chapter focuses on those fields of biology pertaining to the natural world, including:
botany, zoology, microbiology, ecology, basic molecular and cellular biology,
agricultural sciences, and taxonomy. Biological and ecological research provides
the scientific basis for management of the nation’s natural resources, development
of new agricultural and bio-based products, and improved understanding of how
the living world functions.
National Science Foundation (NSF) director Arden Bement has noted, answering complex
questions and addressing society’s greatest challenges increasingly requires interdisciplinary
research efforts. Thus, biological research is conducted and supported by many
federal departments, including largely intramural research at mission-driven agencies
such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA), and U.S. Geological Survey. In addition to intramural research,
fundamental new ideas, research directions, and innovations are spawned from the
external research supported by NSF, the primary (65 percent) supporter of biological
research, and several competitively awarded research grants funded by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture, the Department of Energy (DOE), EPA and NOAA.
- NSF: $24 million is proposed for
the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON).
- DOE: The Biological and Environmental Research program
would receive a $50 million increase in base funding.
Science Foundation (NSF)
NSF remains the principal federal supporter of the
non-medical biological sciences, providing 66 percent of academic funding in these
fields. The NSF proposed budget for FY 2007 includes a 5.4 percent ($31.1 million)
increase in funding for the Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO), which would bump it over
$600 million for the first time, to a total of $607.8 million (see Table
Six major program areas make up the core research of
biology funded by NSF. Those programs, along with the FY 2007 request and the
percentage change from FY 2006, are: Molecular and Cellular Biosciences ($111
million, up 2.7 percent); Integrative Organismal Biology ($101 million, up 0.3
percent); Environmental Biology ($110 million, up 2.7 percent); Biological Infrastructure
($86 million, up 5 percent); Emerging Frontiers (a cross-discipline, “virtual”
directorate, $99 million, up 23 percent); and Plant Genome Research ($101 million,
up 2.5 percent). In a reorganization move designed to foster cross-fertilization
among the NSF Centers, four Centers are now consolidated in the virtual Emerging
Frontiers division, accounting for its large increase. One of these is the Center
for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), which used to be housed in Environmental
A total of $24 million is proposed for the National
Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), $12 million of it appearing
in the agency’s Major Research Equipment account. Within BIO, roughly $6 million for NEON activities would come from Emerging Frontiers and $6 million would come
from the Biological Infrastructure account. These funds would be used to begin
research and development on new sensor technology and to begin securing the discretionary
funds needed for the ultimate maintenance and operation expenses for NEON construction.
The Long Term Ecological Research Network program would
increase by $1.1 million to a total of $19.6 million in FY 2007. The additional
monies would be devoted to site-based integrated research, educational activities,
and continued boosting of cyber infrastructure abilities. The Center for Ecological
Analysis and Synthesis is slated to stay at the current funding level of $3.46
million, while the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) is proposed to also
stay at its current level of $3 million. (For more on the NSF budget, see Chapter
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
The Administration is proposing a significant increase
of $66 million to $248 million for the
National Research Initiative (NRI), the nation’s premier competitive research
program for fundamental and applied research in agriculture. However, because
the proposed boost to NRI would once again come largely
at the expense of formula funds, which provide infrastructure support to land-grant
institutions, it is likely that last year’s outcome would be replayed and that
NRI will not see much, if any increase. NRI is
administered by the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service,
which partners with higher education institutions to foster extramural research,
higher education, and extension activities related to agricultural productivity
and natural resource management. NRI also helps develop the next generation of
scientists with expertise critical to meeting the nation’s food resources challenges.
Also within USDA, the Forest Service’s Forest and Rangeland Research budget
is slated to receive $268 million in FY 2007, a decrease of about $11 million
from 2006. R&D at the FS has been eroding and is now only 6.5 percent of the
entire Forest Service budget, down from 11 percent ten years ago. As a result,
the agency is losing its internal scientists and is struggling to maintain capabilities
at its experimental forest stations.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
portfolio would continue to shrink under the Administration’s budget proposal
for FY 2007, the only exceptions being homeland security and clean air research.
The bulk of the cuts are congressional earmark eliminations but some $10 million
would trim agency R&D across the board. While the bottom line for EPA continues
to slip, some research programs would see small funding increases in 2007. For
instance, within the Office of Research and Development the Administration has
identified five priority programs: 1) Clean Air and Global Climate Change; 2)
Clean and Safe Water; 3) Land Preservation and Restoration; 4) Healthy Communities
and Ecosystems; and 5) Compliance and Environmental Stewardship.
these goals, the budget would provide $215 million for Clean Air and Global Change,
a $5 million increase over FY 2006. Clean and Safe Water would jump to roughly
$171 million, approximately $50 million more than the 2006 mark. Although an identified
priority area, Land Preservation and Restoration would fall to $12 million, down
from the current mark of $15 million and the FY 2005 level of $48 million. Healthy
Communities and Ecosystems would receive a slight boost from $334 million to $348
million. The agency’s Fellowship programs,
which include the Science to Achieve Results (STAR), Greater Research Opportunities (GRO), and Environmental Science and Technology (EST) fellowship programs,
are once again targeted for sharp cuts, spelling discontinued support for up to
37 Fellows in environmental research.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
NOAA supports intramural and extramural research related
to its mission to “understand and predict changes in Earth’s environment and conserve
and manage coastal and marine resources to meet our Nation’s economic, social,
and environmental needs.” Three major mission goals
(ecosystems; climate; and weather and water) guide funding in FY 2007. If funded
at the requested levels, 13.9 percent of the NOAA budget would be dedicated to
R&D in FY 2007. Of this, 69 percent is allocated to intramural and 31 percent
to extramural funding, with 87 percent supporting research and 13 percent development.
The majority of NOAA research funding, 56 percent, is managed by the Office of
Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR). The balance
of funding is from NOAA’s mission-driven units, such as the National Ocean Service
The request for OAR is $348.7 million,
$30.9 million less than the FY 2006 appropriation. However, a number of biological
and ecological research programs would receive increases. To provide scientists
with the high-tech tools and expertise to investigate the undersea environment,
the budget would add $5 million to the National Undersea Research Program (NURP).
The increase, to $9.1 million, would be used to restructure the East coast program
to better serve the research community. The budget for the Aquatic Invasive Species
program would more than double to $2.5 million. A $741,000 increase for the National
Sea Grant College Program would increase the program’s base funding to $54.8 million.
The budget request for ocean,
coastal and Great Lakes research is $102.9 million, $25 million less than
2006. However, the request is an $8.6 million increase from the “FY 2007 adjusted
base” budget, after program terminations and the removal of earmarks.
For FY 2007, $413.1 million has been requested
for NOS. This is roughly $177.4 million less than the FY 2006 enacted appropriation.
Within this request, however, the Response and Restoration, Extramural Research,
and National Estuarine Research Reserve System budget functions would receive
modest increases. The Ocean Assessment Program, which funds monitoring
projects such as coastal observing systems, is slated to receive $54.7 million
in FY 2007, a sharp drop from the $121.1 million approved by Congress for FY 2006.
NOS also requests $47.0 million for National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science
(NCCOS) programs, which includes a proposed $15.8 million for extramural research,
roughly $6.0 million more than in FY 2006.
of Energy (DOE)
The Office of Biological and Environmental Research
(BER) supports research falling under one of four categories: life sciences, climate
change, environmental remediation, and medical science. The purpose of BER research
is to “develop the knowledge base necessary to identify, understand, and anticipate
the long-term health and environmental consequences of energy use and development.”
Planned areas of focus in the budget include: global climate change; environmental
remediation; molecular, cellular, and systemic studies on the biological effects
of radiation; structural biology; medical applications of nuclear technology;
and the Human Genome Program. Other areas that continue to receive attention include
efforts to understand carbon sequestration, sustaining progress toward the development
of coupled general circulation models, and sequencing the genomes of microbes
that convert carbon dioxide into methane and hydrogen.
For FY 2007, the President has requested $510 million
for BER, an increase of nearly $50 million over the FY 2006 request. However,
the request is nearly $81 million below the amount appropriated for 2006. In essence,
Congress provided and directed how the agency would spend nearly $129 million
in FY 2006. Thus, while the FY 2007 request is a positive sign and a significant
increase over the FY 2006 mark, it would potentially represent a cut in the amount
available for grant programs if Congress directs expenditures at the same magnitude
as FY 2006 without providing an infusion of funds at least equal to the FY 2006
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
USGS is the Department of the Interior’s sole science
agency, providing natural science expertise needed to address challenges that
range from water availability to monitoring migratory bird populations for avian
influenza. Through its Cooperative State Research Units, Informatics programs,
and Science Centers, the Biological Resources
Division supports research and information dissemination efforts that inform public
and private sector decision makers from the local to national level.
The President’s budget emphasizes “preparing for a
new and improved Earth observation system” and a “pilot program to assist communities
in developing integrated natural hazards preparedness and mitigation plans.” To
support these and other initiatives, $944.7 million has been requested for the
USGS, roughly $30.0 million less than FY 2006. To fund these new initiatives while
trimming the bureau’s budget, the administration has proposed redirecting a portion
of funds currently used for “unrequested earmarks” and $22.9 million from the
Geology division’s minerals program.
Within the requested budget, biological research programs
would receive $172.6 million, roughly $5.9 million less than the current level.
Although the request trims the budget by eliminating “lower priority studies”
and “unrequested earmarks,” some new initiatives would be funded. Included in
the budget request is $1.0 million to support the NatureServe system’s efforts
to collect information about rare and endangered species and threatened ecosystems.
The budget also continues to provide $3.2 million for avian influenza surveillance.
The Cooperative Research Units program would see a $274,000 increase, bringing
the program up to $14.9 million. The biology division would also receive $300,000
to support the USGS-wide natural hazards initiative. Sixteen “low priority and
unrequested” studies totaling more than $7.0 million have been cut from the budget.
In recent years, these studies have been removed by the Administration, but replaced
The budget request does not fully
fund “uncontrollable” costs, such as salaries and rent. When these costs are not
fully funded, USGS must reprogram money that would otherwise support programmatic
activities, such as research, facilities maintenance, or hiring personnel. For
FY 2007, the administration estimates that non-discretionary fixed costs across
USGS will increase by $20.7 million, yet the budget requests only $15.2 million.
Thus, if Congress enacts the budget as it is proposed, USGS science programs will
likely be forced to find $5.5 million to pay for these expenses. (For information on other USGS activities, see Chapter
17; for more on Interior R&D, see Chapter 13.)