Meetings

BERAC Meeting Minutes December 11-12, 2000

MINUTES

Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee (BERAC) Meeting
Office of Biological and Environmental Research
Office of Science
U.S. Department of Energy


DATE: December 11-12, 2000

LOCATION: American Geophysical Union, Washington, D.C. The meeting was announced in the Federal Register.

PARTICIPANTS: A list of attendees showing all BERAC members who were present, guests, and participating Department of Energy officials and staff is attached.

Monday December 11, 2000

(MORNING SESSION)

Dr. Millie Dresselhaus, Director, DOE Office of Science (SC)

SC has a predominant emphasis in the physical sciences and is the lead funder of physical sciences research in the U.S. DOE continues to be one of the top five U.S. funding agencies of research in the physical sciences, earth & environmental sciences, mathematics & computer science, engineering, life sciences and of scientific user facilities.

Overall in the U.S. there has been a steady decline in support for the physical sciences since 1970 versus an overall increase in the biological sciences. DOE funding has also declined since 1970 while other basic science agency budgets have generally increase. While SC has fared slightly better than DOE overall, it is essentially at same point today as in 1985. BER’s budget has essentially been flat for the past 10 years with the exception of the current fiscal year.

Today, about 1/3 of SC funding goes to the National Labs and 1/3 goes to universities and other research institutes although this later number is really larger since many of these investigators benefit from SC’s no-charge user facilities.

SC got nearly everything it requested in FY01 for an overall increase of ~12%. SC’s FY01 priorities include the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS), high performance computing, user facility upgrades, nanoscale science and life sciences & biomedical engineering. BER (along with BES) saw largest increase (~$35M) in SC. The scientific community spoke for SC in FY01 (and already for FY02) – university presidents, representatives and senators.

FY02 science issues – We need to ensure that we continue to meet the needs of the Department’s 15,000 facility users and that we maintain core research programs and core capabilities. These cannot be preserved with flat funding, inadequate cost of living increases and inadequate infrastructure support. Also at issue is SC’s scientific leadership in its areas of greatest strength. DOE has not paid as much attention as it should to the National Academy’s COSEPUP report about US scientific leadership in general and in specific areas of science. SC continues to lose ground in infrastructure and fusion.

Our greatest opportunities in FY01 and FY02 – SNS, nanoscale science, computation, high energy physics, nuclear physics, Bringing the Genome to Life.

Charge to BERAC – What is the overall quality of BER science? What is the overall quality of BER’s research topics and the facilities it supports? How does the BER program interface with other Federal programs? What would be your priorities if additional funds were available?

BER suggested the following challenges, priorities and opportunities for BERAC comment – Bringing the Genome to Life, biomedical engineering, Global Change Research that includes a greater understanding of aerosols and health, research at the interface of molecular biology and ecological research, advanced climate modeling, Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory upgrades for proteomics research, increases for low dose radiation research.

Over the coming weeks I hope to make visits to the different Federal agencies and programs that are complementary to the BER program to identify new opportunities for interaction. BER already has many external connections across the entire range of its programs with many other agencies which is a good thing

Dr. Francis Collins, Director National Human Genome Research Institute at NIH

DOE/BER initiated the Human Genome Program in the face of violent community opposition. NIH was admittedly a late arrival. DOE and NIH have had a strong and productive partnership over the last 10 years. I certainly value the general partnership with DOE and in particular my interactions with Ari Patrinos.

The human genome has been sequenced by 20 genome centers around the world with the majority of the sequence having been determined by five centers including the DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI) for which we are very grateful to Dr. Elbert Branscomb, the former JGI director. ~65% of the sequencing was done in the US.

The human genome project is a lot more than about sequencing DNA. The US has the lead in most or all of these other areas of research. What is our path forward? The series of 5 year research plans between NIH and DOE have been extremely valuable. We are poised to be able to do very interesting things to understand how cells work over the next 5-10 years. We are likely to get to a point where computer models are a major part of the approach to biology. BER’s proposed Bringing the Genome to Life effort is a great strategy with a great name. I also understand DOE’s need to maintain its agency- specific focus. I do hope to maintain and expand our partnerships in the future.

What about private sector activity? It is absolutely crucial to the success of the genome program. We will depend on the private sector for the development of products and diagnostics where the US maintains leadership though today most pharmaceutical companies are international.

BERAC initial comments/discussion on Millie Dresselhaus charge to BERAC

Ray Gesteland on the BER genome program – Genomics has lifted biology to a whole new level. BER has played key role. BER’s contributions have been substantial and spectacular in spite of minimal resources compared to NIH. BER’s early vision, its development of key technology, high-speed capillary electrophoresis, engineering of enzymes, cloning and sorting of chromosomes are just a few examples.

Warren Washington on the BER global change research program – The US Global Change Research Program is now over 10 years old. It has been substantially reviewed by the National Academy of Science. It is an excellent example of very good interagency coordination. BER’s strengths are in climate modeling and the use of supercomputers, the role of clouds and radiation (our biggest uncertainty in climate), carbon cycle research (a big sticking point at the recent meeting in the Haig) with big policy implications, aerosols and global warming, ecological research. There is a need for integration of all the science in this program.

Jim Tiedje on BER’s environmental research – The Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research (NABIR) program is an integrated program that supports basic research to enhance the environmental restoration of DOE problem areas. No other federal programs have focused on the basic science underpinning these challenges in spite of other federal and private investments. NABIR’s specific focus is on the remediation of metals and radionuclides. The program works well with other agencies, especially DOD and EPA. Importantly, the NABIR program opened a Field Research Center this year to get laboratory research into the field.

Al Rabson on BER’s medical sciences research – Structural biologists need and use BER’s user facilities at the DOE light sources. There is a big role for genomics across all of NIH. NIH’s Bioengineering Consortium (BECON) has a great need for interaction with engineers and physical scientists. BER is a great partner in BECON.

Keith Hodgson on BER facilities – BER has two classes of user facilities, those that are recognized as traditional facilities and nontraditional user facilities. Both of these need to evolve to meet future DOE and National needs. The BER structural biology facilities are an example of multiple partnerships across DOE and other agencies. Not only have users increased by ~3X over the past 8-10 years but productivity has also increased by ~7X. Since January of this year 51% of all published protein structures internationally have benefited from the use of the 4 DOE light sources and its user beamlines. Jonathan Greer noted that we are on the verge of another explosion in biology parallel to last 10 years of growth in the structural biology. The focus will increasingly be on function not just structure. We are making a transition to high throughput structural biology. There are also considerable industrial investments today as well in the last 5 years. Today, the use of protein structure information plays an increasingly important role in drug design versus only 5-6 years ago. This is a point that could be used effectively by Dr. Dresselhaus.

Discussion on education needs - What is going on to develop the next generation of scientists in genomics? Genomics came about because of interdisciplinary activities. DOE has generally done a good job in its Ethical Legal and Social Issues program on public education in genomics. Overall we are not doing a good enough job in science education. Many groups such as women and minorities are still underrepresented. Is DOE (or any science agency) doing enough? Dr. Dresselhaus noted that SC has a new collaboration with NSF in the education area. It has always been controversial for DOE to be involved in education areas. The NSF connection may help. SC should certainly be a big player at least starting at the undergraduate level but K-12 education may be more questionable.

Barbara Wold, BERAC – Overview and Introduction to Genome to Life Roadmap

This program couples theoretical and experimental biology to create computational models that will drive our use of biological data and future laboratory research.

Program goals –

  1. Determine the structure of the proteome and characterize the protein machines of DOE microbes and model organisms. Information on gene function is essential. Proteomics is the characterization of all the proteins being expressed in a given cell at any one time. Protein machines are the protein-protein complexes that carry out the chemistry of living systems.
  2. Define the architecture and dynamic behavior of gene regulatory networks.
  3. Generate a genomic and metabolic portrait of natural microbial ecosystems of importance to DOE’s mission.
  4. Develop a conceptual framework and the computational tools to simulate and ultimately predict metabolic pathways and cellular functions.

Every organism is, at some level, an informative model for every other organism. The number and types of protein complexes and molecular machines in cells may be finite across a wide range of organisms. A goal is to leverage these similarities rapidly and cheaply starting with in silico approaches and to then focus on differences between organisms and to relate this information to different biological functions.

The Microbial Cell Project, initiated by BER in FY01, is the leading edge for the Genomes to Life program. There needs to be a flow of ideas and results between the two. Parts of the Microbial Cell Project will also interact with other elements across the BER and DOE programs.

The Genomes to Life program will need to develop unique and strong management principles. There is a strong analogy to the strategies used by the genome program. There is a need to external advisory input, for both big, closely managed projects and for individual projects with shorter than normal turnover time.

NSF had a workshop this past summer to discuss a program with much overlap with the Genomes to Life program. NSF will focus on microbes and their environments. There is a big opportunity for interaction and coordination especially given scope and cost of this program. Mary Clutter and Ari have been discussing these issues for over a year. An interagency group has been formed to focus on the coordination of some of these issues. An interagency report to be issued imminently will serve as a blue print for future interagency efforts.

Ken Nealson - Director , Center for Life Detection at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab

Comments on the Genome to Life program – Don’t do something different but something additional. There needs to be a link to what is really going on in the environment. We need to understand the environments where microbes live to be able to attack DOE environmental problems. Microbes have incredible metabolic diversity. Virtually every energy source on this planet will have an organism that can use it.

Enormous opportunities to use information and understanding of microbial evolution, genomics, cells, populations and communities to develop tools for bioremediation for example. Knowledge of microbial metabolic capabilities and microbial responses to environmental change enables the design and implementation of engineering strategies.

A key interest and value in determining how the chemistry of a microbial population in a given environment compares to the genomic diversity of that population and to the diversity and interactions of the individual microbial metabolisms found in that environment. To maximize the likelihood of success it would be helpful to start in some very well (chemically) defined environments before moving directly into unique DOE environments.

Gerry Rubin, Scientific Director Howard Hughes Memorial Institute

Comments on Genome to Life program – Individual organisms can be viewed as a complex computer code – genes = individual lines of code, interactions of genes/products = grouped lines of code, etc. Developing an understanding of cellular regulatory mechanism is a complex challenge. There may be value in the use of diverse methods developed for complex system analysis in a variety of systems.

While this is an appropriate large scale computational challenges biological systems are not inherently logical. They are not predictable in a simple way. There are no universal truths. Perhaps biology is more like climate modeling than nuclear physics. We don’t yet know enough about how biology works to know which if any of these other analytic/modeling strategies will work. There is a keen need for data sets collected in a more precise quantitative way than they have been to date.

From a computational perspective people may be underestimating the challenge of collecting useful and useable data. There is a need for a common data collection platform/framework so that comparisons can actually be made across data sets. While there is a real software engineering need there is actually a much greater need for controlled vocabularies. There are also serious infrastructure issues just for biological databases.

Ray Deshaies – Howard Hughes Professor at Cal Tech

Scientific presentation in support of Bringing the Genome to Life – Demonstration of a working strategy for analyzing molecular machines and their subcomponents. Use of affinity purification methods and mass spectrometry to identify molecular machines, their components and other proteins involved in interactions.

AFTERNOON SESSION

Ari Patrinos, Associate Director Office of Biological & Environmental Research

Origins of this initiative - Only about 1 year old. Martha Krebs, then SC Director, charged BERAC with defining a research program that leveraged success and capabilities in genomics, structural biology and computational science. A BERAC subcommittee, chaired by Ray Gesteland, met in January and March 2000 to develop a program recommendation that approved and publihsed in June 2000. In September 2000 Ernie Moniz and Millie Dresselhaus charged BER with developing a roadmap for the Gesteland committee report that included more scientific specifics. A roadmapping group was put together and met twice in October and twice in November, jointly at a Microbial Cell Project workshop and again for final drafting of the roadmap being discussed today. The overall goal is for this program plan and roadmap to impact the FY 2002 budget.

Special thanks to Betty Mansfield, Amy Reeves, Doug Vaughan and Denise Casey for their editorial support. Thanks also to Barbara Wold, Elbert Branscomb and Mike Knotek for their leadership and to the many scientists from the labs and broader community for their help, input and work in putting together this roadmap.

We need feedback from you quickly on the documents that have already been and will be prepared. We are also soliciting feedback from the broader scientific community and from other agencies. Finally, we need advice from BERAC on how to best seek future advice on the Genome to Life program, e.g., should we form a high level steering group?

Jim Tiedje, BERAC

The Microbial Cell Project – Focus on research underpinned by DOE capabilities and addressing a range of DOE mission needs such as bioremediation, carbon sequestration and renewable energy.

Microbial Cell workshop guidance -

  • Identifying a minimum genome for life is not a good theme for this project. A minimum genome would be very environment dependent.
  • Focus on physiological and biochemical functions. Emphasize biochemical pathways of DOE mission interest, unknown genes, moderate proteome resolution, high level resolution of DOE relevant pathways, high throughput tools for gene/protein expression patterns. Choose microbes that are genetically manipulable. Develop tools for an information on the localization of these pathways with cells, reaction kinetics, associations and disassociations of proteins within these pathways and the fluxes of proteins in microbes associated with these pathways.
  • Develop capabilities for computational modeling – Model regulatory networks and biochemical pathways first.

In the future there needs to be an expansion/integration of efforts to characterize the interaction of microbes within communities. The program should study more than two organisms – perhaps in a controllable bioreactor first and then in a natural, uncontrolled environment. Metabolic pathways of importance to DOE mission needs should continue to be emphasized. There should be an increased emphasis on regulatory networks and the underlying molecular mechanisms, the structure of molecular machines, high throughput technologies for protein function and computational modeling of individual cells and microbial communities.

While there is considerable similarity to NSF interests there are complementary gaps and lots of basic biology that needs to be done which is a logical match to NSF’s traditional individual PI initiated research.

Jill Trewhella, Los Alamos National Laboratory

The goal is to systematically characterize the machines of life – complexes, their modifications, protein-protein interfaces, affinities and kinteics, spatial and temporal hierarchies of assembly and serial connections among complexes. This will be a large, coordinated, multitechnology effort. We do have many tools to start with but there is also a need for rapid technology development. We need reevaluate progress on a time scale of a few year or less. We need to determine the functional relevance of each component in a complex. We need to focus on specific molecular machines relevant to DOE challenges, e.g., DNA repair, bioremediation, carbon cycle. There is value to DOE to characterize the diversity of microbes of importance to DOE mission.

Although the initial and major focus will be on microbes, we need to identify how the new capabilities, technologies and biology can be used understand and predict the responses of people to environmental exposures.

What could we do with $50M annually over 5 years if 1/3 was used for modeling/computation. We could characterize the protein complexes in 3 model organisms, 3 environmentally stimulated regulatory networks and microbial diversity in 3 distinct sites.

Mike Colvin, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Integrating and analyzing large data sets is at the heart of this initiative along with the development of tools for biological simulation and prediction. DOE will focus on its own needs and strengths. Bioinformatics, advanced computing and algorithms, protein structure prediction and macromolecular simulation (e.g. CASP), molecular modeling and computational chemistry are all DOE strengths. This needs to be integrated across each of the laboratory-based experimental goals rather than being a goal in itself.

Computation provides a linkage between the different levels of biological challenges described in this initiative. There is a need for significant developments in bioinformatics and genome annotation including genome assembly and annotation, generation of phylogenetic trees, identification of regulatory elements and pathway inference from comparative genomics. There is a need for a fundamental new biology and new algorithms for analyzing data. We also need to think about data and information standards that bridge industry, the labs and academia.

Lee Makowski, Argonne National Laboratory

Technology development needs – This new program will require entirely different classes of high-throughput experiment technologies than we have today including high throughput biochemistry, analytical techniques and improved imaging technologies. Specific technologies include: microarry technologies for DNA and proteins, tools for gene product localization and imaging within cells, tools for obtaining 3-dimensional structures of macromolecular complexes in cells and tools for isolating and characterizing all expressed proteins in cells.

Membrane proteins remain a problem even for this new program. There remain three levels of problems - sufficient protein expression, protein stabilization in native conformation and protein crystallization if you can even do the first two.

Public comment – None

Meeting adjourned at 5:15 PM.

Tuesday December 12

Jim Tiedje, BERAC – NABIR subcommittee reports (2)

The first report focuses on the development of a database system NABIR, on NABIR data management and on data management at the Field Research Center (FRC). Will researchers use it? There is good science underpinning the design of these resources. A focus on FRC data will be particular value. There needs to be a data user committee to help ensure that principal investigators will want to use this resource.

The second report focuses on a review of NABIR’s bacterial transport element. Microbes need to get to contaminated sites to do their (bioremediation) job. The committee was asked about program relevance, uniqueness, its linkage to other NABIR elements and research quality. Research in the bacterial transport element focuses on use of the Oyster site on the eastern shore of Virginia, a site managed by the Nature Conservancy. The program supports excellent science. However, the site is not as appropriate for DOE (NABIR) needs as are other sites. The committee recommended that the value of current research expertise be harnessed for use at a DOE-relevant site in the next few years but that no further research be conducted at the Oyster site after that.

Both reports accepted without discussion.

Ari Patrinos – BER overview
  • Jerry Elwood is now officially the Director of the Environmental Sciences Division
  • Marv Frazier doing well
  • Noelle Metting joined us as an IPA from Pacific Northwest National Lab

BER did get a big increase in FY01 but the numbers needed to be viewed in the context of numerous general reduction and congressonal earmarks. It should be noted that two of the earmarks are parts of our core programs, e.g., low dose and molecular nuclear medicine.

Notable FY01 increases

  • Microbial Cell Project - a new initiative
  • Low dose is consolidated in BER though we will continue our partnership with EM
  • New funds for bioengineering following an FY00 effort using internal funds
  • Molecular nuclear medicine - not clear if increase is specifically earmarked
  • Infrastructure investments impacting structural genomics – Laboratory Office Module at the Advanced Photon Source, DNA repair/protein complex beamline at the Adanced Light Source, boosting proteomics capabilities at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory
  • Climate modeling and simulation though balancing decreases elsewhere
  • We are always faced with the challenge of balancing increases and reductions resulting in tough, priority based decisions. There is a concern for what is generally support for the growth of new programs with no help for base programs. This is an alarming trend that may not change. It may be appropriate to emphasize the ongoing process of program adjustment rather than simply talking about core (which can imply static) programs.
  • BER saw significant growth in the late 1980 due to the development and growth of the Human Genome Program and the Global Change Research Program; however, this growth was tempered by severe cuts in radiation biology for example.

  • Trevor Hawkins is now director of the Joint Genome Institute.
  • The JGI and genome program are nurturing emerging partnerships with computational science partners.
  • The JGI portal is a good place to visit – www.jgi.doe.gov.
  • The JGI does more than human DNA sequencing. We are all related at some level. Valuable information can be obtained from other organisms to help understand the human sequence, e.g., from mouse and Fugu fish. The JGI will complete a draft DNA sequence of the Fugu fish in March 2001. The NIH and Sanger Center will complete the mouse draft DNA sequence in March 2001.
  • JGI microbe month in October 2000 – draft DNA sequence of a diverse group of 15 microbes. This is an experiment to see if this type and quality of DNA sequence information is valuable to the community. We have not made a decision to switch from high quality complete DNA sequencing but this experiment will help us and the broader community to decide the best strategy to use in the future. There is a factor of 3 to 4 cost difference between high draft and complete DNA sequencing due to finishing costs so the decision is not insignificant.
  • We value in and are proud of our diverse partnerships – USDA, NIH, NSF, NN
  • New DNA sequencing strategies - Richard Mathies. Beta-tested technology with the potential to increase sequencing speed 8x. Tests so far have resulted in 500 base pair reads in about 20 minutes! Also testing a rolling circle amplification method that could be used on any circular (microbial) genome. Can take individual microbes and get massive amplification (using random primers) of about 1 million fold in about 6 hours at ambient temperature. This offers great potential for going after uncharacterized / unisolated / uncultured microbes as described in the Genomes to Life program.
  • The JGI has also expanded its real partnerships beyond the original three labs.

  • The low dose radiation research program continues to be a maturing and growing effort with ongoing interest from Senator Domenici.
  • Boron Neutron Capture Therapy – program “closure” following last year’s BERAC report (http://www.sc.doe.gov/production/ober/berac/bnctfnl1199.html). The program has shifted to the development of innovative isotopes/radiotheraphy for cancer therapy.
  • Bioengineering – This is a formal program to support laboratory capabilities in this area that includes an essential and substantial academic/medical collaboration. Our principal activities are in imaging. Our program interfaces with efforts at NIH through BECON (the Bioengineering Consortium). Mike Viola is an active member of BECON. DOE is also represented on BECON by Dick Swaja, an IPA from Oak Ridge National Lab who is working in Wendy Baldwin’s office at NIH.
  • Our medical sciences program has an exciting new emphasis on imaging gene expression in vivo.

  • US Global Change Research Program is now 10 years old. The next 10-year plan is being developed as called for in the program’s enabling legislation. This activity is being coordinated by an interagency steering committee from NASA, NOAA, NSF, DOE. The new plan will have six 6 research elements – climate variability & change, atmospheric composition, carbon cycle, water, cycle, land use/cover change, terrestrial & aquatic ecosystem resources in addition to four enabling/integrating activities – human dimensions, observations, information & data management, modeling.
  • The National Assessment report was just released looking at a range of climate change projections based on an assumed average rise of 3-5 degrees C in the US over the next 100 years.
  • ARM – continuing focus on improving parameterization of atmospheric properties especially clouds, in climate models. ARM was featured on the cover of the last two issues of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society indicating that it is still a productive program that is having an impact. We continue to operate 3 ARM CART sites in the U.S. Great Plains, the North Slope of Alaska and the tropical Western Pacific. Overall program coordination is by Wanda Ferrell and Pat Crowley.
  • Climate modeling - continued focus on decade to century projection. Our program is included as part of a coordinated solicitation for new research in Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing that is being coordinated by the SC Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research. Dave Bader provides overall coordination.
  • Atmospheric Sciences – continued focus on atmospheric chemistry research, transport, composition. An additional focus on aerosols and their impact on radiative forcing is being planned. Peter Lunn provides overall coordination.
  • Carbon cycle research - knowing where carbon is and where it goes. This was a key issue at the recently collapsed Haig talks. Two of our “nontraditional” facilities play key roles – the AmeriFlux network to measure net CO2 exchange at 42 sites in the US and FACE (Free Air CO2 Enrichment) to study elevated CO2 impacts across a variety of ecosystems. Roger Dahlman provides overall coordination.
  • Ecological Processes research – how will ecosytems and resources respond to atmospheric and climate change. Overall coordination by Jerry Elwood and staff.
  • Integrated Assessment - cost/benefits of global change, of CO2 sequestration options and of greenhouse gas mitigation technologies. John Houghton coordination.
  • Carbon sequestration roadmap with Fossil Energy lead and significant input from John Houghton. Strategies for enhancing CO2 sequestration in terrestrial ecosystems and the ocean and an assessment of the impacts of different strategies. BER has funded 2 centers for Terrestrial (ORNL, PNNL, ANL) and Ocean (LLNL, LBNL) Carbon Sequestration research. The goal is to enhance natural CO2 sequestration at a range of scales – molecular, ecosystem processes, landscape. Roger Dahlman lead.
  • NABIR - Anna Palmisano & John Houghton leads with substantial involvement of Frank Wobber, Dan Drell and Paul Bayer. The first field scale experiment at the new Field Research Center at ORNL will be conducted in January 2001. So-called push-pull experiments will be conducted to probe the microbial subsurface communities and to see what nutrients they will respond to.

  • Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory - Paul Bayer coordination. Diverse DOE and interagency sponsors/customers. Doubling of users since FY98. 44% of users are remote users. 77% of users are from universities and the private sector. A recent highlight is Dick Smith’s high throughput proteomics project using mass spectrometry that has the potential to revolutionize the field.

Keith Hodgson acknowledged and thanked Ari for his tireless and critical role on behalf of the Human Genome Project that helped keep the peace and maintain progress in relations between the private and public sector projects that led up to last July’s announcement at the White House about the completion of the draft human DNA sequence and that continues today.

Gene Bierly, BERAC – comments about a National Academy workshop

Was a member of a focus group that is part of COSEPUP (Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy) at the National Academy of Sciences. Looking at requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA). GPRA is a good idea but continues to be tough for basic research programs. The Academy is trying to help resolve this problem. Focus groups were put together for five different agencies including DOE. The focus groups are not trying to tell agencies what to do but want to provide useful information.

Evaluations of GPRA reports get done by various groups including some in House who often don’t appear to have enough scientific background to make necessary evaluations. The question of why DOE is even doing any of its science came up repeatedly during the committee meeting. Currently, GRPA doesn’t acknowledge or accept failure. The overall goal is to relate GPRA to the budget. Thus, future faliures could result in budget reductions. Interestingly, OMB finds GPRA unusable.

Some issues possible metrics discussed – The number of times publications are cited? Invitations (and types of invitations) to scientists for outside presentations? Where is a program with respect to other agencies? Does it fill a unique niche? Does it play a leadership role? What is the quality of the science? Quality, leadership and relevance came up repeatedly as key issues.

University programs looked at differently than lab programs. DOE’s mission focus adds complication compared to NIH and NSF for example. Knowledge is difficult to quantify. Failure and success have different meanings in science and business.

There was a core of people who looked at all five agencies. A draft report is expected in 6 months or so.

Discussion of Dr. Dresselhaus’ charge to BERAC

Need for short-term (3-4 weeks) and long-term information

  • Prepare a capsular view of each program area. Approximately 1 paragraph/page for each program area plus an overall summary paragraph. A few statistics should be added to emphasize key points. User facilities are an excellent example that can be emphasized.
  • BER doesn’t really have subdisciplines, it has subprograms.
  • Concern was expressed about the aging cadre of program scientists, equipment and facilities across the DOE system.
  • A strength of the BER program is its dynamic nature. The periodic redeploying of resources is a good thing.
  • Laboratory scientists are, in fact, scientifically competitive since more than half of their funds come from non-DOE sources.
  • The written charge letter does not include Dr. Dresselhaus’ verbal request for input on BERAC priorities for BER if additional are funds available.

Assignments / Leads for preparing paragraphs -

  • EMSL - Willard Harrison
  • Genome – Ray Gesteland
  • Bioremediation – Jim Tiedje
  • Global change – Warren Washington
  • Structural biology – Keith Hodgson/Jonathan Greer
  • Low dose – Roger McClellan
  • Medical sciences – Curt Civin

  • BERAC should make a general recommendation to Dr. Dresselhaus to double the BER budget in 5 years beginning in 2002; to use increases to support core programs, facilities and new initiatives; to allocated $50M per year the Genomes to Life program beginning in FY02; and to endorse a doubling of SC budget over 5 years.
  • Concern was expressed over the use of the description of programs as “core.” Programs are dynamic not static. The focus should be on the challenges and opportunities. We do need to pay attention to the erosion of funds that aren’t part of new initiatives even if programs are regularly recompeted. “Core capabilities” may be more to the point. BER programs today may be 1/5 to 1/10 what they were in the early 1960’s. NSF has used the term core programs and has never gotten any new money. Now they are focusing on making more and larger grants which seems to be much more successful. There continues to be great suspicion from the outside about DOE’s peer review process.

SC is beginning to get more support from the outside community -

FY01 support

  • 165 letters to OMB from American Physical Society members
  • American Chemical Society alerts sent out on behalf of SC generated 3455 responses
  • American Society of Microbiology letter to the Hill especially related to facilities
  • Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) telegrams to all members of Congress
  • Dear Colleague letters with 35 Senate and 97 House member signatories
  • 37 university presidents and chancellor letters
  • Coordinated SC advisory committee support

FY02 support ongoing

  • FASEB FY02 consensus conference and report to Congress
  • Bingaman letter on the floor (Dec 5)
  • 22 Senators signed letter to Clinton
  • Energy Science Coalition formed & developed series of talking points

Request by BERAC members -

  • Would like an inventory of the intellectual capital across DOE laboratories in the BER program by discipline and age distribution.
  • Spreadsheet with FY 00 & FY01 funds plus a one pager on the types details of BER supported facilities.

Public comment - none

Meeting adjourned 12:10 PM


U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Science
Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee (BERAC) Meeting
December 11-12, 2000
American Geophysical Union
2000 Florida Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20009

List of Attendees present for all or a portion of the meeting

BERAC Members

Dr. Eugene W. Bierly, American Geophysical Union

Dr. Claire M. Fraser, The Institute for Genomic Research

Dr. Raymond F. Gesteland, University of Utah

Dr. Jonathan Greer, Abbott Laboratories

Dr. Richard E. Hallgren, American Meteorology Society

Dr. Willard W. Harrison, University of Florida

Dr. Keith O. Hodgson, Stanford University

Dr. Roger O. McClellan, Advisor, Toxicology and Human Health Risk Analysis

Dr. Jill Mesirov, Whitehead Institute

Dr. Louis Pitelka, University of Maryland

Dr. Alan Rabson, National Cancer Institute

Dr. James M. Tiedje, Michigan State University

Dr. Warren Washington, National Center for Atmospheric Research

Dr. Barbara Wold, California Institute of Technology

U.S. Department of Energy Staff

Mildred Dresselhaus, Director, Office of Science (SC)

Jim Decker, SC

Rick Borchelt, SC

John Metzler, SC

Ari Patrinos, Associate Director, Office of Biological and Environmental Research (OBER)/SC

David Thomassen, Designated Federal Officer, BERAC, OBER/SC

Michael Riches, OBER/SC

Joanne Corcoran, OBER/SC

Daniel Drell, OBER/SC

Marvin Stodolsky, OBER/SC

Mike Teresinski, OBER/SC

Dean Cole, OBER/SC

Peter Kirchner, OBER/SC

Prem Srivastava, OBER/SC

Noelle Metting, OBER/SC

Roland Hirsch, OBER/SC

Jerry Elwood, OBER/SC

Paul Bayer, OBER/SC

Wanda Ferrell, OBER/SC

John Houghton, OBER/SC

Anna Palmisano, OBER/SC

Rickey Petty, OBER/SC

Roger Dahlman, OBER/SC

Walt Polansky, SC

Thom Dunning, Jr., SC

Mike Osinski, SC

Jim Tavares, SC

Sharlene Weatherwax, SC

Justine Alchowiack, EM

Don Lentzen, EH

Mohandas Bhat, EH

Richard Bradley, PO

Lee Makowski, Argonne National Laboratory

Carl W. Anderson, Brookhaven National Laboratory

Teresa Fryberger, Brookhaven National Laboratory

Linda Chang, Brookhaven National Laboratory

Creighton Wirick, Brookhaven National Laboratory

Michelle Buchanan, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Frank Harris, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Steve Hildebrand, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Reinhold Mann, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Betty Mansfield, Human Genome News, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Michael Banda, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Rob Johnson, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

William Dannevik, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Michael Colvin, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Scott Cram, Los Alamos National Laboratory

Allen Hartford, Los Alamos National Laboratory

Jill Trewhella, Los Alamos National Laboratory

Allison Campbell, EMSL, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Jean Futrell, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Ellyn Murphy, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Doug Ray, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Gerald Stokes, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

John Vitko, Sandia National Laboratory

Leonard Napolitano, Sandia National Laboratory

Trevor Hawkins, Joint Genome Institute

Elbert Branscomb, Joint Genome Institute

Others

Michael Holland, Office of Management and Budget

Ed Hildebrand, OSTP

Francis Collins, NIH/NHGRI

Elke Jordan, NIH/NHGRIR. E. Swaja, NIH

John Watson, NIH

Mollie Sourwine, NIH

Amy Swain, NIH

Ann Vidaver, Department of Agriculture

Leland Ellis, Department of Agriculture

Sharon Parker, Department of Agriculture

Jack Bagley, Battelle

Walt Schimmerling, NASA

Shawn McLaughlin, NOAA

Laura Gerum, American Chemical SocietyScott Weidman, National Research Council

Barbara Jasny, SCIENCE Magazine

Eliot Marshall, SCIENCE Magazine

William Bentley, University of Maryland

Michelle Broido, University of Pittsburgh

Tim Pechinpaugh, Preston Gates

Gerry Rubin, University of CA/Berkeley

William Busa, Cellomics, Inc.

Ted Cartwright, American Society for Microbiology

Pamela Moore, Capital Publications

Tarun Reddy, Inside Energy

Andrey Poletayev, Moscow

Last modified: 3/18/2013 10:27:51 AM