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National Research Initiative: A Vital Competitive Grants Program in Food, Fiber, and Natural-Resources Research Table of Contents EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 1 History of Competitive Research at the USDA, 2 Organization, 2 Study Process, 3 Status of the National Research Initiative, 4 NRI’s Mission, 4 Research Accountability, 5 Priority Setting and Organization, 7 Funding, 11 A National Food, Fiber, and Natural Resources Research Complex, 14 1. INTRODUCTION 15 Brief History of Competitive Research at USDA, 16 NRI Organization, 19 Prior Reviews of the NRI, 19 Study Process, 20 Overview of Report, 20
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National Research Initiative: A Vital Competitive Grants Program in Food, Fiber, and Natural-Resources Research 2. VALUE OF FOOD, FIBER, AND NATURAL-RESOURCES RESEARCH 21 Economic Contributions, 22 Rates of Return from Food and Fiber Research, 23 Impacts of Advances in Life Sciences, 25 Public-Sector and Private-Sector Research Funding, 26 3. THE NATIONAL RESEARCH INITIATIVE COMPETITIVE GRANTS PROGRAM 29 Quality and Value, 30 Measuring the Quality and Value of NRI-Supported Research, 31 Novelty and Significance of Research, 35 Fairness, 36 The NRI Peer Review Process, 36 Evaluation of NRI Peer Review Process, 38 Relevance and Responsiveness, 39 Summary Findings, 40 4. ROLE AND SCOPE OF THE NRI PROGRAM 41 Scientific Objectives, 42 Applied versus Fundamental Research, 42 Multidisciplinary Research, 59 Training and Education, 45 Developing Future Scientists, 45 Strengthening Academic Institutions in the Food and Fiber System, 46 Enhancing Public Understanding, 47 Complementarity, 48 Other USDA-Funded Research Programs, 48 Intramural Research, 48 Formula Funds, 49 Special Grants, 49 Other Competitive Grants in USDA, 50 Complementarity of NRI in USDA, 51 Other Federal Programs, 52 National Science Foundation, 52 National Institutes of Health, 53 Department of Energy, 53 Interagency Programs, 54 Complementarity of NRI with other Federal Programs, 55 Industry and the NRI, 56 Summary Findings, 56 Scientific Objectives, 56 Training and Education, 56 Complementarity, 57
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National Research Initiative: A Vital Competitive Grants Program in Food, Fiber, and Natural-Resources Research 5. PRIORITIES AND PRIORITY-SETTING AT THE NRI 58 Process, 59 Overview of USDA Priority-Setting Process, 59 NRI Priority-Setting Process, 59 Analysis of NRI Priority-Setting Process, 60 NRI Research Priorities, 61 Funding History of the NRI’s Six Divisions, 61 History of NRI Research Programs, 66 Analysis, 66 Research Opportunities, 69 Summary Findings, 69 Priority-Setting Process, 69 Research Priorities, 71 6. ORGANIZATIONAL AND FUNDING ISSUES 73 Organizational Issues, 74 Location in USDA, 74 NRI Governance, 77 Chief Scientist, 77 Board of Directors, 78 Organization, 78 Funding Issues, 80 Total NRI Funding, 80 Size and Length of Grants, 81 Overhead Rates, 84 Summary Findings, 85 Organization, 85 Funding, 85 7. RECOMMENDATIONS 87 The NRI’s Mission, 88 Research Accountability, 89 Priority-Setting and Organization, 90 Funding, 97 Summary of Recommendations, 100 Appendixes A. Section 1615 of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation and Trade Act of 1990 103 B. Survey on the US Department of Agriculture’s National Research Initiative (NRI) Competitive Grants Program 108 C. External Views of the NRI 112 D. Outline for Interviews (June 16, 1998) with USDA Professional Staff on Internal Workings of the NRI Program 141
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National Research Initiative: A Vital Competitive Grants Program in Food, Fiber, and Natural-Resources Research E. Committee Members’ Experience with the National Research Initiative, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation 146 F. NRI Applications Funded 147 G. Contributions of NRI to Major Scientific Advances in Food, Fiber, and Natural-Resources System 148 H. Research Needs in Food, Fiber, and Natural Resources 170 I. Grant Performance Follow-on for Quality Evaluation 181 References 182 About the Authors 185
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National Research Initiative: A Vital Competitive Grants Program in Food, Fiber, and Natural-Resources Research Tables, Figures, and Boxes TABLES Table 2–1 Aggregate Returns on Public Investments in Agricultural Research and Extension 24 Table 4–1 NRI Support of Postdoctoral Researchers 46 Table 4–2 Skills and Items Affected by Acquired Grant 47 Table 5–1 Summary of Congressionally-Mandated High-Priority Research Areas (1990) 63 Table 5–2 NRI Research Divisions and Stakeholders’ Needs 64 Table 5–3 Committee’s List of Emerging Research Issues 70 Table 6–1 NRI Funding Levels, 1991 to 1998 81 Table 6–2 History of Funding for Food, Fiber, and Natural-Resources Research in the USDA (in millions of dollars) 82 FIGURES Figure 2–1 Food, Fiber, and Natural-Resources Research Expenditures in the United States, 1960–1996 27 Figure 2–2 Research Expenditures by Food and Fiber Industries 1960 and 1996 28 Figure 5–1 Congressional Appropriations for NRI Divisions and Special Initiatives, 1991–1997 64 Figure 5–2 NRI Programs, 1987–1998 (Gantt Chart) 67 Figure 6–1 Organization of Research at the US Department of Agriculture 75 Figure 6–2 Competitive Research Grants and Awards Management 76 Figure 6–3 National Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program Organization 79 Figure 7–1 Recommended Organization of USDA Research, Education, and Economics Mission Area 93 Figure 7–2 Recommended Organization of USDA Extramural Competitive Research Service (New NRI) 96 BOXES Box 3–1 Ethanol from Biomass: An Example of a Significant Scientific Advancement from NRI Research 32 Box 3–2 Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome: An Example of a Significant Scientific Advancement from NRI Research 34 Box 3–3 Reduction in Fertilizer Use Profits Farmers and the Environment: An Example of NRI Research with Great Promise 35 Box 3–4 Rules and Guidelines for Panel Composition 37 Box 4–1 Is It Basic or Is It Applied? 43
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