of the BIO Advisory Committee
April 25-26, 1996
THURSDAY, APRIL 25 -
Welcome and Approval of Minutes
Dr. Paul Magee, Chair of the Advisory Committee for Biological
Sciences (BIOAC), convened the meeting at 8:45 am with a welcome
to members and guests.
Dr. Mary Clutter, Assistant Director for the Biological Sciences
(BIO) informed the BIOAC that an omnibus appropriations bill would
be signed this morning, funding NSF for the remainder of FY 1996.
The minutes from the November 1995 meeting were unanimously approved
by the BIOAC.
Overview of FY 1997 Budget Request
Dr. Clutter gave an overview of the FY 1997 budget request for
NSF overall and BIO in particular. She commented that NSF, NIH
and part of NASA are the only agencies mentioned in the President's
federal research investment package. She also noted that the
FY 1997 budget request is characterized by a balance across major
fields of science and key program functions. She went on to discuss
NSF's FY 1997 budget request in light of FY 1995 and FY 1996
Dr. Clutter also discussed trends in federal
discretionary funding, and non-defense research and development
in particular. She discussed projections for federal discretionary
spending through FY 2002.
Dr. Burt Ensley asked Dr. Clutter to comment on why the Academic
Research Infrastructure (ARI) program account has a funding level
of zero in the FY 1997 request. Dr. Clutter noted that this $100M
line consists of two parts: $50M for larger scale instrumentation
and $50M for laboratory renovations. The shared instrumentation
funds will be distributed to the research directorates. It was
decided not to request $50M for laboratory renovations since that
would have an inconsequential impact on an $11B problem.
The BIOAC also discussed the following issues:
- The Directorate
for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences' (SBE) involvement
in a proposed urban LTER site.
- Implications of offering small versus large grants to PIs.
- The effectiveness of NSF and NIH funding mechanisms in comparison
to organizations such as the Howard Hughes Foundation, which
puts greater amounts of money in a smaller number of institutions
- The implications for NSF of budget cuts at other agencies that
fund basic research.
- The effectiveness of partnerships between the NSF and other
Federal agencies. The NSF-EPA partnership was discussed in particular.
In addition, Dr. Cathie Woteki, Department of Agriculture, discussed
the implementation of the Government Performance and Results Act
(GPRA), which is set to begin in 1999.
Discussion with the Deputy Director NSF, Dr. Anne C. Petersen
Dr. Petersen thanked the BIOAC for their three workshops on the
issue of integrating research and education and noted that she
and the Director appreciate their recommendations.
stated that she feels that it is very important for the scientific
community to be aware that the federal budgetary climate for
research is changing and that there will be increased accountability
for the federal research investment. She discussed how it is
essential to develop a post-Cold War rationale for federal
research and development funding, which includes societal as well
as economic benefits.
Dr. Petersen discussed the importance of integrating research
and education to ensure a scientific and technologically literate
public to meet our future workforce needs and maintain US leadership
in science and technology. She noted that NSF must play a role
in promoting this integration and that the Advisory Committees
provide valuable guidance on this.
Dr. Petersen gave an overview of the Recognition Awards for Integrating
Research and Education (RAIRE), NSF's newest initiative to promote
the integration of research and education. She also mentioned other
programs targeted at this need, such as CAREER, GOALI, and RTGs.
She stressed that NSF is planning no dramatic changes to proposal
requirements and that they will take an incremental approach towards
promoting the integration of research and education.
Dr. William Greenough asked how RAIRE awards will be used by the
universities. Dr. Petersen responded that the awards will be given
for past accomplishments and that the recipients will use the money
to publicize and extend these efforts.
Dr. Barbara Webster commented that PBS television programs highlighting
science and research are an excellent example of public education
on the value of science and research and wanted to know if NSF
would continue to support such programs. Dr. Petersen stated that
the Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR) is cutting
the Informal Science Education budget because they feel that these
projects will be taken up by other sources. She also noted that
at the request of our authorization committee, the General Accounting
Office (GAO) is looking at spending at all agencies for public
outreach activities. Dr. Petersen commented that she believes the
ultimate argument will be over the appropriateness of NSF funding
The BIOAC also discussed the following issues with Dr. Petersen:
- Further exploration of the proposed cuts to the ARI program
- The appropriateness of NSF support for community colleges
- NSF's public relations efforts to gain attention for the Foundation's
- The use of qualitative measures to meet GPRA requirements
Report on BIO Science Retreat
Dr. James Edwards gave an overview of the BIO Science Retreat (February
1996), which was an opportunity to identify important emerging
areas in the biological sciences. He discussed the sources of
information and what we need to know about these emerging areas.
BIO's Division Directors talked about the four thrust areas and
the needed actions:
Dr. Thomas Brady (Acting Division Director, Division of Environmental
Biology) discussed how the Arabidopsis project began in 1990,
where it is now, and the plan itself.
Dr. Brady also reviewed the 1995 progress report on the Arabidopsis
genome. He mentioned as an example of the research completed thus
far the leafy gene which has been transferred from Arabidopsis
to aspen tree tissue cultures. The leafy gene can cause aspen to
flower within 10 months, and this will have great impact on the
hardwood and ornamental forestry industries.
Dr. Brady stated that one of the goals being considered is to
complete most of the sequencing of Arabidopsis by 2002, with some "fine
tuning" for several years thereafter. The BIOAC and Dr. Brady
discussed how much it would cost to complete the sequence of the
Arabidopsis genome (approximately $50 million), how the money would
be spent, and the possibility of industry partnerships. Dr. Brady
noted that the money would probably go to collaborations among
large sequencing centers. He stated that other Federal agencies
and international efforts are included in the program as well.
The BIOAC stressed the importance of continued partnerships and
The Analysis of Biological Systems
Dr. Bruce Umminger (Division Director, Integrative Biology and
Neuroscience) gave an overview of a propsed Analysis of Biological
Systems (ABS) initiative. He noted that it is a combination and
expansion of two current activities, Biosystems Analysis and
Control (BAC) and Modeling of Biological Systems (MOBS). Dr.
Umminger stated that BIO is considering making an announcement
to solicit collaborative proposals in this area and that a new
working group is being formed to discuss how the former BAC and
MOBS programs interface, proposal review issues, etc. BIO intends
to encourage workshops and symposia to let the community know
NSF is interested in proposals in ABS. Dr. Umminger also mentioned
two new cross-Directorate initiatives that will interface with
ABS, one in Learning and Intelligent Systems and another in Machinery
The BIOAC and Dr. Umminger discussed how
well these cross-disciplinary collaborations are working and
how NSF can best explain their importance to the public, Congress,
and the Administration. The BIOAC also discussed the appropriateness
of leveraging funds from industry and other government agencies
for this and other cross-disciplinary initiatives.
Development of Cross-Disciplinary Enabling Tools
Dr. James Brown (Division Director, Biological Instrumentation
and Resources) discussed a proposal to encourage the development
of cross-disciplinary enabling tools. He stated that this idea
was mentioned as an important area at the Impact of Emerging
Technologies workshop and at the BAC workshop. This initiative
would enable the development of cross-disciplinary collaborations
on technology development.
Dr. Pete Magee asked how major biological
instruments typically arise. Dr. Brown stated that many have
arisen out of adapting skills from other disciplines for use
in meeting biological needs.
Dr. Gregory Florant asked how NSF would handle funding someone
to develop an instrument, which he or she later makes a profit
from. Dr. Brown noted that NSF's focus is typically outside of
the commercially viable arena. Dr. Edwards added that NSF encourages
Exploring Microbial Diversity
Dr. Julius Jackson discussed BIO's rationale and process in deciding
to make an investment in microbial biology. He stated that currently,
we only know about a small subset of microbes and that there
is much to be learned, including the quantitative relationship
between microbes and information about microbes that live in
extreme environmental conditions, for example. Dr. Jackson then
discussed basic research examples that eventually led to important
applications. He stressed that the study of microbial diversity
is an emerging opportunity for BIO. BIO intends to distribute
a Dear Colleague letter on the study of microbes in a number
of habitats. This thrust will focus on exploring for new microbes
and expanding our knowledge of the diversity of microbes.
BIOAC discussed how this initiative relates to the information
coming out of microbial genome sequencing. Dr. Jackson noted
that it would involve building and sharing databases, and therefore
contribute to and benefit from existing databases, including
genomic ones. The BIOAC also discussed the role of partnerships
and international collaboration in this initiative. Dr. Jackson
mentioned that partnerships with the Department of Energy and
the Office of Naval Research are possible, as well as cross-Directorate
partnerships (i.e., EHR, GEO).
Several members of the BIOAC felt that these initiatives are exciting
areas of science to promote, but that, except for Arabidopsis,
they need to become more focused and tangible benefits need to
THURSDAY, APRIL 25 - Afternoon Session
Working Lunch- Discussion of New NSF Activities for Integrating
Research and Education
Dr. Robert Watson (Director, Division of Undergraduate Education,
EHR) discussed two issues relevant to the integration of research
and education, the Institution-Wide Reform Initiative and the Education
and Human Resources Advisory Committee (EHRAC) Report on EHR Review
of Undergraduate Education.
Institution Wide Reform Initiative
Dr. Watson gave an overview of the program, including its budgetary
outlook, goals, and objectives. The goals of the initiative are
1. Prepare an increasingly diverse student body (all students
in all institutions) for an information and technology based
2. Encourage improved learning of science and mathematics by all
3. Encourage changes in pedagogy and curriculum content
He stated that the initiative is an opportunity for institutions
to acknowledge that problems exist and address them in a systematic
way. EHR will announce 23 awards within the next 1-2 months, which
will cover a wide breadth of institution types.
EHRAC Committee Report on EHR Review of Undergraduate Education
Dr. Watson stated that the report addresses the preparation of
future teachers (K-12), needs of industrial/technological workforce,
SMET majors, and SMET literacy for all. The report covers curriculum,
education technology, pedagogy, institutional practices and the
need for comprehensive reform, and key student transitions (i.e.,
between education levels and from education to employment). The
final report will include action-oriented recommendations.
Watson also discussed the methodology of the review, which
included symposia and a national conference, as well as hearings
at NSF, focus groups, and discussions with NSF research directorates
and other Federal agencies.
The BIOAC discussed the notion of science and engineering as a
core for undergraduate education. Some committee members were concerned
that this may alienate non-science and technology faculty and students
with other interests. They felt that great care needs to be taken
in determining the kind of scientific literacy necessary for the
non-science major in order to build appreciation and basic understanding.
Dr. Judith Ramaley noted that the report should not just be directed
at scientists, but needs to be considered by all liberal arts faculty
in order to develop a more holistic education. This means that
science needs to be seen as a liberal art rather than a core for
Reports from BIO AC Workshops
The Changing Environment for Biological Sciences-
Dr. Judith Ramaley, Past Chair
Dr. Ramaley stated that this workshop was based on a regional strategy,
because that is how the participating institutions are trying to
interact. The institutions present included Research 1 and 2 universities,
community colleges, liberal arts colleges, and doctoral universities.
Workshop attendees discussed how these institutions can create
a stronger environment to teach math and science through collective
interactions. They also provided ideas for what NSF could do to
strengthen biology education and reinforce collaborations among
different types of institutions. In general, they were quite laudatory
of BIO's work. Their recommendations for BIO focused on existing
programs and changes in the review process to increase effectiveness
in supporting the biological sciences at different institutions
and the integration of research and education.
The Changing Environment for Biological Research and Graduate
Education in Universities
Dr. Nina Fedoroff, Chair-Designate
This workshop focused on a single institution (Penn State) and
addressed research and graduate education. The workshop attendees
identified the availability of grants, increased expectations of
teaching , and better preparation of students for careers outside
of academe as pressing factors in research universities. They also
identified institutional barriers to change and discussed how NSF
and institutions could have an impact on these barriers. The university
reward system, the grants system, and departmental evaluation issues
were highlighted as barriers to interdisciplinary research and
education. The participants provided several recommendations to
Penn State and NSF, including:
- promoting changes in promotion and
tenure criteria that carry weight at the top levels of institution
- provide support to graduate students outside of a research
grant long enough so that students can have meaningful experiences
outside of research in order to prepare for careers other than
The BIOAC discussed whether or not ethnic diversity should be
a factor in these workshop discussions and the importance of increasing
minority representation among faculty as a force driving change.
The Changing Environment for Biological Sciences in our Nation's
Colleges and Universities
Dr. Paul Magee, Chair
This workshop included 10 research universities from the upper
Midwest. The participants discussed the importance of alliances
with foreign scientists, graduate and undergraduate education,
and the need for change to the promotion and tenure system, among
other issues. Dr. Magee stated that he feels that ethnic diversity
is never really high on the agenda at workshops such as these,
even though everyone says it should be. He feels that this is
an issue that is not really pushed by faculty.
Dr. Ramaley asked Dr. Clutter to comment on what she took away
from each workshop. Dr. Clutter said that although the participants
varied quite a bit, the same issues kept coming up. In particular,
participants discussed the desire for change and the need for NSF
to act as the catalyst because there are too many barriers to change
at the institutional level.
The committee discussed the impact of potential reductions in
administrative staff at universities, particularly in terms of
research and grant administration.
Dr. Magee noted four themes that developed from the workshops:
1. Reemphasizing balance among the roles of teaching, research
and service for professors
2. Interpretation of science for the public
3. Opportunities outside of research for post-docs and graduate
students to prepare them for careers outside of academe
4. Encouraging collaborative ventures at the national and international
Dr. Fedoroff stated that institutional barriers to change was
a major theme, as well.
Dr. Magee then asked the BIOAC to meet in breakout groups and
requested that they address the following issues:
- Should there
be more workshops?
- If so, should they take on different forms and/or foci?
- Are there ideas for new programs or revisions of current programs?
The breakout groups were organized around each of the workshops
Issues From Breakout Groups
The Changing Environment for Biological Research and Graduate
Education in Universities Breakout Group
Dr. Burt Ensley reported on the issues discussed by this group.
The group discussed how institutional resistance to change and
burdensome workloads for professors will make implementing changes
in graduate and undergraduate teaching difficult. Some suggestions
on this issue include:
- EHR could prepare "movies" of
master professors for service classes
- NSF could fund projects to prepare high quality professional
This group also discussed the faculty reward system and interdisciplinary
research. They felt that university departments are power groups
and don't encourage interdisciplinary research. Change in this
attitude needs to be encouraged from top levels of administration.
One suggestion for achieving this was to ask the NRC rating committee
to change rating categories to reflect the importance of interdisciplinary
research and quality teaching. They suggested that NSF hold a workshop
with the NRC rating committee to address this issue.
also suggested that NSF fund more training grants to provide
graduate students the opportunity to prepare for careers outside
of academe and encourage interdisciplinary research.
The Changing Environment for Biological Sciences Breakout Group
Dr. Ramaley reported on this group's discussion. They discussed
the faculty reward system and the overload of responsibilities
faculty often face (e.g., workload and how work is organized).
They suggested that NSF consider this overload in its programs
(e.g., CAREER awards). This group also addressed the integration
of research and education. They stressed that money should not
be diverted from research and that PIs would benefit from examples
of ways in which research and education can be integrated when
developing their proposals. The group suggested that NSF examine
the RUI program for answers on how to achieve the same level
of research productivity while including more undergraduates
in research labs. This could include a workshop with grantees
and students to discuss ways to achieve this and making the integration
of research and education an explicit part of the proposal process.
This breakout group felt that NSF should be involved in PBS and
NPR programs on science in order to provide better public education
on the importance of science.
They also suggested that NSF address the following questions in
assessing the review process for collaborative proposals:
- How do
reviewers respond to collaborative proposals at NSF?
- How are they reviewed, what criteria are used, and are we sending
- Do we have the right review procedures to evaluate collaborative
The breakout group felt that more workshops should be held and
that they should represent a range of institutions in order to
adequately compare and contrast institution types.
The Changing Environment for Biological Sciences in our Nation's
Colleges and Universities Breakout Group
Dr. Magee reported on this group's discussion. This group focused
their discussion on future workshops, the integration of research
and education, and career development opportunities for graduate
students and post-docs.
The group felt that small, regional workshops
will work best because they can empower faculty by making them
feel that their voice is being heard. Another advantage to regional
workshops is that they are close enough to participating institutions
so that attendees do not have to fly in order to attend. This
will assure a higher attendance rate and greater cross-section
of administration and faculty. They suggested that BIOAC alumni
might organize these workshops in order to relieve pressure on
current members. Each workshop organizer would write his or her
own background paper so that while all workshops will cover similar
themes, each would have its own flavor.
The group felt that scientific excellence must be redefined to
include education at all levels and service. Again, they felt that
a workshop would be a useful venue for faculty and administration
to respond to this issue. They stated that NSF should include the
integration of research and education as a meaningful part of the
On the subject of career development for post-docs and graduate
students, the group suggested that NSF provide supplements to research
grants which would include 3 months salary to allow the recipient
to engage in an activity outside of research (i.e., business or
law courses, internships, etc.).
The group also suggested that a BIOAC web page be established
that includes reports from workshops, minutes, composition of the
BIOAC, and a place for people to respond to issues and questions
from the BIOAC.
The BIOAC discussed what integrating research and education means
and how it has become such a priority. They stressed that NSF needs
to maintain a portfolio of programs that promotes it, for the Foundation
has in the past contributed to the problem of rewarding faculty
just for research and not for education.
FRIDAY, APRIL 26 -
Follow-on Activities for Breakout Groups
Dr. Magee asked the BIOAC to discuss if NSF should ask for evidence
of discovery-based curriculum and teaching in proposals in order
to push integrating research and education beyond just including
undergraduates in the lab. Dr. Fedoroff noted that changes to
graduate and post-doc experiences outside of research should
be addressed as well. In general, the BIOAC was in favor of including
some sort of education component in the proposal requirements.
The BIOAC also discussed various options to encourage training
outside of research for graduate students and post-docs, including
research training groups, training grants, supplements to research
grants, and leveraging funds from universities to support activities
outside of research. Dr. Fedoroff and Dr. Florant also noted
the importance for NSF to clearly articulate the education
component of its mission. Dr. Fedoroff also suggested funding more
than one PI on a grant so that graduate students can be shared
and therefore get a more interdisciplinary experience.
Members of the BIOAC stressed the need to demonstrate to reviewers
and applicants what integrating research and education means and
the variety of methods that can be employed to achieve it. They
also noted that this needs to be a Foundation wide effort and requires
the cooperation of program officers, as well as demonstrating to
university administration that NSF considers this important.
The BIOAC discussion then turned to BIO's proposed science thrusts.
Dr. Clutter briefly reviewed the FY1997 Authorization markup, which
suggests that NSF may receive less money in 1998 than it did in
Arabidopsis in Five- Some of the BIOAC members felt that genome
sequencing is not creative and therefore NSF should focus more
on gene function. Others noted that although sequencing itself
is not creative, the information garnered from it can be used in
very creative ways. They also noted that this is an excellent opportunity
to bring Arabidopsis scientists together to foster the exchange
of ideas and information. Dr. Fedoroff was concerned that the goal
to sequence the genome in five years not overshadow the research
that will develop from sequencing.
Development of Cross-Disciplinary Enabling Tools- Some members
of the BIOAC saw this as an important area, but felt that the $2
million investment BIO tentatively plans to make is not enough
to make it a priority.
Analysis of Biological Systems- Dr. Fedoroff noted that she is
very excited about this area of biology but was concerned that
there is only a small number of biologists willing to take part
in the integration necessary to do it. She felt that NSF should
promote this initiative, but wait to develop a program announcement
until a critical mass has been achieved. Other members of the BIOAC
expressed similar concerns. Some members felt that a RFP could
catalyze further development of this area.
Exploring Microbial Diversity - The BIOAC felt that this was a
very timely initiative and has the potential to yield tremendous
amounts of important information with implications for bioremediation,
pharmaceutical use, and the changing global environment.
Discussion of the Future of Science and Technology Centers
Dr. Edwards gave a presentation on the future of Science and Technology
Centers (STCs) in relation to their value in the biosciences.
He reviewed the history of the STCs, their characteristics, key
attributes, how they fit into the continuum of grant types offered
by the NSF, and the 1996 funding levels for BIO's STCs and other
center-like activities. He stated that NSF is currently evaluating
the STCs, with the NAPA report being the first step. The NAPA
review was mandated by the Senate to evaluate STC management.
Currently there is an external review being conducted and the
information from it will be passed on to the NAS for final review.
Dr. Edwards stated that advisory committee feedback is also an
important component to the STC review and that their comments
would be passed along to the STC Advisory Committee. Dr. Edwards
asked the BIOAC to address the following questions:
- Are STCs
valuable and/or essential in furthering progress in biology?
- Are STCs instrumental in enhancing education, knowledge, and
- Should the scope of STCs be changed?
- Should another STC competition be held?
Dr. Edwards also asked the BIOAC to consider the following options:
- Continue STC program, with:
- proposals handled in each directorate,
- NSF-wide competition
- Modify STC program (and have a new
competition, with options as above)
- Terminate STC program
Overall, the BIOAC is very supportive of the STC program, particularly
the centers' accomplishments in outreach, integrating research
and education, and collaborative research. They were also impressed
with how well some STCs have been able to leverage their NSF funds
to raise more money.
Some members of the BIOAC are concerned that
some centers have been funded for too long, and suggested shortening
the amount of time a STC is eligible for NSF support.
Dr. Frank Ruddle suggested staggering the competition so that
a new center is started every two years rather than starting several
at one time so that NSF could take advantage of emerging areas
Some members of the BIOAC were concerned that the quality of the
projects funded within a STC may not be as good as those funded
directly through NSF programs. This concern grew mostly out of
the fact that some STCs do not utilize a peer review process in
Dr. Florant was concerned about the level of ethnic diversity
present in STCs. Dr. Edwards said that NSF is working with the
STCs to increase diversity, but that perhaps we have not made enough
progress so far.
Dr. Fedoroff asked how STCs might keep their outreach activities
going once NSF funding ceases. The technical coordinators for BIO
STCs discussed how each of their STCs would probably address this
issue. Overall, they stated that some outreach programs will not
survive, but that others will in a scaled-down version.
Dr. Judith Ramaley, Dr. Paul Magee, and Dr. Nina Fedoroff will
submit a report on this session to Dr. Clutter and Dr. Edwards.
Dr. Magee noted that Dr. Lane is enthusiastic about the BIOAC workshops
held in March. He then asked for volunteers to coordinate the
next set of workshops. Drs. Helen Berman and Burt Ensley, Dr.
Frank Harris, Dr. Rita Colwell, Dr. Gregory Florant, Drs. Mary
Allen and George Langford, Dr. Barbara Webster, and Dr. Frank
Ruddle agreed to organize workshops.
Dr. Fedoroff was concerned
that the BIOAC should have some sort of activity at the national
level as well. She felt that smaller workshops raise consciousness
on the issues, but one is needed on a grander scale to effect
change. She suggested next year's NAS convocation as a mechanism
to achieve this.
Dr. Clutter noted that several members were rotating off the BIOAC
and thanked them for their service. She asked if any of them would
consider serving another year.
Dr. Clutter requested that all BIOAC members provide suggestions
for new members as soon as possible.
The next BIOAC meeting will be held November 7-8, 1996.
BIO will develop a BIOAC home page to post minutes, meeting agendas,
background papers, workshop reports, comments, and other BIOAC
Dr. Magee adjourned the meeting at approximately 12:00 p.m.
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