science and Technology Centers1 3.45 3.97 15.1%
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 Centers $50.24 $50.76 1.0%

Totals may not add due to rounding.
1FY 2001 is the final year of funding for the 1991 class of STCs. Funding in FY 2002 represents support for the cohort of STCs awarded in FY 2000.

The three BIO-supported Science and Technology Centers (STC) begun in FY 1991 received final funding in FY 2001. They are the Center for Biological Timing at the University of Virginia, the Center for Engineering Plants for Resistance Against Pathogens at the University of California - Davis, and the Center for Light Microscope Imaging and Biotechnology at Carnegie Mellon University. At the same time, a new STC, the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience at Emory University, received its first year of support. This center is co-managed with the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Activity. The scientific goals of the center involve understanding how neural processes regulate and are regulated by complex social behaviors across animal species. Collaborating institutions include Georgia State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Atlanta University Center. Results of this research may transform the way we think about how hormones influence behavior, how genes are regulated, and how neural processes adapt to different environmental demands.

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 2001, 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 2002. No additional sites will 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.

Tools

In FY 2002, BIO will maintain support for research resources at a total of $63.06 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. Support for infrastructure ranging from databases and the informatics tools and techniques needed to manage them to instrumentation development is essential to areas of research including the priority areas 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 2001
Estimate
FY 2002
Estimate
Percent
Change
Research Resources 63.06 63.06 0.0%
NNUN 0.30 0.30 0.0%
CHESS 0.80 0.80 0.0%
Total, Tools $64.16 $64.16 0.0%

Totals may not add due to rounding.

In FY 2002, 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 Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) and 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 $5.67 million for the cost of Intergovernmental Personnel Act appointments and contractors performing administrative functions.

Number of People Involved in BIO Activities

  FY 2000
Actual
FY 2001
Estimate
FY 2002
Estimate
Senior Scientists 2,299 2,570 2,440
Other Professionals 1,307 1,460 1,390
Postdoctorates 1,165 1,230 1,110
Graduate Students 1,944 2,170 2,070
Undergraduate Students 2,704 2,910 2,790
Total Number of People 9,419 10,340 9,800

Totals may not add due to rounding.

BIO Funding Profile

  FY 2000
Actual
FY 2001
Estimate
FY 2002
Estimate
Numbers of Requests for Funding 7,373 7,500 7,500
Dollars Requested (in thousands) $2,960,000 $3,200,000 $3,500,000
Total Number of Awards 3,474 3,474 3,150
Statistics for Competitive Awards:      
   Number 1,424 1,425 1,100
   Funding Rate 25% 25% 19%
   Median Annualized Award Size1 $100,000 $116,000 $127,600
   Average Annualized Award Size1 $119,906 $139,000 $152,900
   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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