I. Main Categories of Guiding Questions/Issues

A. Funding and Oversight

  • Why has this program been so poorly funded (at only 10 percent of original plan)?

  • Perceived Congressional “neglect” to NRI: national competitiveness and national security.

  • How does the NRI fit in with other grant programs?

B. Internal Processes

  • Identify priorities within NRI and explore how they were set.

  • Integrity of the peer review process.

  • Concern about “good old boy” perception of grant recipients.

  • Identify the realities of multidisciplinary research (including social sciences).

  • Concern about minimal industry involvement. Question of how to complement peer review process with aspects of industry evaluation.

C. Impacts/Measures of Success

  • Is the NRI bringing in new young scientists and fresh research ideas?

  • What’s the process of evaluating retrospective studies?

II. Issues Arising from USDA Staff Appearance before the Committee

  1. What is the role of public input to existing research mechanisms and how do NRI mechanisms help to solve problems effectively?

  2. Faced with the current funding limitations, how does NRI need to focus the current program? USDA seeks guidance on overall management (or “portfolio”) questions such as number vs. size of awards, program priorities, and program collaboration.

  3. What qualifies as performance measures of mission-focused research that is at the same time high-risk, i.e., projects traditionally funded by the NRI?

  4. NRI’s unique challenge is to advance the basic science that will address issues not even identified yet. How, then, does the program effectively redefine agricultural science research initiatives to be anticipatory?

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