4
RECOMMENDATIONS

Individual investigators, small groups of investigators, many of them university based, make up the backbone of American science. It was enlightened support over the past decades of that group of individuals that has given the United States a research and technology enterprise that is the envy of the world.
(D. Allan Bromley, Science Advisor to the President, in a speech at the National Academy of Sciences, June 27, 1990)

The members of the Committee on Plant Sciences believe it is time to apply to the plant sciences the lessons learned from the support of biomedical research and training. The committee recommends the establishment of a National Institute of Plant Biology (NIPB) with a comprehensive program that engages all of the federal agencies that support plant biology. NIPB would be organized in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The institute would be based on the principle of competitively awarded basic research and training grants in plant biology and its philosophy and practice would be patterned after the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The term "program" refers to the framework proposed by the committee, including the establishment of, and leadership role to be played by, the institute in USDA; the vital continued commitment and participation of other agencies in support of plant biology research and training in cooperation with NIPB; a study section system; and the kind of support and amount of funding proposed by the committee that are essential to the program's success.



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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century 4 RECOMMENDATIONS Individual investigators, small groups of investigators, many of them university based, make up the backbone of American science. It was enlightened support over the past decades of that group of individuals that has given the United States a research and technology enterprise that is the envy of the world. (D. Allan Bromley, Science Advisor to the President, in a speech at the National Academy of Sciences, June 27, 1990) The members of the Committee on Plant Sciences believe it is time to apply to the plant sciences the lessons learned from the support of biomedical research and training. The committee recommends the establishment of a National Institute of Plant Biology (NIPB) with a comprehensive program that engages all of the federal agencies that support plant biology. NIPB would be organized in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The institute would be based on the principle of competitively awarded basic research and training grants in plant biology and its philosophy and practice would be patterned after the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The term "program" refers to the framework proposed by the committee, including the establishment of, and leadership role to be played by, the institute in USDA; the vital continued commitment and participation of other agencies in support of plant biology research and training in cooperation with NIPB; a study section system; and the kind of support and amount of funding proposed by the committee that are essential to the program's success.

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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century MANAGEMENT OF THE PLANT-BIOLOGY PROGRAM The success of the proposed plant biology program will depend on its meeting the following criteria: The program should be dedicated to the study of plant biology as a basic science. It should not be a mission-oriented program aimed at solving specific practical problems. The program should encompass a comprehensive system of extramural research and training to include pre- and postdoctoral fellowships, training grants for graduate students, grants for the purchase and upkeep of instrumentation, and financial support for meetings. The system of grants should support the highest quality research in nonprofit institutions. The program should be patterned in the detail of its technique and philosophy after NIGMS. The program should support high-quality research being done by plant biologists in nonprofit institutions. Communication between plant scientists and researchers in other disciplines should be encouraged. The program should provide grants and fellowships in sufficient number and amount of award to attract and retain the best scientists. The program should be administered by an agency committed to the above standards. RECOMMENDATION 1 Because the selection of an agency to lead a coordinated effort to promote plant biology within the federal system is critical, the committee weighed a range of options. Initially, its members focused on identifying a single agency that would have

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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century almost exclusive responsibility for the entire program in plant biology. Several options that named a single agency to administer the program were rejected for failure to satisfy a critical scientific, managerial, or political need. The committee eventually concluded that it must define a multiagency effort with one agency taking a decided leadership role. Only in this way could the range of societal and scientific needs in medicine, agriculture, the environment, and energy be addressed. A National Institute of Plant Biology (NIPB) should be established in USDA under the direct oversight of the assistant secretary of agriculture for science and education. NIPB should be responsible for leading a coordinated federal plant-biology program that intimately involves other federal agencies that support plant-biology research and training. The recommendation that USDA should be the lead agency to assume broad responsibility for the support of plant sciences (in concert with other agencies) is made with full awareness of the historic mission of, and current practice at, USDA. USDA's mission and the largest part of its funds traditionally have been dedicated to formula support of research in designated land grant schools and in its intramural agricultural stations. The formula funding that served U.S. agriculture successfully for the first half of this century has not provided a mechanism to keep abreast of the spectacular advances in modern biology, and support of training has not been a primary objective of USDA funding. Plant-biology research is a broad endeavor and USDA's agricultural mission is too narrow to encompass all the fundamental plant biology we believe should be included in the program. Political and commercial influence on the department's decisions and a tendency to overmanage the research

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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century process (NRC, 1972) have impeded the development of fundamental research programs. Two major factors led us to recommend USDA to establish NIPB and take leadership of the federal plant biology program. First, the attempts since 1978 to broaden the USDA base of support for basic agricultural research through a program of competitive grants indicates that the almost exclusive concentration on formula grants that characterized USDA is changing. The fiscal year 1992 initiative to enlarge USDA's small program of extramural grants brings a welcome competitive process for research support to a few segments of plant biology related to agriculture. When the initiative is fully funded at $500 million, $125 million is proposed for expenditure on plant biology. Although our recommendation builds on the foundation of the National Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program (NRICGP), it goes beyond that program in proposing that the plant systems portion become the core of NIPB. In addition, NIPB would lead the coordination of efforts in plant biology sponsored by other agencies. The second factor influencing our recommendation is that of all the agencies with potential to lead the plant program, USDA's mission encompasses the broadest range of scientific and applied interests; it includes research on plants, forestry, nutrition, rangelands, and the ecological relationships of plants to other biotic and nonbiotic systems. NIH and the Department of Energy (DoE) have been sympathetic in support of several aspects of plant biology, but neither has the breadth of interest in plants to make it a natural home for the new institute. Implementation of our proposal would require that USDA effect major changes in its philosophy of research, its operational patterns, and its relationship to Congress and the scientific community. It will need to Plan beyond the design drawn for NRICGP and its proposed five-year funding strategy.

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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century Support evolution of NRICGP and its competitive grants program. Focus on the support of fundamental plant biology. Insulate the new institute from political and commercial pressures. Avoid over managing the scientific research process. Demonstrate increased leadership in coordinating its work with that of other agencies. Develop department-supported training programs and encourage training programs at other agencies. Organize study sections that use the expertise of the entire scientific community by reaching outside the government. Organize NIPB to ensure its high visibility, stature, and independence within the federal government. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has a scope of interests that overlaps that of USDA and historically has provided more financial support for competitively awarded, investigator-initiated plant-biology research than has USDA. However, we believe that NSF's multitude of other interests would impede its serving as the lead agency for the new program. Should USDA prove unwilling to fulfill the role we have described for it, NSF should be assigned the task of leading the program, for NSF has clearly demonstrated its dedication to the support of fundamental research based on competitively awarded, investigator-initiated grants. RECOMMENDATION 2 NSF, DoE, NIH, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have provided valuable support for plant biology research, and their continued financial support at increased levels will be required to fulfill the objectives of the

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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century USDA-led program. Taken as a group, the agencies have missions that encompass all aspects of a complete plant-biology program, from molecular biology to ecosystem research. NIH and NSF could provide the training grants and fellowships that are essential to the development of a larger number of plant scientists. However, we urge USDA to explore the possibilities of developing training programs of the size we propose. For our plan to succeed, all agencies, including USDA, will need to increase the amount awarded in individual research grants. All agencies that currently support plant-biology research and training should maintain and increase their commitment in cooperation with NIPB and USDA. The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is responsible for coordinating interagency research. It discharges this responsibility increasingly through the formation of Federal Coordinating Councils for Science, Engineering and Technology (FCCSET). Creation of an OSTP FCCSET committee on plant research that is chaired by a USDA official might be an effective means for coordinating the research. It should be noted that FCCSETs often are comprised of department level members who do not manage specific programs directly. On the other hand, for some years an interagency coordinating committee, made up of persons closely affiliated with agency plant-biology programs, has worked well, for example, to organize interagency funding of large-scale centers. It might be advantageous for OSTP to seek ways to make the best use of both a FCCSET and the existing committee in its efforts to coordinate plant-biology research. If the challenge is successfully met, the establishment of NIPB would be another step in an important progression. The first step was the establishment of USDA's competitive grants program; the second was the expansion of that program under the National Research Initiative. Potentially, other parts of the

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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century National Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program, such as the program in animal health, could become institutes as well. Eventually, USDA could follow the model of NIH in the Department of Health and Human Services for support of extramural and intramural research, training, and the infrastructural elements of sciences relevant to its mission. ELEMENTS OF THE NIPB PROGRAM NIPB would manage a comprehensive program of support for research, training, facilities, and scientific communications. Awards would be made by unambiguously competitive, peer-reviewed procedures open to all scientists. NIPB would coordinate the existing support from several government agencies, and, with increases in these agencies' existing competitive grants programs, would give the nation the infrastructure for plant biology that it now lacks. We underscore the pivotal importance of competitive, peer-reviewed procedures. In the 45 years since the beginning of large-scale federal support of science, the strategies used by the various federal agencies to fund scientific research in support of societal goals have constituted an experiment. NIH and NSF have based funding decisions on competitive procedures designed to recognize individual merit; USDA has based funding decisions on institutional, political, and historical considerations that do not preclude but that also do not necessarily reward or reinforce individual merit. The committee concludes that the results of the experiment are clear. The philosophy, mechanisms, and strategy used by NIH and NSF to support basic research and its applications have advanced science of the highest quality, attracted the best young scientists to careers in research and teaching, and provided a stream of discoveries that has been rapid and highly beneficial to society. The success of the NIH and NSF grant programs

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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century has engendered their enthusiastic and generous support by Congress and successive administrations. The projected program of NIPB should include the following program components and management features. Individual Research Grants The core of NIPB's program should be competitively awarded, investigator-initiated grants to researchers in any institution of higher education or advanced research. The essential criterion for award of a grant should be scientific merit. Grants generally should be for a five-year period and have an average total cost per grant of $170,000 per year. This is the same as the average NIGMS grant. There should be adequate provision for institutional overhead and administrative expenses. Peer review of grant applications should be conducted by study sections of qualified reviewers. The scope of the program should be carefully defined in the course of further study but the following subjects are cited as examples: Subcellular processes, including biochemistry, photochemistry, organelle structure and function, gene and chromosome structure, genome organization, mutagenesis and DNA repair, and gene expression and regulation. Cellular processes, including developmental biology and developmental genetics, signal transduction, cell-to-cell communication, cell division and growth, photosynthesis, and intercellular transport of water and nutrients. Organismal processes, including growth and reproductive biology, structure and function of plant organs, responses to the environment at the supercellular level, and nutrient and water transport in the whole plant.

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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century Population and species processes, including areas such as ecology, population biology and genetics, systematics, and issues of biodiversity. Plant interactions with the biotic and abiotic environment, including nitrogen fixation, interactions with beneficial microorganisms, pathogenesis, the genetics and molecular biology of plant defense and stress responses, and community ecology. Competitive Postdoctoral Training Awards The proposed program would support postdoctoral training in basic plant biology, because postdoctoral experience is necessary to complete the training of our most promising researchers. An attractive program will bring additional postdoctoral fellows to plant biology from other predoctoral disciplines. Awards would be based on review by qualified panels of scientists. Applications would be filed either before or after an applicant's receipt of the Ph.D. degree. The nature of the host laboratories and their location in the United States or abroad would not be restricted. Predoctoral Training Awards The proposed program would support training grants similar to those funded by NIH. These would support a number of students, and the grants would be awarded to the institutions' departments. Individual predoctoral fellowships, similar to those sponsored by NSF also would be awarded.

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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century Departmental Training Grants The program is projected to provide support to build strong departments of plant science and to strengthen the programs of other departments that include plant research and training. By the year 2000 a total of 34, five-year-long departmental grants is proposed (each renewable for five years). Participation by 15 students per program is projected, although the number would vary. To be attractive, the stipends would be comparable to those for other natural sciences. Funds would be provided to the universities to cover tuition, and supply allowances would be granted to the laboratories of the students' supervisors. Applications for the grants would be submitted by departments, and the competitively awarded grants would provide steady funding for outstanding training programs. Individual Predoctoral Fellowships The program would provide individual fellowships to highly qualified predoctoral candidates. Candidates would apply either in the senior year of undergraduate study or in the first year of graduate study. The program would provide four-year awards, and a total of 1,500 fellows would be supported when the program is fully implemented. Stipends would be competitive with those provided to students in other natural sciences and somewhat above those for departmental awards. Funds would be awarded to the universities for tuition and for supplies in individual laboratories. A recipient would be allowed to choose a host research laboratory. This would provide additional support to superior programs and would stimulate competition among schools for the participating fellows.

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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century Summer Undergraduate Training The program would include support of summer undergraduate research. When fully implemented, it would support up to three students in the laboratories of scientists who have been recognized through the award of research grants. By the year 2000, summer research experience would be provided to about 1,500 students. Career Training and Redevelopment The program would provide retraining and continuing education for faculty members and facilitate communication among investigators at different institutions. The first component of the program would provide funding for sabbatical leaves for up to one year for 100 persons in the year 2000. The second component would provide salary for faculty from predominantly teaching institutions or from institutions with few graduate students to work in active research laboratories, generally during the summer. It would support three-month-long summer fellowships for 50 persons each year. Requests for support would be submitted by individuals, and the fellowships would be awarded competitively based on peer review. Facilities and Equipment The program would provide support for instrumentation and facilities. Applications would come from departments, and a grant pool of $10 million per year would be awarded competitively. This would provide for individual and shared facilities in departments with competitive plant-biology funding and would provide funds for the purchase of new equipment

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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century and facilities and for replacement of obsolete equipment and facilities. Scientific Communications The program would help support plant-biology symposia by providing partial funding for travel and subsistence of participants at 20 scientific meetings each year. Other innovative ways to foster reciprocal scientific communication among the plant sciences and other fields should be encouraged. For example, computer networks, data base and germplasm information and materials sharing, and teleconferencing would be supported. Support for expansion of existing journals to include the plant sciences would be considered. Figure 4 shows the relationships among the components of the program. RECOMMENDATION 3 The committee's members believe there should be special provision for continuing, independent advice and periodic evaluation. An independent group of non-government scientists should be formed to provide continuing advice to the USDA assistant secretary for science and education and to the officials of cooperating agencies concerning NIPB's operation and direction and to oversee the parallel efforts by other agencies. Moreover, after five years an independent group should examine and evaluate the progress of all agencies in implementing the recommendations contained in this report.

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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century Figure 4 Framework of plant-biology research and training program.

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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century It is the usual practice at federal research agencies to form an advisory council. The Independent Advisory Group (IAG) we recommend follows that pattern. The group's first priority would be to give advice on and review the design of an action plan drafted by USDA scientists and policy makers, representatives of the academic research and training community, and the cooperating federal agencies. The action plan would describe the strategy and detail the organization, structure, and schedule for establishing the institute and implementing its program. Thereafter, IAG would serve as a scientific board of advisors to the assistant secretary overseeing progress toward the goals described in the action plan and suggesting corrections and additions to the plan as dictated by events and experience. At the end of five years, a separately constituted, independent, nongovernment group would review the program's performance comprehensively and recommend changes. COST ELEMENTS AND SIZE OF THE PROGRAM The program described here represents the combined support and efforts of several federal agencies, with NIPB serving as the lead in coordinating the effort. The size and cost recommended for the program are predicated on the following reasoning: An NSF survey (NSF, 1990b) reported that there are about 4,500 full-time plant-biology faculty in academic departments. Seventy-nine percent of these faculty members (about 3,600) train graduate students. We use training of graduate students as a surrogate determinant for estimating the number of active research faculty. We estimate that 20% of the 3,600 plant biologists would not be part of a grant applicant pool because they already receive support from other sources or because they would not compete well for funding. Thus, the estimated base

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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century number of current scientists who would be part of the applicant pool is about 3000. Over the course of the nine years shown in Table 3 to the year 2000, several considerations described below could increase the numbers in the applicant pool. If our proposed program were implemented and adequate funds were provided, young scientists would be encouraged to enter plant-biology research careers and some active scientists would have an incentive to shift their interest to the study of plant models that often offer advantages over animal or microbial models. The projected training programs would augment the skilled cohort of scientists in the applicant pool. The NSF survey predicts a potential immediate increase in the applicant pool because there are 276 unfilled faculty positions in academic plant-biology programs. Furthermore, departments of biology whose hiring practices have been influenced by considerations of the ''fundability'' of candidates would be encouraged to seek plant biologists to balance their programs. There is evidence from a directly relevant program that the increased availability of funds increases the numbers of applicants. Applications for plant-systems research support received by NRICGP increased from 1,287 in 1990 to 1,793 in 1991. We estimate conservatively that the number in the applicant pool would reach 6,000 by the year 2000. Our suggested program is aimed at providing a success rate (percentage of total applicants that receive awards) of 40%. This would provide for healthy competition and support of appropriate numbers of superior applicants. About 1,350 awards (individuals could have several awards) currently are made by the agencies and programs listed in Table 2 (see Chapter 2). Assuming that the applicant pool is now about 3,000 individuals, the success rate among current applicants is about 40%. For those who are successful in obtaining support, the major issues are the size and duration of grants and the lack of funds to support training, career development, and facilities.

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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century Table 3 Number of awards and financial support (in thousands of 1991 dollars) for the plant biology program Program element 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 Individual Research grants (at $170,000/award) 1500 $255,000 1700 $289,000 1900 $323,000 2000 $340,000 2100 $357,000 2200 $374,000 2300 $391,000 2400 $408,000 2500 $425,000 Postdoctoral fellowships (at $35,000/award) 75 $2,625 150 $5,250 200 $7,000 250 $8,750 300 $10,500 350 $12,250 400 $14,000 450 $15,750 500 $17,500 Predoctoral (departmental) training grants (at $35,000/award) No. trainees 10 $3,600 150 15 $5,400 225 20 $7,200 300 24 $8,640 360 26 $9,360 390 28 $10,080 420 30 $10,080 450 32 $11,520 480 34 $12,240 510 Individual predoctoral fellowships (at $29,000/award) 200 $5,800 400 $11,600 600 $17,400 800 $23,200 1000 $29,000 1200 $34,800 1300 $37,700 1400 $40,600 1500 $43,500 Summer undergraduate training program (at $4,000/award) 200 $800 400 $1,600 600 $2,400 800   1000 $4,000 1200 $4,800 1300 $5,200 1400 $5,600 1500 $6,000 Sabbatical leaves (at $50,000) 25 $1,250 50 $2,500 100 $5,000 100 $5,000 100 $5,000 100 $5,000 100 $5,000 100 $5,000 100 $5,000 Summer fellowships (at $15,000) 25 $375 50 $750 50 $750 50 $750 50 $750 50 $750 50 $750 50 $750 50 $750 Facility support (at $1,000,000) 10 $10,000 10 $10,000 10 $10,000 10 $10,000 10 $10,000 10 $10,000 10 $10,000 10 $10,000 10 $10,000 Meeting support (at $25,000) 20 $500 20 $500 20 $500 20 $500 20 $500 20 $500 20 $500 20 $500 20 $500 Total support $279,950 $326,600 $373,250 $400,040 $426,110 $452,180 $474,950 $497,720 $520,490

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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century We propose support for training sufficient to encourage students to study plant biology and to create a pool of new plant biologists for academia, the government, and industry. The NSF survey reports that in 1988–1989, there were 7,317 graduate students and about 1,120 postdoctoral fellows in this field. Twenty-one percent of the graduate students and 53% of the postdoctoral fellows were supported by federal research grants; 4% of the graduate students and 7% of the postdoctoral trainees were on federal fellowships. Graduate students also are supported by other sources, including institutions (28%), state governments (15%), and personal funds (11%). Other sources of support for postdoctoral fellows include state governments (11%), foreign governments (7%), and industry (7%). Our projected program would provide for individual fellowships and departmental training grants in addition to the already existing support from other sources, including from research grants. The number of trainees will increase if funding is available, thus reversing a trend of decreasing numbers of graduate students in plant-biology programs. We believe that several support mechanisms for trainees will be needed to achieve the target of a 50% increase by the year 2000. Funding opportunities for trainees would be increased by larger research grants. The introduction of major training grants would encourage highly qualified trainees to enter the field of plant biology. In the year 2000, such grants could support about 10,500 graduate students and 1,600 postdoctoral fellows. These estimates are based on a projection of 6% annual growth in the number of trainees from the year 1988–1989. Eventually, about 4,250 graduate students would be supported by the combination of departmental training grants (750), individual predoctoral fellowships (1,500), and research grants (2,000). Using the same assumptions, about 1,300 of the 1,600 postdoctoral researchers would be supported by a combination of 500 fellowships and 800 research grants.

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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century Table 3 shows the increasing number of awards from 1992 to 2000 that would fulfill our estimate of minimal needs for research and training support. The 1,500 grants shown for the first year approximate the grants that would be active at that time; approximately 1,300 are now active. The first-year sum encompasses approximately $150 million already in the budgets of the agencies listed in Table 2. Most of the increment arises from our proposal that the size of grants be increased substantially and that training and other program elements be implemented. Incremental growth in the research grant category as well as in other categories is based on conservative estimates of growth. For example, 10 departments would receive training grants in the first year to support about 15 predoctoral students each. The number of departments with training grants is projected to increase rapidly for the first several years and then level off as the new programs mature. The progressive increase in the number of awards in the period until the year 2000 shown in Table 3 is the first phase of the program, and it provides a period to test the effectiveness of the program and to adjust it as needed. We anticipate that the program will continue to grow after the year 2000 beyond the figures shown for that year. We consider that the program presented here constitutes the minimum effort necessary to ensure U.S. leadership in plant-biology research into the next century.