Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
7 REE Capacity This chapter considers four major dimensions of the capacity of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Research, Education, and Economics (REE) mission area: organizational capacity, human capacity, information capacity, and infrastructure capacity. Those capacities provide the critical foundation for the production of high-quality research. ORGANIZATIONAL CAPACITY Like any relatively large organization, the REE agencies function within a set of interrelated systems designed to perform a number of tasks in an increas- ingly volatile, complex, and less controllable environment in and outside USDA. Although the agencies are embedded in a traditional structure, they are subject to new changes, pressures, and interests. In agriculture, the definition and perspec- tive of the public good is changing dramatically. Paul Kennedy (1993) noted that "the task of reconciling technological change and economic integration with traditional political structures, social needs, institutional arrangements, and habitual ways of doing things looms as our greatest problem in the future." That transformation will be met only when USDA redefines itself, how it achieves its mission, and the new relationships among food, health, environment, and society. The future of agriculture will have little resemblance to its past; thus, USDA and its agencies need to create a new 21st-century agenda and an organization to match. Within USDA, the missions of research and education are still appropriate, but their context is dramatically different. The fundamental concepts of how agencies work, what they work on, and whom they work with are all being called 146
REE CAPACITY 147 into question, with agency functions, operations, and organization. Future success will engage new leadership, organization models, and ways of conducting work. The REE organizations need to manage the intellectual capital of their pro- fessional staff so that their joint capabilities are complementary and exceed the sum of the capabilities of their separate parts. A key to accomplishing this will center on the need to harness the intelligence and spirit of people at all organiza- tional levels to share and build knowledge continuously. The REE agencies will need to be both equipped and inclined to lead change and work in different and innovative ways. Adopting new models of organizational collaboration will be required for future success (see Chapter 5~. In conclusion, universities, government agencies, and private businesses all have knowledge of immense value. One of the critical questions that has emerged as we shift into the 21st century is how to harness intelligence and ideas from people in various organizations and at all levels of organization to share and build knowledge continuously. FINDING: The current organizational structure of research efforts in the REE agencies limits the combined effectiveness of the agencies. The intramural research efforts of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the Economic Research Service (ERS), and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS); the competitive grants programs and congres- sionally mandated grants of the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES); and the federal formula funds of CSREES make up a diverse and diffuse research agenda. Leadership to provide intellectual guidance and a long-term, coherent vision for REE research, promote intra-agency coordination, broker partnerships out- side the REE agencies, and integrate REE's research within the federal research program is lacking. No position in the REE administrative structure has the visibility and prestige of the directors of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the scientific reputation of the REE agencies suffers from this lack. RECOMMENDATION 9: There is a national need for a high-level leader to represent food and agricultural research and to promote oppor- tunities for the research system. Such a leader should be vested with the authority to develop the food and agricultural research agenda, redirect funds to emerging issues and emergency needs, integrate the efforts of the individual agencies, and facilitate collaboration and coordination with scientists outside USDA and elsewhere in the federally supported research system. The leader should be selected on the basis of out- standing scientific and administrative accomplishments and must com- mand the respect of the agricultural community and the broad scientific community.
148 FRONTIERS IN AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH The committee considered a number of alternatives for implementing this recommendation, including establishing new positions and strengthening exist- ing positions. The committee discusses below the advantages and disadvantages of four of these alternatives. 1. A new position of research director, reporting directly to the secretary of agriculture, could be established at USDA. The research director would be visible and prestigious, would provide vision and leadership, and would command respect in Congress, in the department, in the administration, and within the public at large. Such a director, when asked, could provide testimony to Congress. A position reporting directly to the secretary would attract a high-stature scientist. A research director could set the strategy for the REE research agenda, broker partnerships outside REE, and galvanize inter-mission-area collaboration. A research director could serve as an additional liaison for hearing action-agency research needs and could respond to needs not being met. The director could also provide guidance on research and data-collection activities conducted or adminis- tered at USDA, such as the Forest Service and the Natural Resources Inventory, in the Natural Resources and Environment Mission Area, and the producer-assessment-funded research programs, administered through the Market and Regulatory Programs Mission area. A long-term appoint- ment of 6 years that overlapped presidential elections could foster stability and continuity, stimulate longer-term efforts, and help the research direc- tor act as a counterforce to political relationships (such as those resulting in funding to facilities and earmarks) that detract from the REE research strategy. Other research positions in the federal government on which the research-director position might be modeled include the position of NIH director and NSF director. Attributes of the NSF and NIH director posi- tions that could be emulated include the stature and scientific credentials of the positions, their role in coordinating efforts within the organization, and their strong influence over the president' s budget. A potential disad- vantage of establishing a research-director position would be the loss of program control by agency heads and the undersecretary and the need for shifts in line and budgetary authority. It also is important to note that a 6-year term may have the disadvantage of weakening the position in later administrations. Establishing such a position would require congressional action. 2. The committee considered the option of changing and strengthening the role of the undersecretary for REE to achieve the desired functions. This could be achieved by granting the undersecretary more influence over the budget of the REE agencies, which might make the position more attrac- tive to nominees of high scientific stature. Another mechanism for strengthening the position would involve the granting of some discretion-
REE CAPACITY 149 ary funds to the undersecretary. Such funds could be used for collabora- tive activities or for research on new and emerging issues. Relying on the undersecretary position to fulfill leadership needs may be disadvantageous because the undersecretary position is not at the same level as that of the directors of NIH, NSF, and so on, and because the undersecretary may not necessarily be selected on the basis of scientific credentials. A further disadvantage is that the short term of the undersecretary position might lead to lack of long-term vision and continuity in research direction and that it is unlikely that the term could be lengthened to 6 years. The com- mittee believes that since the 1994 reorganization, the undersecretary position has not effectively served the function of brokering partnerships among the REE agencies or with other federal agencies beyond USDA. Furthermore, the committee believes that the undersecretary's role should be more appropriately related to integrating research, education, and extension functions within the mission area rather than to providing the long-term intellectual vision for research. 3. The committee considered the option of strengthening the roles of REE administrators in setting research priorities within the agencies but identi- fied no mechanism for solving the problems of limited coordination among agencies, the separation of budgetary lines among agencies, and competition for budgets. Strengthening the roles of administrators would not solve the problem of identifying overall leadership for the research establishment at USDA. It would not address the issue of fostering col- laboration between USDA and other federal research agencies. 4. The committee considered an additional option of establishing a Senate- confirmed associate director for agriculture and natural resources in the Office of Science and Technology Policy. The committee acknowledges that the scope of such a position would be broader than that of the four REE agencies, but it would respond to the needs identified to establish partnerships across the federal agricultural research enterprise. Such a position would be able to influence the president's budget and help to manage and oversee the various collaborations recommended in the report. Such a position could also integrate REE research in the context of the federal agricultural research enterprise. A disadvantage of the position is that it would be far removed from the REE agencies. After careful consideration of the alternatives, most committee members pre- ferred the first option the creation of a new position of research director report- ing directly to the secretary of agriculture for establishing the high-profile leadership that is needed to implement the new vision for food and agricultural research described in this report. Several committee members concluded that other options also could successfully address the need for enhanced leadership of the nation's food and agricultural research effort.
150 FRONTIERS IN AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH Whichever option is chosen, the committee recognizes that an outstanding, high-profile leader is not exclusively responsible for the excellence, visibility, and prestige of an agency. Leaders can change and have changed the strategic direction of some agencies for the benefit of the nation and the world. However, it is important to acknowledge that the sum total of the agencies' scientists and operations is what makes them outstanding in the long run. PROFESSIONAL SKILLS, EXPERTISE, AND TRAINING High-quality scientists are the foundation of high-quality research. One of the best measures of the scientific stature of a research unit is the quality of the people employed in it. The committee considered aspects of the quality and potential for advancement of REE scientists, including an analysis of the REE workforce composition, hiring and recruitment policies, training and opportuni- ties for professional development, and education. Staff performance standards and incentives are considered in Chapter 6, in the context of research quality. Workforce Composition In 2001, 4,132 science-related technical staff were employed by the REE agencies. Almost 75% of these, 3,075, were employed by ARS, the large intra- mural research effort of USDA. ERS employed 319 science-related technical staff (8%), largely economists; and NASS employed 566 (14%), largely statisti- cians. Only 163 science-related technical staff (4%) were employed by CSREES; its research role is limited to administration of formula funds and extramural grants. Of the ARS science-related technical staff,1,980 (48% of the REE total) were PhD research scientists who served as the direct leaders of research projects (USDA, 2001~. Although a list of 50 job categories given to the committee by REE describes duties in a number of fields (see Table 7-1), chemistry, entomology, microbiology, general biology, and genetics accounted for half the ARS professional workforce. A substantial number of the 981 chemists, geneticists, and microbiologists who worked for ARS were probably involved in food safety, food technology, and nutrition, but only 62 were employed with job titles in food technology and 50 in dietetics or nutrition. Similarly, small numbers of science-related technical staff had primary job titles clearly related to environmental science; these included 29 ecologists, 35 range conservationists, 4 environmental engineers, and 2 wildlife biologists. Other science-related technical staff such as microbiologists, physi- cists, and hydrologists were likely to have environmental training but were not immediately identified from workforce titles. Nevertheless, relatively few scien- tists in the REE agencies appeared to have the broad training required to integrate across levels of ecologic organization and across complex agricultural land- scapes since these are rapidly advancing scientific fields and the agencies have
REE CAPACITY TABLE 7-1 REE Professional Employment in Science-Related Occupations, as of June 10, 2001 151 Occupation ARS ERS NASS CSREES Total REE Agricultural engineering 124 0 0 5 129 Agronomy 99 0 0 0 99 Animal science 68 0 0 4 72 Biomedical engineering 2 0 0 0 2 Botany 20 0 0 0 20 Chemical engineering 31 0 0 1 32 Chemistry 436 0 0 1 437 Civil engineering 26 0 0 0 26 Dietetics and nutrition 50 1 0 4 55 Ecology 29 0 0 1 30 Economics 5 297 0 5 307 Electrical engineering 4 0 0 0 4 Electronic engineering 8 0 0 0 8 Entomology 309 0 0 11 320 Environmental engineering 4 0 0 0 4 Fishery biology 6 0 0 0 6 Food technology 62 0 0 1 63 Forestry 1 0 0 1 2 Generalbiological sciences 278 0 0 84 362 General physical sciences 26 0 0 0 26 General engineering 29 0 0 0 29 Genetics 245 0 0 5 250 Geography 1 1 1 0 3 Geology 5 0 0 0 5 Home economics 6 0 0 0 6 Horticulture 64 0 0 0 64 Hydrology 36 0 0 0 36 Industrial hygiene 2 0 0 0 2 Mathematical statistics 4 0 90 0 94 Mathematics 9 0 0 0 9 Mechanical engineering 14 0 0 0 14 Medicine 1 0 0 0 1 Meteorology 5 0 0 0 5 Microbiology 300 0 0 7 307 Materials engineering 5 0 0 0 5 Pharmacology 5 0 0 0 5 Physics 7 0 0 0 7 Physiology 79 0 0 0 79 Plant pathology 166 0 0 4 170 Plant physiology 205 0 0 4 209 Psychology 2 0 0 1 3 Range conservation 35 0 0 0 35 Social science 0 12 0 17 29 Sociology 0 4 0 4 8 Soil science 182 0 0 1 183 Statistics 14 4 475 0 493 Textile technology 8 0 0 0 8 Veterinary medical science 44 0 0 1 45 Wildlife biology 2 0 0 0 2 Zoology 12 0 0 1 13 Total 3,075 319 566 163 4,123 Source: REE Office of Human Resources, 2001.
152 FRONTIERS IN AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH identified so few staff as primarily environmental scientists. Social-science staff other than economists were scarce in REE; there were only 29 noneconomist social-science staff in all of REE. There were proportionally few social scientists of any type in ARS, NASS, and CSREES. A time series of ARS research scientists from FY 1986 to FY 2001 shows increases in the percentage of research scientists in specific fields, such as micro- biology (an increase from 5% in 1986 to 10% in 2001) and genetics (an increase from 6% in 1986 to 10% in 2001~; one-fifth of the new research scientists hired in FY 2001 were in molecular biology and genetics. The increase in ecology- research scientists was very small (0.27% in 1986 to 0.9% in 2001~. With respect to sex and ethnicity, REE technical staff are predominantly white men. For example, 83% and 88% of ARS scientists are male and white, respectively (see Table 7-2~. There is a similar imbalance in sex and ethnic diversity among REE agencies, with some agencies performing better than others in meeting diversity goals. ARS expects a slight increase in retirement rates in the next 5 years as the research workforce ages. This would provide an opportunity to alter the expertise and diversity of the research staff. FINDING: Staffing is increasing in disciplines suited to exploiting some of the research frontiers such as molecular biology and genetics- although the increases in ecology are still very small. There is a continu- ing lack of scientific expertise in the nutritional, environmental, and social sciences and imbalances in ethnicity and sex within and across agencies. RECOMMENDATION 10: REE should increase the hiring of scientists in research fields that have the greatest opportunities to address societal goals. Those include integrative environmental science, ecology, eco- nomics, and sociology; human genetics (including statistical human genetics) and bioinformatics; and human nutrition, public health, and TABLE 7-2 Demographic Composition of REE Technical Staff Race, % Sex, % Agency Asian Black Hispanic White Male Female ARS 7.7 1.4 2.3 88 83 17 CSREES 6.5 8.1 0.8 84 66 34 ERS 8.2 3.8 1.6 86 73 27 NASS 3.4 12 2.9 81 68 32 Source: REE, 2001.
REE CAPACITY 153 food safety. REE agencies should continue to develop new methods for recruiting and retaining women and members of ethnic minorities. Greater balance of scientific disciplines within and between agencies could be achieved by promoting greater interagency cooperation (see Chapter 5~. Staff Recruitment The public and private sectors of the economy compete for creative science and technology personnel, and the growth of PhD agricultural-scientist employ- ment has been faster in the private sector than in the public sector since 1973 (NRC, 1988, 1995~. Of agricultural-scientist doctoral graduates surveyed in 1996 who planned employment after completing their doctorate (59.3%), 22.8% planned employment in academe, 16.6% planned employment in industry and business, and 12.6% planned employment in government positions (NRC, 1998~. REE administrators, in interviews with the committee, indicated that they found it difficult to compete with consulting firms, universities, and other federal agen- cies for high-quality candidates, although ERS noted that its salaries are only slightly below those of good universities (a $10,000-15,000 difference). Uni- versities may offer greater intellectual freedom and prestige to prospective employees. Our interviews with REE human-resources personnel and adminis- trators indicated that recruiting for diversity is particularly challenging for the REE agencies, given the salary disadvantages. Recruitment and retention proce- dures are changing for scientists at the most senior level, however. ARS reported to the committee that other federal agencies (NIH and the Food and Drug Admin- istration [FDAj) can offer a $40,000-50,000 advantage in salary to senior scientists who have outstanding reputations in their fields (through the Senior Biomedical Research Service). A similar system, the Senior Scientific Research Service (SSRS), was recently authorized in the 2002 farm bill (US Congress, 2002) to attract and retain scientists at the Nobel Prize level of accomplishment. Regulations and implementation plans are being developed for SSRS. The system will apply to ARS and Forest Service research scientists whose accomplishments, stature, recognition, and impact on scientific theory and knowledge put them above the Government Service-15 pay scale. SSRS is an encouraging step for- ward and may help to eliminate some of the salary disadvantages at the senior- scientist level. As conveyed to the committee in its interviews with REE administrators, a second factor with an adverse effect on recruitment is the increasingly large num- ber of non-US citizens receiving PhD degrees in the agricultural sciences; these people are not eligible for employment in US government agencies (Ballenger and Klotz-Ingram, 2000~. For example, a survey of 1862 land-grant university colleges of agriculture, renewable natural resources, and forestry indicated that
154 FRONTIERS IN AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH 40% of the doctoral degrees conferred in 1998-1999 were to non-US citizens (FAEIS, 1998/1999~. Thus, the pool of applicants from which REE can draw is much smaller than for competing employers. Hiring procedures are a third factor that influences recruitment. Many young scientists completing PhD degrees or in postdoctoral training are not familiar with the hiring procedures of the REE agencies; these procedures are thus not likely to produce a pool of applicants as large as those of academic institutions, the chief competitors for young research scientists. The procedures for hiring in USDA are established by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which oversees employee rules for all federal agencies. OPM has extensive regulations on hiring procedures and qualifications and sets the restrictions and requirements. Each position has published qualification requirements, including basic qualifi- cations (OPM, 2002b) and specialized experience (knowledge, skills, and abili- ties). Compared with the academic or private-industry job-application systems, the OPM system, which extends to such details as numbers of hours of coursework and specific undergraduate courses, may be more complex and time-consuming for a job applicant. OPM also determines job classifications and categories (OPM, 2002a), and our conversations with REE Office of Human Resources (OHR) staff in REE indicated that the publication of new series) definitions occurs very slowly at OPM. For example, the occupation series for ecology was created in 1977, and there is not yet a definition for bioinformatics. The rules can constrain an agency's ability to meet human-resources needs but can be largely circumvented by creative and competitive administrators. The complexity of the requirements may deter many candidates. Rigid and complex hiring requirements are likely to create difficulties in recruiting and hiring professionals who have the multidisciplinary experience needed for meeting contemporary challenges in genomics or environ- mental research. The REE agencies have made use of a wide array of recruitment and reten- tion incentives for several years. An interesting innovation in hiring procedures was developed and tested in ARS (and the Forest Service) in 1990-2001 to make recruitment and selection flexible and responsive to local recruitment needs. The Demonstration Project2 included the development of a different kind of candidate- assessment method and provided the flexibility to use recruitment incentives (see Box 7-1~. The project has given managers greater flexibility to adapt to local iA series is a subgroup of a group of related occupations that includes all classes of positions at the various skill levels in a particular kind of work. Series are assigned specific numerical codes for purposes of identification and human resources management (OPM, 2001). 2According to OPM, "a demonstration project provides a means for testing and introducing benefi- cial change in Government-wide human resources management systems. A Federal agency obtains the authority from the Office of Personnel Management to waive existing Federal human resources management law and regulations in title 5, United States Code, and title 5, Code of Federal Regula- tions, to propose, develop, test, and evaluate interventions for its own human resources management system that shape the future of Federal human resource management" (OPM, 2002c).
REE CAPACITY 155
156 FRONTIERS IN AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH conditions and has improved the public perception of the recruitment process. The REE agencies have also implemented recruitment and retention incentives authorized by the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act (US Congress, 1990a), including flexible work schedules; flexible workplace programs; transit subsidies; recruitment, retention, and relocation payments; leave-donor programs; family- friendly leave policies; repayment of student loans; and tuition-support programs. Cooperative-agreement funding mechanisms have also been used at some university-based research centers (Tufts and Baylor Human Nutrition Research Centers, for example) and could be used at all ARS laboratories associated with academic institutions to improve hiring success and to mitigate unnecessary regu- latory burdens. A review of recruitment in ARS conducted in FY 2000 by the REE OHR (USDA, 2001) indicates that the average number of applicants for ARS research- scientist positions was 11, and that 7 of those were referred to center directors for consideration. Although data on the previous number of applicants received are not available from ARS, OHR staff reported an increase in the number of applications for almost every scientist-year position when the consolidated recruitment approach was implemented under the Demonstration Project. FINDING: A number of current hiring practices and other government regulations adversely influence the ability of REE to compete for the best scientists. It is encouraging that the REE agencies continue to seek permanent authority to use more-flexible hiring mechanisms, such as the Demonstration Project or cooperative agreements. Postdoctoral Programs and Hiring of New Scientists A major source of new ARS hires appears to be postdoctoral scientists within the system. These positions provide an opportunity to bring researchers with new expertise into the ARS laboratories and are most common in the larger laborato- ries or those colocated on college campuses. Support of postdoctoral scientists in the ARS system is available from a systemwide fund or from funds available to research groups. For FY 1998-2000, the average number of postdoctoral scien- tists in the ARS system was 249, and there were 103 new hires each year. There were also 41 conversions of postdoctoral positions to permanent positions each year, about 25-30% of the new hires each year (see Table 7-3~. Table 7-4 shows the funding pattern for the ARS postdoctoral project, which has declined in recent years. Many locally funded postdoctoral scientists are also hired each year by individual management units, and salary is budgeted at the local level. ARS OHR reported an average range of 150 to 200 locally funded positions on the rolls each year, at an average cost of $50,000 per year; the cost (salary and ben- efits) of locally funded postdoctoral scientists each year ranges from $7.5 million to $10 million.
REE CAPACITY TABLE 7-3 ARS Postdoctoral Employment 157 Number of Conversions Fiscal Year On Board at End of Year Number of New Hires to Permanent Positions 1998 245 105 48 1999 262 106 37 2000 240 97 38 2001 262 67 32 Source: REE Office of Human Resources, 2001. TABLE 7-4 Funding Levels for the ARS Postdoctoral Program, 1985-2002 Year Funding, nominal dollars Funding, constant 2000 dollarsa 1985 1,269,000 2,199,307 1986 2,160,000 3,600,000 1987 3,362,707 5,388,954 1988 4,541,885 6,892,086 1989 4,496,466 6,441,928 1990 4,434,491 6,041,541 1991 4,434,491 5,873,498 1992 4,434,491 5,729,317 1993 4,434,491 5,599,105 1994 4,434,491 5,401,329 1995 4,434,491 5,247,918 1996 4,394,185 5,062,425 1997 4,359,804 4,860,428 1998 4,333,497 4,644,691 1999 4,333,497 4,472,133 2000 4,323,497 4,323,497 2001 4,323,965 4,118,062 2002 4,323,965 4,011,099 aConstant-dollar conversions based on R&D deflator in Table F-11. Source: ARS, 2002. The committee believes that a strong postdoctoral program is essential for ensuring the continuous flow of new knowledge, skills, interests, and perspec- tives into the work of the agencies; for creating important links of new talent from the land-grant institutions with the other REE agencies; for stimulating problem- oriented research on critical emerging subjects; and for providing a pool of young scientists from which the agencies can identify and recruit the next generation of career scientists. The committee is encouraged by the continuing use of post- doctoral fellowships or similar postdoctoral appointments in the REE agencies.
158 FRONTIERS IN AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH Training and Opportunities for Professional Development Opportunities for short-term and long-term training exist in REE. The REE OUR reported to the committee that it offers employees more than 50 training and development programs and courses each year through the Employee Devel- opment and Training Program. The courses include leadership development, management skills, computer and presentation skills, congressional and policy issues, new-employee orientation, and related management topics (USDA, 2001~. Other short-term training opportunities in substantive or experiential subjects were reported in our interviews with REE administrators. ERS, for example, reported subsidizing inhouse training for econometrics, computer, and statistical software packages; participation in professional meetings; and opportunities for travel detail with the Office of Management and Budget, the US Trade Represen- tative, and the president's Council of Economic Advisors. ARS reported that coloration of laboratories on university campuses provided the opportunity for researchers to serve as adjunct faculty. Long-term training policies also permit staff to develop comprehensive plans that involve substantial professional training. Although data on continuing edu- cation were not available through the REE OUR, the committee learned anecdot- ally from its interviews with staff that REE employees are taking advantage of continuing university training and the pursuit of PhD degrees with support from their agencies. The committee found little evidence of training or capacity- building in REE on critical current factors affecting the agricultural sciences, such as environmental and natural-resources sciences or consumer and health sciences. To conclude, although the training offerings may be substantial, there are no data relating them to essential core competences or success skills. FINDING: REE has made substantial efforts to build internal capacity by promoting training and professional development through coopera- tion with institutes of higher education, not-for-profit organizations, and the private sector, although there is little evidence of a strong connection between training and mission goals or core competences. Incentives are a promising mechanism for USDA research scientists to further their training in new subjects in the form of sabbaticals, short-term visits, or collaborative projects with people at land-grant universities or private academic and research institutions. Broadening the Scientific Base Interaction with scientists outside agriculture, such as those in ecology and conservation science, can contribute to meeting the research frontiers identified in Chapter 3 by identifying possible integration with other disciplines, bringing cutting-edge concepts from their fields, and identifying factors that will shape
REE CAPACITY 159 future directions for agricultural research and policy. Scientists outside agricul- ture would also benefit from such collaboration in that they often lack an aware- ness of the critical importance of the agricultural research system for supplying technology to improve the compatibility of conservation and agriculture goals. Such broadening of the scientific base was a specific goal of National Research Initiative legislation, in which Congress called for the "widest participation of qualified scientists" in the competitive-grant process (US Congress, 1990b). Although the success of the directive has been mixed, the intent is still seen as a strength of the program (NRC, 2000~. There are a variety of means for encouraging cross-disciplinary exchange. Encouraging and developing mechanisms for scientists to participate in sabbati- cals or exchange programs between agencies and organizations would benefit research within and outside REE. Research sabbaticals for scientists from other federal agencies to work in the REE agencies and research sabbaticals for REE scientists in federal agencies or nongovernment organizations would contribute to the exchange. Such exchange would help to create a system in which the benefits of agricultural research are better understood by the broader scientific community and in which cutting-edge thinking in other fields of science is better understood by agricultural researchers. Such mechanisms are already being used by REE agencies; for example, ERS scientists have been detailed to organiza- tions such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Food and Agriculture Organization. The committee' s interviews with REE administrators revealed that agencies are already involving outside expertise in a variety of ways. ARS reported that coloration of ARS laboratories at land-grant universities was an effective mecha- nism for involving outside expertise in ARS laboratories, CSREES reported that flexible hiring arrangements through Intergovernmental Personnel Act agree- ments had permitted it to engage 5% of its staff through short- to medium-term assignment, and NASS reported that it offers year-long fellowships to scientists and engages university scientists collaboratively through cooperative agreements. REE's Role in Education: Future Human Capacity REE contributes to building high-quality educational capacity through its support of the research establishment in the land-grant university system. The committee did not undertake a comprehensive review of the capacity within the land-grant system, over which REE has limited influence through administration of formula funds. However, the committee found important evidence that REE is playing a catalytic role in investing in specific programs to develop new exper- tise, to enhance institutional capacity, and to broaden participation in public agri- cultural research. Table 7-5 shows a variety of programs administered by CSREES in expertise development and institutional enhancement. ARS has invested in training and
160 FRONTIERS IN AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH TABLE 7-5 Summary of CSREES-Administered Higher-Education Programs Program Purpose Funding 1890 Institution Competitive program for attracting more students FY 2002, Teaching and from underrepresented groups into food and $9.479 million Research Capacity agricultural sciences, expanding links among Building Grants 1890s universities with other colleges and Program universities and strengthening the teaching and research capacity of the 1890 institutions Food and Agricultural Sciences National Needs Graduate Fellowships Grants Program Competitive-grant program for recruiting FY 2001-2002, predoctoral students $5.6 million Multicultural Scholars Baccalaureate scholarship program for FY 2000-2001, Program underrepresented racial and ethnic groups $1.9978 million National Awards Honors outstanding teachers and strengthens FY 2002, Program for Excellence instructional programs Two $5,000 in College and national and eight University Teaching $2,000 regional in the Food and awards. Agricultural Sciences Higher Education Competitive-grant program in undergraduate FY 2001, Challenge Grants teaching $4.350 million; Program FY2002 $4.058 million Hispanic-Serving Competitive-grant program to strengthen FY 2002, Institutions Education Hispanic-serving institutions $3,340,000 Grants Programs Tribal Colleges Distributes the interest earned by an endowment FY 2002, Endowment Fund to enhance education in agricultural sciences $7.1 million and related fields for Native Americans Tribal Colleges Formula-grant program designed to strengthen $50,000/institution Education Equity higher-education instruction in the food and upon receipt of a Grants Program agricultural sciences in the 1994 land-grant plan of work; institutions FY 2001, $1.5486 million Tribal Colleges Competitive-grant program for research that FY 2002, Research Grants addresses high-priority tribal, national, or $925,000 Program multistate areas continued
REE CAPACITY TABLE 7-5 Continued 161 Program Purpose Funding Alaska Native-Serving and Native Hawa~ian- Serving Institutions Education Grants Program Secondary and Two- Year Postsecondary Agnculture Education Challenge Grants Program Noncompetitive-grant program to strengthen higher education in public or private nonprofit Alaska native-serving institutions and native Hawa~iar~-serving institutions FY 2002, $2.997 million Program for public secondary schools and public FY 2002, or private nonprofit community or junior colleges $798,000 Source: USDA, 2002a. capacity-building by training postdoctoral fellows and graduate students at uni- versities colocated with its facilities and by administering a summer program for graduate students to study in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, in collaboration with NIH and NSF (USDA, 2002b). ARS also supports a scholarship program for students of 1890 universities in its laboratories; at the end of the scholarship period, the students are able to apply for positions on a noncompetitive basis. ERS conducts a summer-internship program that has strong participation by students in the 1890 institutions. NASS reported to the committee that its summer internship program is a valuable source of new hires. Box 7-2 demonstrates that some of these investments have tried to encourage multidisciplinary training and training in new and emerging fields. Several of the projects are collaborative. There is a clear effort to target underrepresented groups. INFORMATION CAPACITY: REE EFFORTS IN DATA MANAGEMENT, COLLECTION, AND SHARING Information capacity is a critical function in the process of advancing knowl- edge related to agricultural resources and the application of that knowledge to societal progress. In some cases, the private benefits from a new dataset are large enough for a private firm or individual to undertake the design, collection, and distribution of the data. In other situations, private action will lead to substantial underprovision of datasets and may be a serious constraint in accomplishing research goals. Government agencies, including USDA, are well positioned to collect some types of large datasets that are mandated by legislation or regula- tions. Furthermore, some types of data especially those related to food avail- ability, food safety, health, and the environment are needed for policy decisions
162 FRONTIERS IN AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH and must therefore be in the public domain. Determination of such data needs and funding of data collection and analysis are appropriate and necessary govern- ment functions. Data collection is expensive and USDA must set priorities for data collection. Priorities should be set with consideration given to a number of important criteria:
REE CAPACITY . . 163 That the data help to resolve questions that are considered important by the general population, as opposed to a single business or narrow seg- ments of society. · That the data can be analyzed and made publicly available quickly enough for the results to be reliable and useful for policy decisions. In some cases, data collection by nongovernment organizations and the private sector might be more cost-effective and comparably useful, provided that the quality of research design and analysis is ensured via USDA contract mechanisms. That the data fulfill the needs of agencies that rely on REE for program implementation, evaluation, and policy decisions. · That the data capitalize on new and emerging electronic technology. · That the data provide actionable information. . A broader perspective in surveying and collecting data will be necessary to support an expanding and broadening food and agricultural research agenda. Historically, USDA has focused its data-collection responsibilities primarily on production agriculture and secondarily on diet and human nutrition. Today, how- ever, new categories of data and systems for data use are needed. New forms of vertical contracting, concentration in livestock and crop production and market- ing, and the effects of global interdependence on food markets, food availability, economic development, public health, disease transmission, climate, and natural resources are changes that will require new datasets. The mandate to protect water availability, air and water quality, and other environmental resources will call for new techniques for providing data. Spatially integrated data are vital for developing policies that address environmental issues and for measuring policy effectiveness. The committee learned during its inter- views with NASS that spatial data on agricultural practices are collected over large geographic areas, but that the data are highly aggregated and not statistically reliable at the local level. Furthermore, compatible environmental-impact data are not collected by NASS or by any other agency. Agroenvironmental indicators show characteristics of the environment over time and provide a means of measur- ing changes in environmental quality. ERS publishes a set of agroenvironmental indicators agricultural resources and environmental indicators but further development of environmental indicators is badly needed. Alarming increases in the United States and around the world in such dis- eases as obesity and diabetes require new data, as does the impact of genomics on disease prevention and therapies. The efficacy and safety of newly discovered food ingredients and dietary supplements and the health implications of related changes in food-consumption patterns will demand information that is not now available. The generation of food-composition data and the assessment of the dietary status of the US population are continuing REE responsibilities that
164 FRONTIERS IN AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH attempt to keep pace with the changing food supply and changes in consumer eating behaviors. The USDA national food-consumption surveys and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) have served as the cornerstone of the US National Nutrition Monitoring System (LSRO, 1995~. REE is also responsible for maintaining the ARS National Nutrient Databank and derivative Standard Reference database (NDSR, 2001) and the Diet and Health Knowledge Survey, which provide infor- mation on perceptions of the adequacy of food and nutrition intake, the impor- tance placed on dietary-guidance messages, self-appraised weight status, the importance of factors related to buying food, and beliefs that may influence dietary behavior. The nutrition-monitoring data generated by the national surveys serve as the basis of dietary-guidance and food-assistance programs. The data are needed for agriculture, food, and nutrition policies; food-safety evaluations; exposure assessments by FDA and EPA; food-additive petitions; and applica- tions for pesticides. A major effort over the last 3 years has been the integration of the dietary portion of the USDA Continuing Survey of the Food Intakes of Individuals with the health portion of the NHANES conducted by the CDC National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). The merger will result in one national food and nutri- tion survey that captures the food-consumption expertise of ARS and the health- assessment expertise of NCHS while meeting congressional requests for more- efficient use of government resources. The data-collection challenge is heightened by the increased need to use information for broader purposes, the increased variety of the users of informa- tion, the need to balance the demand for higher-resolution data collection with maintenance of data-provider confidentiality, and the need to balance the increas- ing demands for data with minimizing the burden on data providers and maintain- ing survey response rates. New opportunities and challenges in data collection and dissemination are created by electronic communication (existing mechanisms for data collection and dissemination are discussed further in Appendix G). Larger and emerging questions which require the expertise of social, biologic, and physical sciences must be answered. Therefore, new and creative approaches to data collection and analysis that integrate the unique strengths and comple- mentary expertise of all the REE agencies, land-grant universities, other govern- ment agencies, the private sector, nongovernment and voluntary groups, and international organizations must be implemented. Finally, new technologic tools, including geospatial referencing, are enabling the combination of new and exist- ing datasets from different sources to create new knowledge. RECOMMENDATION 11: REE should undertake an analysis of the data development, management, and dissemination needed to support environmental and nutrition policy analysis. REE should work with
REE CAPACITY 165 other USDA mission areas to conduct an inventory of available social, economic, biologic, chemical, and physical datasets and to take stock of the data needs of the future. REE should take the initiative in coordinat- ing with other USDA agencies and with other federal agencies to identify where and how data can be more efficiently and effectively used and shared. REE should put into place structures and systems to support data management and dissemination across its agencies. INFRASTRUCTURE CAPACITY: RESEARCH FACILITIES State-oLthe-art facilities and equipment are critical requirements for USDA to be able to conduct world-class science and research. Modern facilities are also critical for the recruitment and retention of outstanding scientists, the most important determinant of the future success of REE. Furthermore, scientific progress depends on use of the latest communication and information-technology equipment in sharing knowledge and research findings with other USDA facili- ties and with private-sector and university laboratories and scientists. USDA has a substantial infrastructure of research laboratories across the United States, so the cost of operating and maintaining facilities is substantial. The Forest Service and ARS operate most of the facilities. ARS itself has 244 laboratories at 103 locations and 41 worksites. The laboratories include over 3,000 buildings, nearly 70% of which are over 30 years old. The agency also owns 400,478 acres of land dedicated to research (GAO, 2000~. Because of their strong links to the local communities and supportive rela- tionships with legislators at the state and federal level, USDA research facilities seldom close. That social and political reality has a cumulative effect of creating an infrastructure that may be both too large and too expensive. However, long- standing traditions make the USDA facilities system difficult to change. FINDING: Maintaining a physical infrastructure that is too large and too expensive will have a major adverse effect on department research unless REE budgets grow substantially or REE is able to gain in effi- ciency by being permitted to close and consolidate a number of facilities. ARS receives a line item annually for repair and maintenance of facilities (in FY 2002, budget authority for ARS facilities was $192 million; Appendix Table F-8a). Laboratory directors and research leaders are required to set aside up to 4% of their program funds to be used for local repair and maintenance projects. Funds specifically for new construction or major renovations and for capital improvements are appropriated by Congress as a separate and independent budget for buildings and facilities.
166 FRONTIERS IN AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH FINDING: Maintenance of some facilities has been deferred for many years, and the cost to repair these facilities is mounting to tremendous sums of public funds. The 1999 estimate for deferred maintenance of ARS and Forest Service facilities is almost $145 million. Over the next decade, ARS estimates that the cost of repair and maintenance of its facilities will be $874 million (USDA, 1999~. The situation is worsened by the likelihood that, because of the long history of inadequate maintenance, it may be unreasonably expensive to repair some facilities to meet modern human-health, employee-safety and environmental building-code requirements. FINDING: Current and projected maintenance costs will compete with programmatic research funds, which have increased little over the last decade. Because many facilities need major repairs, renovation, and modernization, substantial funds are needed to support these facilities, perhaps to the detriment of the overall USDA research agenda. During difficult budget times and with little actual growth in agriculture-research funding, the costs of facility repair and maintenance for the large infrastructure will continue to be a drain on the budget. These funds may be better directed toward research programs and USDA scientists. USDA research facilities must accommodate and support agency missions, programs, and goals not vice versa. They must be considered a means rather than ends in themselves. Furthermore, USDA cannot afford to allow physical facilities and geographic locations to determine the direction of research; research must be driven by the needs of society and by scientific judgments regarding opportunities for critical advancement of knowledge. FINDING: Congressional and stakeholder pressures greatly hinder ARS's ability to close some facilities that do not cost-effectively contrib- ute to USDA's national research agenda. In 1999, a Strategic Planning Task Force on USDA Research Facilities was directed by Congress to review the department's research facilities, issue a 10- year strategic plan for USDA on facilities, and make recommendations to ensure that a comprehensive research capacity is maintained (USDA, 1999~. The task force concurred with previous General Accounting Office reports and recom- mended that closing, renovating, and consolidating some of the federal laborato- ries could add greatly to the efficiency and effectiveness of the agency' s research. The committee observes that Congress has also highlighted the importance of security upgrades for agricultural research facilities in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (US Congress, 2002~. RECOMMENDATION 12: The committee recommends that REE use objective criteria to decide which USDA facilities merit investment of
REE CAPACITY 167 budget resources for repair, modernization, or security improvement and which should be consolidated or closed because they are incapable of cost-effectively contributing to the REE research strategy without renovation. These criteria should be established in the public interest and mutually agreed on by key members of Congress and state and local legislators, as articulated in the principles and recommendations of the 1999 Report of the Strategic Planning Task Force on USDA Research Facilities. The closing, consolidation, or renovation of facilities should be implemented. SUMMARY This chapter has considered four dimensions of the REE mission area: organizational capacity, human capacity, information capacity, and infrastructure capacity. A need was identified for leadership to provide intellectual guidance and a long-term vision for REE research, and several options for meeting this need were considered. In describing REE human capacity, the chapter analyzed the REE workforce, hiring and recruitment policies, training and opportunities for professional development, and education. Staff hiring in key research fields was identified as a way to meet research challenges of the future. REE' s efforts in data management, collection, and sharing were presented and discussed. A broader perspective in surveying and collecting data will be necessary to support a broadening food and agricultural research agenda, and an inventory of existing data and an analysis of data needs to support future research were recommended. Finally, the status and cost of maintaining the physical infrastructure of REE were discussed, and it was recommended that criteria to determine which facili- ties should be repaired, consolidated, or closed be developed and used. REFERENCES Ballenger, N., and C. Klotz-Ingram. 2000. Assessing US benefits of training foreign agricultural scientists. Pp 304-321 in Public-Private Collaboration in Agricultural Research, K.O. Fuglie and D.E. Schimmelpfennig, eds. Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press. FAEIS (Food and Agricultural Education Information System). 1998/1999. Available online at http:// faeis.tamu.edu/. GAO (US Government Accounting Of lice). 2000. Agricultural research: USDA's response to recom- mendations to strengthen the Agricultural Research Service's programs and facilities. GAO/ RCED-00-85R ARS Programs and Facilities. Letter to John Kasich, Chairman, Committee on the Budget, House of Representatives. February 15. Gore, A. 1993. From Red Tape to Results: Creating a Government that Works Better and Costs Less. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. Kennedy, P. 1993. Preparing for the Twenty-First Century. New York: Random House.
168 FRONTIERS IN AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH LSRO (Life Sciences Research Office). 1995. (The Second Report on) Nutrition Monitoring in the United States: An Update Report on Nutrition Monitoring. Bethesda, MD: Life Sciences Research Office. NDSR (Nutrient Database for Standard Reference). 2001. Release 13. USDA/ARS. Washington, DC: Agricultural Research Service, US Department of Agriculture. Available online at http:// www. nal. usda. gov/fnic/foodcomp. NRC (National Research Council). 1988. Committee on Evaluation of Trends in Competency Needs in Agricultural Research at the Doctoral and Postdoctoral Personnel Level. NRC (National Research Council). 1995. Colleges of Agriculture at the Land Grant Universities: A Profile. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. NRC (National Research Council). 1998. 1996 Doctoral Recipients from United States Universities. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. NRC (National Research Council). 2000. National Research Initiative: A Vital Competitive Grants Program in Food, Fiber, and Natural-Resources Research. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. OPM (US Office of Personnel Management). 2001. Handbook of Occupational Groups and Families. August. Washington, DC: Of fice of Personnel Management. Available online at http://www.opm. gov/fedclass/gshbLocc. pdf. OPM (US Office of Personnel Management).2002a. General Schedule Position Classification. Wash- ington, DC: Of lice of Personnel Management. Available online at http://www.opm.gov/fedclass/ html/gsseries.htm. OPM (US Office of Personnel Management). 2002b. Qualification Standards for General Schedule Positions. Operating Manual HX118. Washington, DC: Office of Personnel Management. Avail- able online at http://apps.opm.gov/publications/pages/default_list_man.htm. OPM (US Office of Personnel Management). 2002c. What is a Demonstration Project? Washington, DC: Office of Personnel Management. Available online at http://www.opm.gov/demos/ index.htm. US Congress. 1990a. P.L. (Public Law) 101-509. The Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act (FEPCA) of 1990. US Congress. 1990b. P.L. (Public Law) 101-624. Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990. US Congress. 2002. P.L. (Public Law) 107-171. Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. USDA (US Department of Agriculture). 1999. Report of the Strategic Planning Task Force on USDA Research Facilities. USDA Publication August 1999; prepared by the Strategic Planning Task Force on Research Facilities, Bruce Andrews, Chair. Washington, DC: US Department of Agri- culture. USDA (US Department of Agriculture).2001. Data submitted to the National Research Council Com- mittee on Opportunities in Agriculture from the Agricultural Research Service. Washington, DC: Agricultural Research Service, US Department of Agriculture. USDA (US Department of Agriculture). 2002a. Higher Education Programs. Washington, DC: Coop- erative State Research, Extension, and Education Service, US Department of Agriculture. Avail- able online at http://www.reeusda.gov/serd/hep/progdes.htm. USDA (US Department of Agriculture). 2002b. Summer Internships in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Washington, DC: Agricultural Research Service, US Department of Agriculture. Available online at http://www.nsf gov/pubs/1999/nsf99152/nsi99152.pdf.