Grand Challenges for Biological and Environmental Research: Progress and Future Vision
- Print Publication: November 2017
- Report Download: PDF
The Biological and Environmental Research (BER) program within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science supports research focusing on the interconnections between energy production and the living environment. This fundamental research, conducted at universities, DOE national laboratories, and research institutions across the country, explores organisms and ecosystems that can influence the U.S. energy system and advances understanding of the relationships between energy and environment from local to global scales.
Research within BER can be categorized into biological systems and Earth and environmental systems. Biological systems research seeks to characterize and predictively understand microbial and plant systems using genomic science, computational analyses, and experimental approaches. Foundational knowledge of the structure and function of these systems underpins the ability to leverage natural processes for energy production, including the sustainable development of biofuels and other bioproducts. Earth and environmental systems research seeks to characterize and predictively understand feedbacks between Earth and energy systems and includes studies on atmospheric physics and chemistry, ecosystem ecology and biogeochemistry, and development and validation of Earth system models extending from regional to global scales. To promote world-class research in these areas, BER supports user facilities that enable observation and measurement of atmospheric, biological, and biogeochemical processes using the latest technologies.
BER regularly solicits input from the scientific community to help guide its programs. The Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee (BERAC) is chartered under the Federal Advisory Committee Act to advise BER on its research portfolio and user facilities. To facilitate a synthesis of community input, the director of DOE’s Office of Science charged BERAC in March 2016 to review research progress and establish and deliver a revised long-term vision for BER by fall 2017. Questions considered during this process included:
- To what extent has BER successfully met the challenges outlined in the 2010 report, Grand Challenges for Biological and Environmental Research: A Long-Term Vision?
- What are the greatest scientific challenges that DOE faces in the long term (20-year horizon), and for which of these should BER take primary responsibility?
- How should DOE position BER to address these challenges?
- What new tools should be developed to integrate and analyze data from different disciplines?
- What unique opportunities exist to partner with, or leverage assets from, other programs within the DOE Office of Science?
- What scientific and technical advances are needed to train the future workforce in integrative science, including complex systems science?
Suggested citation: BERAC. 2017. Grand Challenges for Biological and Environmental Research: Progress and Future Vision; A Report from the Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee, DOE/SC–0190, BERAC Subcommittee on Grand Research Challenges for Biological and Environmental Research (science.energy.gov/~/media/ber/berac/pdf/Reports/ BERAC-2017-Grand-Challenges-Report.pdf).