The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) new assistant director of the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO), Dr. John Wingfield, recently shared his vision for BIO with the AIBS journal, BioScience. The interview, which appears in the January issue, explores future directions in biological research, the budget for the directorate, and public access to data.

“[T]he organism in its environment is the ultimate frontier,” said Dr. Wingfield. “How we are going to understand the organism-environment interaction in a changing world is a huge challenge. Going from genomes to phenomes is one way; also, the other way, top-down, from phenome back to genome, is a useful way to look at it.”

With respect to the recent change to an annual grant cycle in the Divisions of Environmental Biology and Integrative Organismal Systems, Wingfield hopes that the new system will reduce the burden on reviewers and researchers: “You expect that with this system, where you have more time to assess the reviews, time to talk with the program officer, over the same timescale, you’ll get funded, and you’ll get a lot more feedback. One thing we’re reminding people of is that despite this new cycle, we will still be funding the same number of grants and the same number of beginning investigators each year.”

Wingfield recognizes the uncertainties in the current federal funding environment, and views protection of existing core programs as the first priority. An austere budget, notes Wingfield, could result in the delay of the opening of new synthesis centers.

Wingfield also expects NSF-funded researchers to start sharing their data. Mandated open access to data will be implemented in the future, although the details are still evolving.

Read the full interview with Dr. Wingfield for free at http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/bio.2012.62.1.6.

 


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