Beltsville Agricultural Research Center is the flagship location of the Agricultural Research Service. It is the only ARS location with research spanning all areas of food and agriculture. It is a National Laboratory in the same way that Los Alamos is, and it is here, in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
Now we are faced with a continuing decline in funding over more than a decade resulting in the loss of over 200 scientific research positions. At the same time, we are clamoring to get more federal offices in Prince George’s while we let world class research and one of a kind scientific achievement slip through our fingers.
This multi-disciplinary strength allows BARC to take broad, systems-based approaches to solving problems. BARC scientists also benefit tremendously from the intellectual environment of the Baltimore-Washington corridor, which is one of the largest scientific workforces worldwide.
The nature of science has changed markedly in the past 30 years, and in all areas of science, multi-disciplinary work is needed to make progress. Science is also much more instrumentally intensive than formerly, and scientific instrumentation continues to get bigger and more costly. Larger research centers such as BARC provide a multi-disciplinary environment that is also able to leverage investments in research equipment across many areas of science, thus delivering more bang-for-the-buck.
As a result, the impact that BARC scientists have on solving problems is huge. A measure of this is that 20% of BARC’s GS-15 scientists are in the 99th percentile worldwide for having their research cited by other scientists. Another indication of high impact on both science and solving problems for agriculture is that BARC scientists are promoted about 30% faster than the average for scientists in the rest of the agency, in an anonymous peer-review system where promotion is based primarily on such impact. One BARC scientist was cited for two of the top ten achievements in plant pathology in the entire 20th century! Another is the most cited animal health scientist worldwide for the past ten years.
There is even a slight possibility of loosing a priceless scientific collection, which is used to keep our food supply safe, to another state because the funding here in Prince George’s County, in the State of Maryland is woefully inadequate, and to make things worse, the receiving state is sure that their delegation in Congress will find the needed funding. This is outrageous. We beg for clerical jobs, and hope for something better, and meanwhile we are loosing world class scientists because we do not know, and we do not act.
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.
"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"
The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."
First People - The Legends. Cherokee Legend of Two Wolves. November 16, 2004. [accessed April 7, 2012].