Budget 2000 Integrative Biology and Neuroscience
NSF Fiscal Year 2000
Budget Requests Excerpts

Integrative Biology and Neuroscience


   The FY 2000 Budget Request for the Integrative Biology and Neuroscience Subactivity is $94.26 million, an increase of $3.62 million, or 4.0 percent, over the FY 1999 Current Plan of $90.64 million.

(Millions of Dollars)
  FY 1998
FY 1999
FY 2000
Integrative Biology and Neuroscience Research Projects 83.17 90.64 94.26 3.62 4%
TOTAL, IBN $83.17 $90.64 $94.26 $3.62 4.0%

Research supported by the Integrative Biology and Neuroscience Subactivity (IBN) seeks to understand the living organism - plant, animal, or microbe - as a unit of biological organization. A wide diversity of organisms is investigated as biological models to identify unifying principles common to all organisms and to document the variety of functional systems that have evolved to form living organisms. Developmental, neurobiological, behavioral, and physiological processes are studied and integrated at the subcellular, cellular, organismal, and population levels to provide an understanding of underlying mechanisms as well as the constraints placed on the adaptation and acclimation of organisms to their environment.

IBN uses various modes of support for research at the leading edge of organismal biology, from investigator-initiated research, typically comprising one or several scientists, to the multi-institutional and collaborative Science and Technology Center for Biological Timing. Support for databases, such as the comparative mammalian brain database, provides worldwide access to data resources for both teaching and research. Undergraduate Mentoring in Environmental Biology (UMEB) awards provide meaningful research experiences for undergraduates of diverse backgrounds by coupling research with intensive teaching and mentoring. Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grants (DDIG) provide additional research-intensive training for graduate students in animal behavior and ecological and evolutionary physiology.

The powerful approach of functional genomics complements other techniques used to investigate how plants carry out basic biological processes, such as growth and development. For example, several genes have recently been discovered to underlie the molecular mechanisms needed by plants to bend towards light. One of these genes, recently isolated from the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, encodes a protein which appears to be the photoreceptor molecule that uses blue light to detect the direction of light in its surroundings. This gene also controls the functions of other genes that, as part of a cascade of gene interactions and biochemical reactions, together regulate light-induced differential growth resulting in bending of the plant in response to gravity. Understanding the mechanisms used by plants to control movement, such that the utilization of sunlight for photosynthesis is optimized, may lead to improvements in crop productivity.

The FY 2000 Budget Request includes an increase of $3.62 million for a total of $94.26 million to provide:

  • Funding for research in information technology and biological computing for comparative studies of diverse groups of organisms for the purpose of revealing principles that underlie organismal form and function. Sequencing genomes has already yielded a wealth of significant and novel data that are providing opportunities to investigate mechanistic biology at the level of the whole organism, particularly in plants. Rapid and extensive increases in discovery, resources, and new technologies will require methods that enable rapid access to voluminous data and networks. Examples include:

    • analysis and evolution of functions of genes over a broad range of organisms, spanning microbes, plants and animals;
    • development of new computational paradigms and approaches based on the way distributed networks of neurons in the brain process information over multiple scales in space and time; and
    • development of new technologies such as microarrays that will greatly speed the rate at which processes of development can be discovered.

  • Support for research on biocomplexity in understanding the brain, how organisms develop, and the functioning of organisms in their environment.

    • The brain is organized on a hierarchical level, yet understanding of its integrative functions-its biocomplexity-is achieved only by understanding how the various levels interact to produce behavior.
    • Similarly, at a time when knowledge of gene structure and function seems to be increasing exponentially, little is known about how these genes interact to cause cells to differentiate and to form complex tissues, organs, and organisms.
    • At another level, ecological physiology occupies a central position in linking molecular processes to ecosystem processes by investigating how genotypes of organisms may affect ecosystem processes, and how specific environments contribute to the suite of genotypes that occupy that environment.

  • Support for CAREER awards within the NSF-wide emphasis on Educating for the Future and Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU), to provide hands-on research experiences integrated with teaching and mentoring.

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