ASM Requests Increased Funding for DOE Office of Science

April 17, 2023

ASM submitted the following outside witness testimony to both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies and Committee on Appropriations.

Testimony Prepared by the American Society for Microbiology 
Submitted for the record to the United States Senate
Committee on Appropriations 
Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies 
     April 17, 2023
Submitted on behalf of: Allen Segal, Chief Advocacy Officer 
American Society for Microbiology, 1752 N Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036
The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) appreciates the opportunity to submit outside witness testimony for the Fiscal Year 2024 Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies appropriations bill in support of increased funding for the Department of Energy Office of Science. The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) is one of the largest professional societies dedicated to the life sciences and is composed of 30,000 scientists and health practitioners. ASM's mission is to promote and advance the microbial sciences. 

The Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science is a leader in advancing critical industries of the future, including quantum information science, artificial intelligence, high performance computing, advanced communications networks, future energy technologies and engineering biology. As we rise to meet the challenges of the 21st Century, microbial science funded by the  DOE Office of Science remains vitally important. 

ASM urges Congress to increase funding for the DOE Office of Science to $9.5 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2024, an increase of 16 percent above FY 2023 and consistent with the authorized level in the bi-partisan CHIPS and Science Act. We also request $92 million in funding for the Joint Genome Institute, including at least $10 million for the National Microbiome Data Collaborative and provide an additional $480 million, totaling $1.07 billion to support the Bioenergy Research Centers (BRCs) and $14 million for the Office Biopreparedness Research Virtual Environment (BRaVE) within the Biological and Environmental Research (BER) Directorate.

Funding from the DOE Office of Science through the National Laboratories, universities and other programs has generated some of our most economically important innovations and is the primary driver of basic research, including critical areas of genome-scale, quantitative analysis of microbial research. This support has enabled researchers to use microbes to solve energy and environmental problems, and to bring those solutions to scale by developing empirical, computational and mechanistic modeling tools. 

We appreciate that Congress, through the CHIPS and Science Act, has authorized the Office of Science to fund up to 6 Bioenergy Research Centers (BRC), which support research into viable and sustainable domestic biofuel and bioproducts industries. Each of the centers is led by a DOE national laboratory or university, and takes an innovative approach to improving and scaling up advanced biofuel and bioproduct production processes. BRCs conduct fundamental research in plant and microbial systems biology, biological imaging and analysis and genomics, and to accelerate advanced research and development of advanced biofuels, bioenergy or biobased materials, chemicals and products that are produced from a variety of regionally diverse feedstocks, and to facilitate the translation of research results to industry. This funding will allow both the existing and additional centers to continue the development of viable and sustainable domestic biofuels and bioproducts derived from non-food plant biomass, such as poplar, switchgrass and sorghum. This research will lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions, bring jobs to rural areas and boost our energy security. 

DOE-Funded Microbiome Research Spurs Innovation 
Additionally, increased investments in the Biological and Environmental Research (BER) Directorate at DOE, specifically for the JGI and NMDC programs, will lead to more effective analysis of microbiome data and better coordination of multidisciplinary microbiome research across the federal government. DOE National Laboratories were effectively deployed in the fight against COVID-19, using their supercomputing and modeling capabilities to both understand components of the virus and to find drug compounds to treat it. Thousands of projects funded by NIH (National Institutes of Health) and NSF (National Science Foundation) utilize DOE facilities each year, and more than 50 Fortune 500 companies and many small businesses also use these facilities to conduct the underlying research required to develop innovative technologies and products that drive the economy, including the growing bioeconomy. 

Microbial Research is Needed to Face 21st Century Challenges  
Our society faces several large, complex and interconnected challenges, many of which can be addressed through microbial research. Inexpensive renewable sources of energy, fuels and chemicals are essential for continued economic growth, but the environmental tradeoffs of increased energy production must also be considered. Microbial science funded by DOE Office of Science can lead the way in developing sustainable strategies to feed an ever-growing population by increasing plant and agricultural productivity and quality; by providing strategies to ensure that future U.S. citizens enjoy clean air, water and a high standard of living; in transforming human health by providing everything from new pharmaceuticals, reagents for precision medicine and next generation antibiotics; and by producing cost-competitive fuels, chemicals and materials from abundant renewable resources. These and other advances in decarbonization, the production of biomaterials or bio-based polymers and others based on new microbial catalysts will only happen with strong, stable investments in the Office of Science. Microbiome science aims to advance understanding of microbial communities (microbiomes) for applications in areas such as health care, food production and environmental restoration to benefit individuals, communities and the environment. Scientific understanding of the microbiome has evolved significantly since the concept of the human microbiome emerged 2 decades ago. We now know that microbial communities exist everywhere, making the microbiome relevant to all living things. Yet, there remains much to discover regarding how microbiomes function as communities, interact with their hosts and environment and their overall potential to improve health and ecosystems. The rapid pace of discovery has led to greater technology needs and data sharing infrastructure. 

ASM Supports Continued Investments in the National Microbiome Data Collaborative (NMDC) 
As noted in the Interagency Strategic Plan for Microbiome Research, microbiome data is “Big Data,” which requires consistent and reliable database and resource coordination to facilitate data collection, analysis, interoperability and data sharing. The NMDC (National Microbiome Data Collaborative) is aimed at empowering this type of microbiome research. Spearheaded by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in partnership with Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and Pacific Northwest national laboratories, the NMDC is leveraging DOE’s existing data-science resources and high-performance computing systems to develop a framework that facilitates more efficient use of microbiome data for applications in energy, environment, health and agriculture. 

ASM Urges Congress to fund Biopreparedness Research Virtual Environment (BRaVE) at $14 million. 
In its stewardship of innovation at DOE’s National Laboratories, universities and other programs, the Office of Science is a critical partner in advancing areas of national need, supporting research in key emerging areas including artificial intelligence and microbiome research. The BER Directorate at DOE explores the frontiers of genome-enabled biology, deepens our understanding of physical and biogeochemical Earth processes and enables innovation and discovery through their user-facilities. Funding is crucial for the continuation of research for existing programs within the BER, including initiatives such as the BRaVE and the national virtual climate lab. 

Conclusion: Our nation’s ability to make significant advances in solving energy and environmental problems depends on advances in the microbial sciences. This will only be possible if Congress continues its commitment to robust and sustained funding increases for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science at $9.5 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2024 with $92 million for the Joint Genome Institute including at least $10 million for the National Microbiome Data Collaborative and $14 million for the Office Biopreparedness Research Virtual Environment (BRaVE) program.

Author: ASM Advocacy

ASM Advocacy
ASM Advocacy is making it easy and providing opportunities for members to advocate for evidence-based scientific policy.