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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century PLANT BIOLOGY RESEARCH AND TRAINING FOR THE 21ST CENTURY Committee on an Examination of Plant-Science Research Programs in the United States Commission on Life Sciences National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C. 1992
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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competence and with regard for appropriate balance. The report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, The Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Frank Press is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Robert M. White is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of public policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president designate of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and of advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Frank Press and Dr. Robert M. White are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council. This study by the Commission on Life Sciences was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Energy under contracts BBS-9007979 and DE-FG05-90ER 20004. International Standard Book No. 0-309-04679-3 Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 91-67590 Additional copies of this report are available from: National Academy Press 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington, DC 20418 First Printing, June 1992 Second Printing, December 1992 S492 Printed in the United States of America
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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century COMMITTEE ON AN EXAMINATION OF PLANT SCIENCE RESEARCH PROGRAMS IN THE UNITED STATES Robert M. Goodman (Chairman), University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin John D. Axtell, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana Frederick A. Bliss, University of California, Davis, California Winslow R. Briggs, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Stanford, California Donald D. Brown, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Baltimore, Maryland Michael T. Clegg, University of California, Riverside, California Jeffrey J. Doyle, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York James R. Ehleringer, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah Gerald R. Fink, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts Robert B. Horsch, Monsanto Company, St. Louis, Missouri Elliot M. Meyerowitz, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California Paul G. Risser, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico Susan R. Wessler, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia Staff: Alvin G. Lazen Juliette L. Walker Kate Kelly, Editor
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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century COMMISSION ON LIFE SCIENCES Bruce M. Alberts (Chairman), University of California, San Francisco, California Bruce N. Ames, University of California, Berkeley, California J. Michael Bishop, University of California Medical Center, San Francisco, California Michael T. Clegg, University of California, Riverside, California Glenn A. Crosby, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington Leroy E. Hood, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California Donald F. Hornig, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts Marian E. Koshland, University of California, Berkeley, California Richard E. Lenski, University of California, Irvine, California Steven P. Pakes, University of Texas, Dallas, Texas Emil A. Pfitzer, Hoffmann-LaRoche, Inc., Nutley, New Jersey Thomas D. Pollard, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland Joseph E. Rall, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland Richard D. Remington, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa Paul G. Risser, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico Harold M. Schmeck, Jr., Armonk, New York Richard B. Setlow, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, New York Carla J. Shatz, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California Torsten N. Wiesel, Rockefeller University, New York, New York John Burris, Executive Director
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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century Preface Plant research in the past hundred years has made major contributions to our understanding of biology. The earliest research in genetics developed from work on plants; molecular biology in its earliest days benefited from insights gained from studies on plant enzymes, viruses, and cytology. In the middle years of the twentieth century, from the 1930s through the 1960s and into the 1970s, special excitement in biology came from the elucidation of the physical and chemical basis of photosynthesis. Work with higher plants was critical to all those advances. Similar work with microorganisms began only after the foundation was laid by work in plant biology. Contemporary biology derives its special excitement from the application of recent developments, not in plant biology, but from the microbial genetics work of the 1950s and 1960s and from the basic biomedical research successes of the 1970s and the 1980s. The new tools and paradigms of this more recent era have enlivened, and are revolutionizing, contemporary plant biology. Examples include the use of recombinant DNA technologies to develop transgenic plants and the study of the genetic basis of such phenomena as plant development, plant-microbe interactions, and plant reproductive biology. Fundamental research on plants in earlier generations was critical to the development of biology and yielded important benefits to society. The intellectual excitement, productivity, and breadth that characterize the forefront of contemporary plant biology hold as great a promise. The plant-science community in academia, although diverse and often fragmented, is committed, imaginative, persistent, and resilient. But the potential scientific and tangible benefits to society of today's and tomorrow's research opportunities could remain unrealized. Relative to other scientific fields, and in proportion to its own shrinking numbers, the plant-biology research and training capacity of the United States seem to many in the field to be depleted. The data reviewed by the Committee on Plant
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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century Sciences bear out that conclusion. The number of well-funded laboratories working with plant systems is small and the number of students at all levels, the number of course offerings, and the sense one gets of the stature of research on plants among scientists and the public seems to have declined in recent decades. Allocations for competitively awarded grants to fund research and training in the plant sciences are tiny in comparison with the life sciences as a whole. And major obstacles, of funding and of valuation by colleagues and administrators, face those who wish to integrate research and teaching about plants into the curriculum and into the fabric of the biologic sciences as a whole on many campuses. Our committee was assembled in response to a request from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE). The leadership of these agencies asked the National Academy of Sciences through the National Research Council (NRC) to assess the status of plant-science research in the United States in light of the opportunities arising from advances in other areas of biology. NRC was asked to suggest ways of accelerating the application of these new biologic concepts and tools to research in plant science with the aim of enhancing the acquisition of new knowledge about plants. The committee was established in the Commission on Life Sciences in the fall of 1990 to conduct this assessment and to prepare appropriate recommendations. The charge to the committee was to examine the following: Organizations, departments, and institutions conducting plant biology research. Human resources involved in plant biology research. Graduate training programs in plant biology. Federal, state, and private sources of support for plant-biology research. The role of industry in conducting and supporting plant-biology research.
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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century The international status of U.S. plant-biology research. The relationship of plant biology to leading-edge research in biology. The committee also was asked to recommend improvements in institutional and infrastructural arrangements that would enable plant scientists to function at the forefront of biologic research as they address scientific questions about agriculture and the environment. After a discussion at its first meeting with Mary Clutter of NSF, Charles E. Hess of USDA, and Robert Rabson of DoE, the committee took it as its charge to consider the plant sciences in their broadest sense-the study of plants, at all levels of organization-as part of the search of new understanding and the elucidation of fundamental biologic principles. Our report focuses on research in basic plant biology and suggests changes to enable plant studies to function in the United States at the forefront of research, as have research on microorganisms and on animals for the past four decades. Our report deals with the central role of plant biology and plant biologists in enabling the United States to meet challenges not only in agriculture but also in other applications of plant science. Knowledge gained from the study of plants has immediate applications to a wide range of problems and opportunities facing modern society. Not only is increased knowledge about plants fundamental to advances in agriculture and forestry, but it can contribute to advances in nutrition, to improved understanding of the environment and mitigation of global change, to the development of alternative sources of energy, to the development of manned space exploration, and to the production of improved medicine. The committee's report thus touches the interests not only of its sponsors-NSF, USDA, and DoE-but those of other agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century The committee met twice to discuss the issues and to plan, outline, and draft its report. Our time constraint was acute. Because of this limitation, the committee was unable to undertake extensive new research or analysis. Instead, we relied on NRC reports and on data from various federal agencies. The committee used reports from NSF, DoE, and USDA and relied on individual members' knowledge and experience as a basis for understanding the organization and structure of research in the plant sciences and the opportunities and needs therein. Also because of time and resource limitations, the committee was unable to address the international-status and private-sector aspects of plant biology. We must thank many people for their generous sharing of time and expertise. Paul Stumpf, Jane Smith, and Patricia Shelton of the USDA National Research Initiatives Competitive Grants Office; Marge Stanton of the USDA Higher Education Office; Clifford Gabriel of the USDA Cooperative State Research Service; Judith Greenberg of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences; Machi Dilworth and Gerald Selzer of NSF; and Thora Halstead of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration supplied valuable information, opinions, and data on plant-science research programs. Neal Jorgensen, acting dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, helped the committee to understand issues in plant-science research and education in the university milieu. Elaine Hoagland of the Association of Systematics Collections graciously provided data on extant collections. The statements and interpretations in this report, however, are the responsibility of the committee rather than of the persons who so kindly provided us with information. I wish to extend special thanks to the members of the committee, who so enthusiastically, thoughtfully, and patiently applied themselves to this important task, and the members of the committee join me in thanking Commission on Life
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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century Sciences staff members Alvin Lazen and Juliette Walker, and Board on Agriculture staff member James Tavares for their splendid assistance throughout the preparation of this report. Robert M. Goodman Chairman, Committee on an Examination of Plant-Science Research Programs in the United States
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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century Contents EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 1 1 WHY PLANT BIOLOGY RESEARCH TODAY? 13 Plants, Human Health, and Civilization Plants and the Environment Plants in Agriculture, Medicine, and Industry Plants and the Origins of Modern Biology 2 FEDERAL MANAGEMENT AND SUPPORT 21 The Federal Institutions U.S. Department of Agriculture Department of Energy National Science Foundation National Institutes of Health Multiagency Cooperation Impediments to an Effective Program of Basic Plant-Biology Research and Training 3 FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS 37 4 RECOMMENDATIONS 43 LITERATURE CITED 61 INFORMATION ON COMMITTEE MEMBERS 65
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