Project Assessment for Biological and Environmental Research: Report from the BER Advisory Committee


The construction, operation, and stewardship of large-scale scientific user facilities and cutting-edge capabilities have been integral to the mission of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science from its earliest days. To help identify and prioritize new or upgraded facilities critical to scientific innovation over the next 10 years, the Office of Science director issued a charge to the federal advisory committees of six of its program offices in December 2023, including the Biological and Environmental Research (BER) program.

The charge letter (see p. ii) asked the advisory committees to:
1. Consider what new or upgraded facilities will be necessary to position the Office of Science at the forefront of scientific discovery.
2. Deliver a short letter report describing each facility in terms of two criteria: (a) the potential to contribute to world-leading science in the next decade and (b) the readiness for construction.

In response to this charge letter, BER’s advisory committee (BERAC) established a subcommittee on Project Assessment. As part of this activity, BER provided a descriptive list of nine projects to the 24 subcommittee members for their evaluation. Of the following nine projects, six represent potential user facilities, and three are for Major Items of Equipment (MIE) that may augment or update existing user facilities:

  • Microbial Molecular Phenotyping Capability
  • Drizzle, Aerosol, and Cloud Observation Chamber
  • BER Data Center
  • Plant Transformation Capability
  • Bioeconomy Accelerator Facility
  • Earth System Modeling and Analysis Center User Facility
  • EcoPODs and Smart Soil Systems (MIE)
  • Visual Proteomics Capability (MIE)
  • Phased Array Radar (MIE)

The subcommittee assigned two subject matter experts to each project to help assess its scientific need and impact. Five meetings were held between January and April 2024. The first meeting introduced charge materials. In the second, third, and fourth meetings, subject matter experts gave presentations and led discussions about each project (three per meeting). The final meeting summarized findings and provided additional time for discussion and clarification. The subcommittee presented its final conclusions on April 12, 2024, at the spring BERAC meeting. This report discusses those conclusions, detailing the subcommittee’s evaluation of each project based on the questions posed in the charge letter.

Suggested Citation: BERAC. 2024. Project Assessment for Biological and Environmental Research: Report from the BER Advisory Committee, DOE/SC-0219. H. Pakrasi, C. Ajo-Franklin, and L. Donner, eds. Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee.