tively awarded, investigator-initiated grants are only a small portion of the overall support for plant science research. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and, until recently, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), have historically awarded more funds for plant research and training through competitive, investigator-initiated granting programs than has USDA.
The members of this committee were convinced that the U.S. research effort in plant biology is not keeping pace with work in biomedically related fields because of the inadequacy of the mechanisms and funding used to support plant-science research. We believe that the federal government needs to alter dramatically its management and support of plant biology.
There are three related issues on which this report focuses in suggesting remedies for the deterioration of the plant sciences in the academic research and training enterprise. First is the mechanism of research funding (competitive versus noncompetitive; open to the larger scientific community versus closed). Second is the balance of research funding (support of basic versus applied research). Third is the commitment to building and maintaining an appropriate infrastructure of institutions and personnel (the amount of funding for research and training of the next generation of plant scientists).
The stunting of plant sciences at a time when other fields are experiencing rapid growth initiates a self-perpetuating downward spiral in the plant sciences. As universities restructure traditional botany, zoology, and microbiology departments into thematic departments that cut across organismal boundaries, plant biology loses academic positions to fields with access to the much larger funding bases of the biomedical support structure. In 1988–1989, only 16% of plant-biology faculty were at universities that had demonstrated their competitiveness in science by ranking among the top 20 institutional recipients of federal support for research and development in the life sciences (NSF, 1990b). Between 1982–1983 and 1989–1990 the number of plant-biology faculty at