BERAC Meeting Minutes April 22-23, 1999

Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee (BERAC) Meeting
Office of Biological and Environmental Research
Office of Science
U.S. Department of Energy

DATE: April 22-23, 1999
LOCATION: American Geophysical Union, Washington, D.C. The meeting was announced in the Federal Register for April 22-23, 1999 (Public Law 92-463, 86 Stat. 770).
PARTICIPANTS: A list of attendees showing all BERAC members who were present, guests, and participating Department of Energy officials and staff is attached.

April 22, 1999
Director's Comments - Dr. Martha A. Krebs, Director, Office of Science

Dr. Krebs restated the goals for the Office of Science (SC) and described the FY 2000 budget, program priorities, and challenges. She illustrated the unique role of Office of Science programs within DOE's missions and as part of the Federal science investment.
The Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee conducted a study on synchrotrons (Birgeneau/Shen subcommittee) with a focus on maintaining the second generation synchrotrons and increasing the use of those machines for structural biology. BER and BES are working together on this as well as with Dr. Marvin Cassman and Dr. Harold Varmus from NIH.
PNNL (through EMSL) provides an inroad into the facilities business for BER. Investments in beamlines for structural biology at synchrotron and neutron sources are other steps. BER's involvement and oversight will become increasingly important.
DOE Scientific Simulation Initiative (SSI): The President's budget contains a $336M request. This is an interagency program involving NSF, DARPA, DOE and NOAA, NASA, and NIH.
SSI Main Objectives:

  • Revolutionize scientific research by the application of teraflop computational resources;
  • Understand, model, and predict the effects on the Earth's global environment of atmospheric greenhouse gas emission with an emphasis on carbon dioxide;
  • Understand, model, and predict the behavior and properties of combustion processes and devices;
  • Discover, develop, and deploy crosscutting computer science and applied mathematics;
  • Establish a national terascale (capable of doing 1 trillion ops per second) distributed scientific simulation infrastructure.

Secretary Richardson has decided that field organizations that used to report in through the Office of Field Management, will now report directly to Assistant Secretaries, and those have been identified. This also conveys that these staff and support offices are intended to work in conjunction with and not separately from the major Assistant Secretaries who have large field operations. The Office of Science is now responsible for Chicago, Oakland, and Oak Ridge.

Low Dose Radiation Research Program - Dr. David Thomassen, OBER

The goal of this new research program is to support basic research that can serve as the scientific underpinning of future radiation risk policy in this country. The BERAC report, 10-year program plan for the Low Dose Radiation Research Program, developed by a subcommittee chaired by Dr. Robert Ullirich, served as the basis for a joint FY99 solicitation between SC and EM.

Dr. Mike Viola, Director, Medical Sciences Division

A BNCT subcommittee is being formed to evaluate BNCT Phase I clinical trials underway at Harvard/MIT and at BNL. The subcommittee will also evaluate BNCT-related nuclear reactor programs or accelerator based BNCT clinical programs. Subcommittee members will have no vested interest in the BNCT. Members should be nationally prominent oncologists and radiotherapists.
The BER Biomedical Engineering program continues to develop, emphasizing the application of principles of chemistry, physics, and engineering for medicine. DOE has been involved in these types of activities since inception of the AEC. DOE is an active participant in the NIH Bioengineering Consortium (BECON), the formal group at NIH for coordinating all bioengineering activities. DOE and NIH are pleased with their close coordination. Recently, an inventory of all biomedical engineering research being conducted at the labs was completed. There are 230 projects in biomedical engineering. This is a large effort (tens of millions of dollars) and is mainly supported (60%) with laboratory internal funds with only about one third funded by BER. The Biomedical Expo at DOE was well attended, and was viewed as an opportunity for scientists to present their work. The Expo is likely to be a yearly event.

Science Talk -- PET: Biological Imaging of Disease from Metabolism to Gene Expression - Dr Mike Phelps, UCLA (Dr. Phelps was a recent recipient of the Fermi Award.)

NSF in the New Millennium - Dr. Rita Colwell, NSF

Dr. Colwell outlined NSF's FY 2000 Priorities, Highlights/Drivers, and NSF's Strategic Planning Process. NSF’s key FY 2000 investments focused on:

  • Information Technology for the 21st Century
  • Biocomplexity in the Environment
  • Educating for the Future

Carbon Management & Climate Change Technology Initiative - Dr. Jerry Elwood, Environmental Sciences Division, OBER

Only a fraction of the carbon released from energy-related processes remains in the atmosphere--the remainder goes into the ocean, terrestrial environment, etc., where it is sequestered through natural processes. Understanding and addressing the issues surrounding carbon sequestration will be a key part of the U.S. response to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that the U.S. has not yet signed and Congress has not yet approved.

Opportunities for Carbon Management to Mitigate Climate Change fall into three categories: 1) reducing energy intensity, 2) reducing carbon intensity, and 3) increasing carbon sequestration. Dr. Elwood discussed carbon sequestration R&D strategic challenges and the 1999 BER Carbon Sequestration Science Program that conducts research on:

  • Carbon sequestration in the terrestrial biosphere
  • Carbon storage and sequestration in the oceans
  • Biologically-based approaches to producing clean(er) energy sources
  • Research to improve fundamental understanding of contrasting biological processes and pathways involved in carbon fixation and nitrogen cycling in ocean and soil systems, and
  • Sequencing of bacteria with three different carbon fixation pathways.

The BER carbon sequestration program had a solicitation for proposals from DOE laboratories to establish centers for research on carbon sequestration in the terrestrial biosphere and the oceans. The goal is for these centers is to:

  1. advance the fundamental scientific understanding needed to develop and implement approaches or strategies to enhance the natural sequestration capacity of carbon in terrestrial ecosystems and the oceans, and
  2. improve the scientific understanding of the potential environmental effects of increasing carbon sequestration and storing carbon in terrestrial and ocean systems.

Carbon Cycle Science Plan: Science Issues and Implementation - Dr. Steven Wofsy, Harvard University

The following broad goals were discussed:

  1. Northern Hemisphere terrestrial carbon sink.
  2. Ocean carbon sink
  3. Impact of historical and current land use
  4. Projections of future atmospheric concentrations of CO2.
  5. Scientific basis for societal decisions

Scientific Simulation Initiative - Dr. Ari Patrinos, Associate Director, OBER

Dr. Patrinos provided comments on the SSI in addition to those that Dr. Krebs made. Individuals who have played a significant role in planning and coordinating include:
Jay Fein, NSF
Dan Hitchcock, Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research
Bill Kirchoff, Office of Basic Energy Sciences
Jerry Elwood/Wanda Ferrell, OBER
Dave Bader, Battelle
Dr. Patrinos acknowledged the role that several BERAC members have played, in particular, Warren Washington. DOE is grateful to him, especially in his mediating role in this ambitions interagency program.
Dr. Daniel Hitchcock, of DOE's Office of Advanced Scientific and Computing Research, described DOE's SSI as part of the President’s Information Technology for the 21st Century Initiative. DOE contributions include: combustion, global systems, basic science, computer science and enabling technologies, facilities, and management. Participating Federal agencies are: DOD, DOE, NASA, NIH, NOAA, and NSF.

Public Comment: None
Meeting was adjourned.

April 23, 1999

The State of BER / FY 2000 Outlook - Dr. Ari Patrinos, Associate Director, OBER
Dr. Patrinos stated that the budget outlook for 2000 and 2001 appeared somewhat bleak. There are still some strong restrictions on allocations on the Hill so it is going to be hard for science to get significant growth.

As noted by Dr. Krebs, new initiatives end up eating into base programs. It is a troublesome situation that has gotten worse over the years. It is demoralizing for the people in the science management business and is a potential threat to long-term program development and planning.
There are two kinds of "one time projects" or earmarks that we anticipate getting in our budget—those we have to do and those we want to do. NIGEC is an example of the second kind and is one that we have been nurturing for many years. Low dose is another. This is a long overdue project that is of special interest to Senator Domenici. We always hope that money gets added for all earmarks inserted into our budget

DOE's staff is aging and is stretched. It is difficult to replace people who have left. We are losing people faster than we are replacing them. The rules for hiring Federal employees, and even employees in other capacities, are becoming more onerous and are driving away people. Those who make the rules seem to think that public service is a privilege. We need to be able to create circumstances to attract people.

Secretary Richardson has recognized these problems and has started Workforce 21. There is an effort to address the issue of technical managers across DOE. Lots of these of our managers are nearing retirement. The statistics are startling. Fifty percent of HENP and BES employees are eligible for retirement. BER is in good shape. The Workforce 21 effort has started in earnest; senior DOE level is focusing on it. There are areas of expertise in certain sciences that are vanishing. Dr. Hodgson offered BERAC's services in any way that might be useful, and said he would formulate a draft and see if counterparts of HEPAP and BESAC agree.

OBER remains committed to the Joint Genome Institute. This effort is consuming lots of time and energy and is very much the heart of the BER program.
Lots of time and energy have also been invested in the structural biology program. There are ambitious and aggressive new proposals to take this program into the next century.
The low dose radiation research program is a good showcase for OBER.

The global change program is undergoing significant transition. The National Academy of Sciences has done a comprehensive review. It is a tough challenge to identify the directions we need to move in this program in flat budget times. The problems are more numerous than the money we have. Modeling is a new dimension and we are excited about carbon management. A growing part of the program is the new challenge of how we relate the program. We are proud of the carbon sequestration roadmap that has been put together, thanks to John Houghton. The ARM program is one of the highest priority efforts in global change research and is entering its second decade. Atmospheric Sciences is working on initiatives for aerosols. A potential problem is the issue of data sharing. There is an increasing tendency in the global change arena for some countries to hoard data.

The NABIR program is close to settling on a research site. We are very committed to effective stewardship of EMSL. EMSL represents OBER's first involvement as a steward of a scientific facility, and OBER takes this role very seriously. The recurrent issue of facility user fees make us very nervous. Dr. Hodgson will raise that issue with HEPAP and BESAC.
As discussed by Dr. Viola, the bulk of the biomedical engineering efforts at the national laboratories is funded with discretionary funds. Things cannot continue that way indefinitely. These efforts are now in a very critical phase.

Dr. Patrinos talked about infrastructure at the labs, and the fact that program offices have been insulated in dealing with the infrastructure at the labs. Aging of the facilities is occurring there too, and renovations are necessary.

Human Genome Program Update (JGI Status Report) - Dr. Elbert Branscomb, Joint Genome Institute

JGI is in the process of radically modifying their sequencing strategies and goals. Dr. Trevor Hawkins is the new director of sequencing at the JGI. Sequencing operations are now housed in the Production Sequencing Facility. JGI has increased their capacity dramatically including changes in protocols. They are seeking a striking increase in the overall output of three times without increases in space and staff. They established extremely aggressive goals, and they met them. The Production Sequencing Facility opened in January of this year and the majority of the Berkeley and Livermore programs have moved in. Eighty to ninety people work in this building. In spite of all the challenges facing the sequencing teams, fun and interesting things are coming out of the sequencing.

OBER Structural Biology Program - Dr. Michael Viola and Dr. Marvin Frazier, Medical and Life Sciences Divisions (respectively), OBER
The structural biology program has been subjected to intense scrutiny over the past few months including programs in facilities, instrumentation research and development, biological research, and computational biological research. DOE took a look at this program in three steps: 1) input from folks at the lab who have a vested interest; 2) BER staff structural biology retreat; and 3) a workshop is to be held June 10-11.
NIH also has major new initiatives in structural biology that are being planned.

Next BERAC Meeting: The next BERAC meeting is to be held November 30 - December 1, 1999, at the American Geophysical Union.

Public Comment: None
Meeting was adjourned.

U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Science
Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee (BERAC) Meeting
April 22-23, 1999
American Geophysical Union
2000 Florida Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20009

List of Attendees present for all or a portion of the meeting

BERAC Members
Dr. Eugene W. Bierly, American Geophysical Union
Dr. Mina Bissell, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Dr. E. Morton Bradbury, Los Alamos National Laboratory
Dr. Rita Colwell, National Science Foundation
Dr. Raymond F. Gesteland, University of Utah
Dr. Jonathan Greer, Abbott Laboratories
Dr. Richard E. Hallgren, American Meteorology Society
Dr. Willard W. Harrison, University of Florida
Dr. Keith O. Hodgson, Stanford University
Dr. Fern Hunt, National Institute of Standards and Technology
Dr. David Jenkins, Chartwood Resources Ltd.
Dr. Alan Rabson, National Cancer Institute
Dr. Henry Wagner, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Dr. Susan Wallace, University of Vermont
Dr. Warren Washington, National Center for Atmospheric Research
Dr. James Wyche, Brown University

U.S. Department of Energy Staff
Martha Krebs, Director, Office of Science (SC)
Deanna Wilson, SC
Ari Patrinos, Associate Director, Office of Biological and Environmental Research (OBER)/SC
David Thomassen, Designated Federal Officer, BERAC, OBER/SC
Shirley Derflinger, Designated Federal Officer, BERAC, OBER/SC
Michael Riches, OBER/SC
John Wooley, OBER/SC
Marvin Frazier, OBER/SC
Joanne Corcoran, OBER/SC
Daniel Drell, OBER/SC
Arthur Katz, OBER/SC
Marvin Stodolsky, OBER/SC
Michael Viola, OBER/SC
Roland Hirsch, OBER/SC
Charles Edmonds, OBER/SC
Prem Srivastava, OBER/SC
Dean Cole, OBER/SC
Peter Kirchner, OBER/SC
Larry James, OBER/SC
Jerry Elwood, OBER/SC
Paul Bayer, OBER/SC
Roger Dahlman, OBER/SC
Wanda Ferrell, OBER/SC
John Houghton, OBER/SC
Peter Lunn, OBER/SC
Anna Palmisano, OBER/SC
Rickey Petty, OBER/SC
Dan Hitchcock, Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research, SC
Fred Howes, Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research, SC
William Kirchhoff, Basic Energy Sciences, SC
Ehsan Khan, Office of Planning and Analysis, SC
John J. McClure, Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology
Justine Alchowiak, Office of Environmental Management
Joseph F. Weiss, Office of Environment, Safety and Health
Donald Lentzen, Office of Environment, Safety and Health
Ruth Neta, Office of Environment, Safety and Health
Gerald Petersen, Office of Environment, Safety and Health
Mohandas Bhat, Office of Environment, Safety and Health
Milton Johnson, Office of Laboratory Operations & Environment, Safety, and Health
Elbert Branscomb, Joint Genome Institute, DOE
Trevor Hawkins, Joint Genome Institute, DOE
David Bader, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Teresa Fryberger, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Douglas Ray, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Ron Walters, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Gerald Stokes, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Reinhold Mann, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Gary K. Jacobs, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Jeff Amthor, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Steve Hildebrand, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Michelle Buchanan, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Betty Mansfield, Human Genome News, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Kathie Reed, Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education
George Hendrey, Brookhaven National Laboratory
Nora Volkow, Brookhaven National Laboratory
Creighton Wirick, Brookhaven National Laboratory
Stephen Schwartz, Brookhaven National Laboratory
Carl W. Anderson, Brookhaven National Laboratory
Carol Giometti, Argonne National Laboratory
Chris Reilly, Argonne National Laboratory
Andrzej Joachimiak, Argonne National Laboratory
Rob Johnson, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Michael Banda , Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Scott Cram, Los Alamos National Laboratory
Allen Hartford, Los Alamos National Laboratory
Lisa Stubbs, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
LaMar Johnson, Idaho National Engineering & Environmental Laboratory

Other Federal Agency Attendees
Michael Sieverts, Public Affairs, National Science Foundation
Jay Fein, National Science Foundation
Elke Jordan, National Institutes of Health
James Selkirk, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Walter Schimmerling, NASA
Peter Bond, Office of Science and Technology Policy

Michael Phelps, University of California, Los Angeles
Steven Wofsy, Harvard University
Murray Schulman
David A. Smith
Mark Smolenski, SRI International
Jean Futrell, University of Delaware
Michelle Broido, University of Pittsburgh
William Beckner, National Council on Radiation Protection
Tom Koval, National Council on Radiation Protection
Pamela Moore, Capital Publications
Tarun Reddy, Inside Energy