ASM Responds to NSF RFI on Technology, Innovation and Partnerships Directorate

July 20, 2023

National Science Foundation
Attn: Chaitan Baru
2415 Eisenhower Avenue
Alexandria, Va. 22314

Response to Request for Information (RFI): Developing a Roadmap for the Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships. 88 Federal Register 26345; Document Number: 2023-08995. Respondent Type: Professional Society.

The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) is one of the oldest and largest life science societies with 30,000 members in the U.S. and around the world. Our mission is to promote and advance the microbial sciences, including programs and initiatives funded by federal government departments and agencies, by virtue of the integral role microorganisms play in human health and society. Microbiology is a multidisciplinary endeavor, and our members’ federally funded research is fundamental to advances in human health, agriculture, energy and the environment. 

ASM appreciates the opportunity to respond to this request for information. Use-inspired and translational microbiology research in biotechnology, medical technology, genomics, synthetic biology, disaster response and artificial intelligence will underpin the growing bioeconomy and catalyze our approach to societal, national and geostrategic challenges such as climate change. Investments in microbiome research touch on all of these important topics.

Prioritization & Suitability:

ASM recommends that the Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP) directorate invest in microbial research, as well as in the infrastructure—technology, data standardization, training and workforce—necessary to realize the full potential of existing federal investments research investments in the microbiome and their application.  NSF already plays a key role in microbiome research by funding fundamental microbiome research as well as workforce development initiatives but further investments in translational microbiome research are needed to bring the benefits of this research to scale.

TIP could play an important role in addressing the gaps in microbiome research funding, such as the dearth of federal funding for agriculture research and the lack of support for interdisciplinary research spanning human and animal health. 

Microbiome research is transdisciplinary and supported by more than 20 federal agencies; this investment has led to biotechnology breakthroughs, but its potential for translation into applications has been stymied by a lack of interagency coordination and cross-cutting leadership. Strategic leadership and coordination of microbiome research with a focus on use-inspired and translational research could potentially catapult the U.S. bioeconomy. All of these agencies would be potential collaborators with TIP in microbiome research. 

Noting that microbial systems are also affected by disasters, scientists have recently proposed the formation of “disaster microbiology” as a use-inspired subfield within the discipline. Natural disasters impact our environment, causing microbes to adapt, which may have further ramifications. The accelerating pace of observable climate change, including more frequent natural disasters, will likely make this subfield increasingly salient to federally funded research objectives. A targeted investment in this area over the next 1-3 years will support the establishment of this subfield and provide the foundation for future translational research in microbially-mediated disaster response. 


Expanded support for microbiology workforce development would help strengthen U.S. competitiveness in microbiome research and development. More training for the U.S. workforce is needed in the synthesis of microbial data and information for practical application of microbiome research. Expanding training and increasing the diversity of problem solvers and innovators around microbial processes also will expand the breadth of possible solutions.

Addressing Societal Challenges:

Microbiomes are linked across ecosystems and have impacts on human, environmental and food system performance; microbiome applications range from waste and wastewater treatment to boosting human, animal and soil health. For example, soil microbiome researchers are investigating ways to increase the carbon sequestration capacity of soil, which would help mitigate climate change. 

Crosscutting Needs:

Investments in advanced computing resources and improving data infrastructure are 2 crosscutting areas where TIP could invest that would benefit use-inspired genomics and biotechnology research and development to advance microbiome applications. Data is fundamental to the bioeconomy, and ASM supports the federal government’s ongoing efforts to advance open access to federally funded research outcomes and harmonization efforts to better share and communicate research results. Improved data coordination between individual research groups and national databases is necessary for broad data utilization. Data harmonization across fields is needed as well and will be necessary to build consensus on research and data collection protocols. While omics technologies are powerful, they must be employed in a way in which data can be effectively shared and utilized by other groups, enabling data comparison and analysis across diverse ecosystems and microbial communities. 

In closing, additional investment from TIP could power translational and use-inspired research in microbiome research and microbiology. These areas are well suited for advancing U.S. competitiveness in science and technology and accelerating the United States’ bioeconomy. Investments from TIP in these areas, including in workforce development, could lead to solutions for human and animal health, improve agriculture, help mitigate climate change and more in the short to medium term.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to this request for information. ASM and our members look forward to supporting and engaging with the TIP directorate. For further information or questions, contact Nicole Zimmerman, Senior Specialist, Federal Affairs at


Description automatically generated
Stacey L. Schultz-Cherry, Ph.D.
Chair, ASM Public and Scientific Affairs