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NSF's $733M Bio Budget Emphasizes Climate, Environmental Studies

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Science Foundation plans to use $733 million of its $7.05 billion budget proposal for fiscal 2010 to fund its Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) programs, including initiatives that increase funds for research and education grants by 13 percent, for instrumentation and research resources by 6 percent, and funding for its Centers Programs by 18 percent.

The 2010 budget proposal seeks $590 million for research and education grants, $110 million for instrumentation and research resources, and $32.9 million for the Centers Programs.

Support through the NSF's BIO program provides 69 percent of federal funding for non-medical, basic research at academic institutions in life sciences, including environmental biology, according to NSF's estimates.

Climate research in BIO would receive $46 million in 2010, compared with no specific funding for such programs in 2009. These funds would go into three areas including climate and ecological modeling; fundamental research of biodiversity, carbon cycling, and ecological systems; and observation studies that will partner with the US Department of Agriculture.

Disciplinary Research and Division Research funds would go up $38 million to $512 million, which would be used to fund basic research in biology that yields insights for next-generation of nano-, bio-, and information technologies. These investments include support for integrative fundamental research in a wide range of biological areas.

The Research Resources and Centers programs would receive $142.5 million, up $20 million over last year, to continue efforts to "digitize and network US specimen-based research collections," that will include "a wealth of ancillary data such as DNA samples and environment/habitat information," according to NSF.

NSF also plans to use these funds to enhance support for research resources going to Advances in Biological Informatics and Instrument Development for Biological Research programs.

The National Ecological Observatory Network budget would increase $200,000 for a total of $13.5 million, and the Educational and Learning Activities program budget would be up $11.5 million for a total of $50.9 million.

NSF predicts that its 2010 BIO plan would involve 15,300 total people including 4,600 senior researchers; 1,800 other professionals; 1,600 postdoctorates; 3,200 graduate students; and 4,100 undergraduates.

The BIO budget for next year would support 1,500 new competitive awards, which is over 300 less than the estimate for 2009, although the 2009 numbers will include over 500 grants funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. NSF also expects the median and average annualized award sizes on three-year awards to increase by over $10,000 per award.

NSF's Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) funding would increase 6 percent to $128.8 million, around 33 percent of that would fund new research grants and around 67 percent would support continuing grants that were made in previous years.

MCB's priorities include projects related to the origin, organization, and properties of sub-cellular and cellular components, as well as macromolecular structures.

The 2010 request for MCB also includes support for projects aimed at understanding the "molecular underpinnings of complex living systems," according to NSF, and the Foundation will place an emphasis on integrating research and education by increasing the number of CAREER awards.

The NSF's Integrative Organismal Systems Division (IOS) would receive a $10.2 million bump under the 2010 plan to $221.8 million, with $180.4 million going to research and education grants and $41 million to instrumentation. Roughly 49 percent of the IOS Project Support budget and 31 percent of the Plant Genome Research Program budgets are available for new research grants.

The $117.6 million for the IOS program funding would give priority to projects that focus on research into how organisms survive in, adapt to, and transform their environments.

The $104.3 million for the Plant Genome program would emphasize genome-scale research that uses previous investments to understand potential applications in crop improvement and adaptation to global climate change, as well as the Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development (BREAD) program, which aims to find solutions to agricultural problems in developing countries.

The Environmental Biology Division would receive an increase of over 11 percent, or a $13.5 million jump to $133.9 million. That budget includes support for projects in the areas of climate change and biodiversity, including using new genomics research resources. The budget also includes support for increases in CAREER awards and activities that integrate research and education.

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