The White House wants input on the future of microbiome research (by June 15)

Well this is very promising. The Science and Technology Policy Office of the White House has posted a Request for Information on “Microbiome Research”.


Advanced sequencing technologies have illuminated vast networks of microorganisms that drive essential functions in all environments on Earth. The study of these communities of microorganisms, or microbiomes, is nascent, and the potential of microbiome research has only begun to be tapped. Primary to achieving this potential is a functional understanding of microbiomes, which would be greatly advanced by addressing fundamental questions common to all fields of microbiome research; developing platform technologies useful to all fields; and identifying gaps in training or fields of research that should be addressed. The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is interested in developing an effort to unify and focus microbiome research across sectors. The views of stakeholders–academic and industry researchers, private companies, and charitable foundations–are important to inform an understanding of current and future needs in diverse fields.

Responses must be recieved by June 15, 2015

What are they asking specifically?  Here is the text:

The purpose of this RFI is to solicit feedback from industry, academia, research laboratories, and other stakeholder groups on both the overarching questions that unite all microbiome research and the tools, technologies, and training that are needed to answer these questions. OSTP is specifically interested in information that corresponds to the mission statements of multiple Federal agencies, private sector interests, and current White House Policy Initiatives. In particular, respondents may wish to address the following topics:

  • What are the most pressing, fundamental questions in microbiome research, common to most or all fields?

  • Over the next ten years, what are the most important research gaps that must be addressed to advance this field?

  • What tools, platform technologies, or technological advances would propel microbiome research from correlative to predictive?

  • What crucial types of scientific and technical training will be needed to take advantage of harnessing the microbiome’s potential?

  • What fields of microbiome research are currently underfunded or underrepresented?

  • What specific steps could be taken by the federal government, research institutes, universities, and philanthropies to encourage multi-disciplinary microbiome research?

  • Is there any additional information, not requested above, that you believe OSTP should consider in identifying crucial areas of microbiome research?

How do you send in comments:

You may submit comments by any of the following methods:

  • Fax: (202) 456-6027, Attn: Elizabeth Stulberg.
  • Mail: Attn: Elizabeth Stulberg, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Eisenhower Executive Office Building, 1650 Pennsylvania Ave., NW., Washington, DC 20504.

Instructions: Electronic responses must be provided as attachments to an email. It is recommended that attachments with file sizes exceeding 25MB be compressed (i.e., zipped) to ensure message delivery. Please identify your answers by responding to a specific question or topic if possible. Respondents may answer as many or as few questions as they wish. Comments of up to two pages or fewer (1,000 words) are requested; longer responses will not be considered. Any information obtained as a result of this RFI is intended to be used by the Government on a non-attribution basis for planning and strategy development. OSTP will not respond to individual submissions. A response to this RFI will not be viewed as a binding commitment to develop or pursue the project or ideas discussed. OSTP will not pay for information provided under this RFI. This RFI is not accepting applications for financial assistance or financial incentives. OSTP requests that no proprietary information, copyrighted information, or personally identifiable information be submitted in response to this RFI.

Update 5/23 – Jo Handelsman and Elizabeth Stulberg have a post about this here.

One thought on “The White House wants input on the future of microbiome research (by June 15)

  1. A number of years ago, I suggested to Rita Colwell that a summer bootcamp for incoming biology graduate students be established to teach quantitative methods and core programming/automation skills. This was modeled on the econometrics bootcamp established for incoming students at Yale. My initial conception was for a regional offering, perhaps starting in New England. Times have changed, tools have changed, but the need for graduate students who can analyze data is more pressing than ever. Now, I would probably suggest that a summer bootcamp incorporate temporal, spatial, phylogenetic analysis, design of experiment, as well as software carpentry, R, some Bayesian GLM and hierarchical modeling tools, as well as introductions to Markov chains/HMM and ODEs, with the appropriate tools for computational solution (Octave, perhaps).

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Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. My lab is in the UC Davis Genome Center and I hold appointments in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology in the School of Medicine and the Department of Evolution and Ecology in the College of Biological Sciences. My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis (see my lab site here which has more information on lab activities).  In addition to research, I am heavily involved in the Open Access publishing and Open Science movements.