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The FY 2004 Budget Request for the Emerging Frontiers (EF) Subactivity is $82.25 million, an increase of $14.0 million, or 20.5 percent, from the FY 2003 Request of $68.25 million.

Emerging Frontiers Funding
(Dollars in Millions)

FY 2002
FY 2003
FY 2004
Emerging Frontiers
Total, Emerging Frontiers

The Emerging Frontiers Subactivity was proposed in FY 2003 to serve as an incubator for 21st Century Biology. EF supports evolving multidisciplinary research opportunities and networking activities that arise from advances in disciplinary research. By encouraging synergy between disciplines, Emerging Frontiers provides a mechanism by which new initiatives will be fostered and subsequently integrated into core programs.

In FY 2004 BIO will increase support for Frontiers in Integrated Biological Research (FIBR), an activity proposed to begin in FY 2003. FIBR invites new ideas for integrative research on major biological questions from a multidisciplinary point of view. Relevant scientific questions will be those recognized both as major challenges in biology and as beyond the scope of traditional single-investigator or small-team approaches.

BIO continues support for Research Coordination Networks (RCN), which seeks to encourage and foster communications and collaborations among scientists with common goals and interests. RCN provides support for groups of investigators to communicate and coordinate their research efforts across disciplinary, organizational, institutional and geographical boundaries. Networks are formed around a focal theme and can involve a broad research question, group of organisms, or particular technologies or approaches.

One Research Coordination Network was designed to develop, evaluate, and disseminate methods for the analysis of gene expression using microarrays. The network involves an interdisciplinary, inter-institutional group of scientists and students with varying backgrounds but common interests in microarrays. As a result of these interactions, a subgroup of participating investigators has developed a collaborative research project with plant biologists. This research will contribute novel statistical techniques to the analysis of plant gene expression using microarray technologies.

NSF-wide Priority Areas will be supported out of EF in order to introduce new ideas into these model 21st Century Biology activities and to provide a mechanism through which the priority areas can be integrated with disciplinary activities. Support includes:

Biocomplexity in the Environment (BE) research on the dynamics that occur within biological systems and between these systems and the physical environment. Support will be increased by $4.0 million over the FY 2003 level of $35.86 million for a total of $39.86 million in FY 2004. The increase will enhance support for the NSF-wide competition as well as for the Tree of Life Project. Two special competitions, the Ecology of Infectious Disease and Microbial Genome Sequencing, that were initiated in FY 2003, will be continued.

Microorganisms capable of using hydrogen as an energy source and carbon dioxide as an electron acceptor for the production of methane are well known but generally rare in microbial communities. Recently, researchers found an environment in a geothermal spring in Idaho where the hydrogen and inorganic carbon levels were high enough to sustain bacteria, but the organic carbon was too low to be the primary energy source. In this environment, the dominant species were a number of novel microbes. The fact that organisms can adapt to this extreme environment, that may be representative of extraterrestrial environments, bolsters the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

Information Technology Research (ITR) in FY 2004 will increase by $700,000 to $7.50 million for the NSF-wide ITR competition, and for database development and management and information networking. Examples of BIO relevant areas include: algorithms for designing, managing, and linking primary biological databases, development of new tools for microbial genomics, development of innovative database structures (both hardware and software) that support distributed storage of very dense files of genetic sequence and genomic data; and development of real time information networks linking researchers worldwide engaged in Tree of Life research.

Nanoscale Science and Engineering (NSE) research, focused on studying the structure and regulation of macromolecular machines and macromolecular complexes that are capable of self-replication and self-assembly, will increase by $2.0 million to $4.98 million in FY 2004. The increase will specifically support research on nanoscale biosensors and information processors that could provide new tools for understanding cellular communication and detection of environmentally important signals.

A new method for creating bioelectronic circuits that allows electrically interfacing specific molecules on the membrane of living cells and then incorporate the cells into larger electrical circuits is being developed. This method is based on a new technique that allows the assembly of long, electrically conductive micro wires directly from suspensions of metallic nanoparticles. The Principal Investigators will devise techniques for controlled growth of micro wires in thin chambers and micro fluidic channels, and will develop experimental and theoretical tools for cell and wire manipulation in the electrical field leading to cell interfacing. The success of this project could lead to development of new sensors for detecting biological or chemical.

Mathematical Sciences (MSI) will increase by $1.30 million in FY 2004 to a total of $2.21 million to support interdisciplinary research involving mathematics, science and engineering, and focus on mathematical and statistical challenges posed by large data sets, managing and modeling uncertainty, and modeling complex, non-linear systems.

Human and Social Dynamics (HSD) will be supported for a total of $500,000 in FY 2004 and will focus on research in behavior, cognition, development and neuroscience.