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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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2003 Annual Performance Report
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1 - Introduction
2 - Table of Contents
3 - Goals 1 & 2
4 - Goal 3
5 - Goal 4
6 - Goal 5
7 - Goal 6
Goal 6



OBJECTIVE 6.0:  Provide Mechanisms To Ensure the Relevance, Quality, and Performance of the ARS Research Program.


Performance Measure 6.0.1:  Relevance--ARS’ basic, applied, and developmental research programs are well conceived, have specific programmatic goals, and address high priority national needs.




During FY 2003, ARS will track and report the number of National Program Workshops, meetings, other workshops, and conferences that were designed, in whole or in part, to review the research focus of each National Program or to establish the research focus for the next 5-year program cycle.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS conducted or participated in ten National Program Workshops or other major meetings, workshops, or conferences that helped to confirm, refine, or direct the research focus of a specific National Program or Programs.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  ARS’ continuing interaction with its customers, stakeholders, and partners ensures the relevancy of the agency’s research in meeting the needs of American agriculture.  Meetings during the 5-year program cycle either confirm the direction of the research or allow the agency to refine the direction, as needed.  National Program Workshops with customers, stakeholders, and partners, at the beginning of the 5-year cycle, help ARS establish that National Program’s research agenda.  These processes help enable ARS to fulfill its mission statement to “conduct research to develop and transfer solutions to agricultural problems of high national priority and provide information access and dissemination to ensure high quality, safe food, and other agricultural products, assess the nutritional needs of Americans, sustain a competitive agricultural economy, enhance the natural resource base and the environment, and provide economic opportunities for rural citizens, communities, and society as a whole.”


Performance Measure 6.0.2:  Quality--ARS research projects are reviewed by National Program by external peer review panels at the beginning of the 5-year program cycle.




During FY 2003, ARS will report summary information on the number and percentage of projects reviewed for prospective quality and the number in each OSQR category; summary data from the RPES peer reviews of Agency scientists; and the number of on-site expert reviews (location reviews) conducted to ensure the ongoing quality and performance of the research program. 


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  OSQR conducted prospective peer reviews on 218 Project Plans with the follow results:


No Revision                     28       12.84%

Minor Revision                 77       35.32%

Moderate Revision           69        31.65% 

Subtotal            174        79.81%


Major Revision                 41       18.80%

Not Feasible                     3         1.37%

Subtotal              44       20.17%


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  ARS’ OSQR external independent peer review process has strengthened the overall ARS research program.  ARS, as part of its PART analysis, has set a goal of gradually increasing the number of projects that receive a rating of No Revision, Minor Revision, or Moderate Revision to 85 percent in 2010.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS’ RPES conducted 391 reviews of ARS research scientists; 190 (48.6 percent) were upgraded, 198 (50.6 percent) remained in grade or were referred to the Supergrade Panel, and 2 (0.5 percent) had grade/category problems.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The rigorous RPES peer reviews of ARS scientists are conducted on a 3- to 5-year cycle throughout their careers.  This process helps ensure the ongoing quality of the Agency’s scientific workforce. 


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS conducted 37 on-site expert reviews of specific research units or locations.  These reviews include representatives from line management, the National Program Staff (as appropriate), customers, stakeholders, and partners to ensure that the research continues to be of high quality. 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The use of on-site reviews allows the Agency to address potential problems, redirect resources or program direction when needed, and/or provide direction for new money that may change the focus of the research being conducted within the 5-year program cycle.


Performance Measure 6.0.3:  Performance--ARS will monitor and measure the performance of each research unit and National Program.




During FY 2003, ARS will report summary information that measures specific activities that indicate, to some extent, how well the overall ARS research program is performing.  These activities include the number of papers published, number of CRADAs executed, number of patents issued, number of licenses granted, and the number of new plant varieties and breeding lines released. 


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists published 2,848 peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Scientific publications are one of the principal mechanisms for transferring research products/findings to potential users of the information.  This is especially true of research knowledge generated by basic or fundamental research where the principal customers are other scientists who carry the work forward through applied and developmental research.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS established 55 new CRADAs, received 64 new patents, and granted 27 new licenses.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These formal mechanisms enable ARS to more promptly and more effectively transfer new or improved research derived technologies to entities that can use the information to produce new or improved goods and services that benefit American agriculture and economy.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS released 59 new plant varieties and breeding lines.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  ARS develops and releases new and improved plant varieties and breeding lines that have a wide range of desirable characteristics such as greater productivity, resistance to diseases and/or pests, or greater tolerance to stresses such as drought, salinity, etc.  These releases enable public and private sector scientists and breeders to develop new plants and market them to producers.





Analysis of Results:  Under Goal 6, Management Initiative 1, 3 Indicators are aligned under 3 Performance Measures.  Because of the adoption of a new ARS Strategic Plan 2003-2007, the Performance Measures and Indicators have changed dramatically from those last reported in the FY 2002 Annual Performance Report and FY 2003 to 2005 Annual Performance Plan.  In addition, the agency made a policy decision to have fewer and broader Indicators then in past Plans and Reports.  As the National Programs become more internally coherent, the agency will report more accomplishments achieved by collaborative research at multiple locations involving more than one scientific discipline.  Thus, we anticipate reporting fewer accomplishments, but accomplishments that are broader in scope that make greater contributions to American agriculture.  While it is not possible to report all accomplishments numerically, the progress projected in all 3 Indicators was completed or substantially completed during FY 2003.  Twenty-four significant accomplishments are reported below.


OBJECTIVE 6.1:  Provide Rapid, Comprehensive, and Long-Term Access to the Full Range of Agricultural Information Resources through a Variety of National Agricultural Library (NAL) Delivery Systems, with Particular Emphasis on Digital Technologies


Performance Measure 6.1.1:  Develop and deliver content for the NAL National Digital Library for Agriculture (NDLA).




During 2003, NAL will continue to expand and improve services based on customer usage and satisfaction data.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL increased the total volume of direct customer services by more than 17 percent, to more than 51 million transactions from FY 2002.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  More NAL customers were supplied with more services on a 24/7 basis.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The Agriculture Network Information Center (AgNIC) - - portal architecture was nearly completed and will support web services for the NAL Thesaurus, Plant Disease Announcements, and the AgNIC Calendar of Events.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These new technologies will allow far greater participation in AgNIC by Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Tribal institutions, as well as the Hispanic Serving Institutions and those institutions located in Spanish speaking countries.  The underlying architecture will also allow distributed web site development, easy content management, and other than English language interfaces (i.e., Spanish).  Anticipated portal release is in early 2004.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The AgNIC Alliance welcomed two new partners representing one subject area.  USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC), and Colorado State University joined AgNIC to offer information services focusing on “wildlife damage management.”


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The new USDA member encourages broader participation by USDA agencies and programs and establishes a model for partnering between USDA and an academic institution for AgNIC membership.  Efforts are underway to involve more fully the HBCUs and Tribal colleges.  To date, there are three HBCUs and one tribal institution participating in AgNIC.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Reduction of turnaround times remained the highest priority in improving services to NAL document delivery customers.  Throughout FY 2003, NAL consistently maintained its goal of completing 98 percent of filled requests in two days.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Improved turnaround times and expanded electronic delivery options have been positively received by NAL customers.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Following USDA/OCIO waiver approval, the Relais Enterprise System was purchased to improve document delivery services, a key component of NAL’s new electronic library management system.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The system will bring significant improvements in service by allowing USDA employees to submit requests for documents directly from the AGRICOLA database or the NAL catalog without re-keying or entering redundant information.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL prepared the conversion of all data from its legacy electronic library management system to its new Voyager system platform.  New workstation equipment was purchased and installed for Voyager users.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The new Voyager web based catalog will enhance access to the printed and electronic materials in NAL’s collection, through better search capabilities in NAL’s AGRICOLA online catalog.  The Voyager system will link citations for publications to their online full text, where available, and will integrate a faster more efficient process for requesting copies of printed publications.  This will ensure speedier delivery of primary literature to NAL customers.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The pilot year for the NAL-led Digital Desktop Library for USDA (DigiTop) initiative was a success. Online access to more than 5,000 electronic publications was provided for all USDA employees from their desks. Sustained funding for the initiative was established from ARS.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  DigiTop provides 24-hour-a-day access to more than 5,000 key databases, journals, newspapers, statistics, and other important digital information resources to USDA’s more than 100,000 staff members.  This service enables direct access to much needed information immediately, thereby providing a much stronger support to policymaking, research, and operations than was ever possible.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The NAL established a Food Safety Information Center, combining the Food Safety Research Information Office (FSRIO), the Foodborne Illness Education Information Center, and the Food Safety Training and Education Alliance,  The databases and web sites of FSRIO and the Joint Institute of Food Safety Research (JIFSR) were also merged.  Information access system enhancements began, which will result in a more user-friendly search environment and a more robust search engine.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Program consolidation will increase the sharing of knowledge and resources and help minimize duplication.  It enhances opportunity for stakeholders to a “one-stop food safety information shop.”


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  In collaboration with the ARS National Program Leader for Animal Health, NAL produced a major publication in support of the 2003 ARS Immunology Research Workshop, held in December 2003.  An electronic version of the publication will be available in 2004 on the web via the NAL Animal Welfare Information Center (AWIC) web site -


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The workshop document showcases the depth and breath of the USDA immunology research that is currently in progress and published in the scientific literature.  It also serves as an example of how NAL information centers can provide important support to the operational programs of USDA agencies.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The Water Quality Information Center produced a bibliography on “Water Quality Initiatives and Agriculture.”  The publication highlights efforts by agriculture to protect and improve water quality and is available in print and online.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The publication, which was distributed at the World Watershed Summit, supports USDA initiatives and stakeholders with interests in water quality.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL began working with ERS on a new Food Stamp Nutrition Connection recipe database, scheduled to premier later this year that will integrate data from the Infoscan database that contains food price information from over 11,000 vendors in the U.S.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The database will be used by Food Stamp educators nationwide to help program beneficiaries better manage family food dollars while preparing nutritious meals.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Publications and web based information resources developed by NAL covered various topic areas and emerging issues including: (food safety) HACCP; E. coli; food irradiation; aflatoxins; (animal welfare) ferrets; Johne’s disease; Newcastle disease; induced molting of poultry; old and new world camels; elephants; laboratory animals cage washing; swine housing; mollusks as animal models; (water quality) water quality trading; agricultural air emissions effects on water quality.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The development of these resources, often published quite rapidly, is one example of NAL’s response to customer information needs.  NAL’s web sites are linked to from tens of thousands of institutions around the world and web site evaluation organizations continuously direct customers to NAL and give awards to our sites.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The Foodborne Illness Education Information Center (FIEIC) Web site was re-launched, using Active Server Pages (ASP™) and Access™ databases on its web sites.  Dynamically generating information allows for integration of FIEIC’s main site at with its retail food safety site at  Standard searches on a variety of topics tap directly into AGRICOLA and Medline.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Using the new technologies and standard searches increased the usability and functionality of the web sites.  Also, the process is transferable from FIEIC to other NAL units, to assist in improving their web sites.  For instance, arrangements are planned with the University of Georgia’s Bugwood Network and the NRCS Plants Databases to deliver web services of high quality images and county distribution data, respectively, to enhance the web site.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The Technology Transfer Information Center (TTIC) and Artifex Equipment, Inc. of Penngrove, California, entered into an unfunded Material Transfer Cooperative Research and Development Agreement to investigate the efficacy of super absorbent polymers, like the ARS Super Slurper, in drying wet materials.  Artifex also submitted an SBIR proposal for funding from USDA to test the theory that a proper delivery system for the cornstarch polymer will lead to the ability to dry wet materials quickly, onsite, with a higher recovery rate, and at a lower cost.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This is an example of the information transfer and multiplying potential of TTIC in particular and of the other NAL information centers as well.  In addition, this application of ARS technology may prove to be an important tool in the library world to save collections from water damage as well as other situations in which water needs to be absorbed quickly and completely.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The web site program held a workshop with representatives from USDA agencies to identify requirements to improve the effectiveness of the current web site.  A study was initiated to evaluate technical solutions to deliver information and services that meet user requirements.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Customer and stakeholder input are vital in building a customer-focused information delivery service.  The web site has grown dramatically since its July 2000 launch.  The richness and complexity of the resource is creating difficulties for site management by staff and information retrieval by customers.  Information obtained through the stakeholder workshops will be used to develop an information delivery platform that is compatible with sharing data between existing databases (i.e., USDA, NRCS Plants DB, and the University of Georgia, Bugwood Network) and one that will enhance the educational outreach potential of the web for the benefit of the National Invasive Species Council and the interested public.


Performance Measure 6.1.2:  Integrate the NAL AGRICOLA database into the NDLA.




During FY 2003, NAL will increase the amount and types of agricultural information covered by AGRICOLA, particularly online full text publications, reduce the time required for indexing top priority journal articles, and improve ways of finding information in AGRICOLA.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL catalogers and indexers added 9,793 links to online digital publications into the AGRICOLA database. This represents a 30 percent increases over 2002 levels bringing the total to over 42,000 links.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Users of AGRICOLA can retrieve full text at the desktop for an additional 10,000 full text electronic publications.     


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL began re-engineering the workflow for indexing journal articles for implementation with the new Voyager system.  The new workflow will decrease throughput time for journal articles to appear in AGRICOLA by using new capabilities for incorporating existing electronic citations from publishers and creating provisional records at the point of receipt of the indexed issues.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  NAL has established the environment and technology for new procedures that will streamline the creation of citations for AGRICOLA in FY 2004 to 2006.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  In July, NAL implemented use of the National Agricultural Library Thesaurus (NALT) for indexing journal articles in AGRICOLA.  The retrospective AGRICOLA database of over three million indexing records was converted from CAB Thesaurus terms to NALT terms during NAL’s migration to its new Voyager electronic library management system.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Use of a single controlled vocabulary for indexing simplifies finding information in AGRICOLA when searching by subject.


Performance Measure 6.1.3:  Ensure long-term access to the resources of the NAL NDLA.




During FY 2003, NAL will continue to preserve, protect, and secure its national collection of agricultural information.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL installed the latest version of the software for the Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe (LOCKSS), a collaborative digital preservation demonstration project lead by Stanford University.  NAL will participate further in the LOCKSS program as part of the LOCKSS/DOCS program working collaboratively with the Government Printing Office, Stanford University, and other universities in an effort to provide long-term access to government documents.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  NAL’s participation in the LOCKSS demonstration program is important in exploring options for providing citizens access to digital government information over time.  This effort marks pioneering efforts to address the issues of long-term storage, authenticity, and access for digital information.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL digitizing efforts during the year included completion of an effort to digitize the heavily used USDA Home and Garden series publications, planning how to provide improved access to the Journal of Agriculture and the Yearbook of Agriculture, digitizing historical photographs, and identifying other small collections which meet the needs of users.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Digitizing important library materials is key to meeting the needs of a varied customer base.  Digitization of the Home and Garden series publications was a model, collaborative, digital content-building project among NAL, AgNIC, and Michigan State University as part of a content-building project.  This project not only provides customers with online access to a highly-desirable and historic collection of USDA publications, but also provides a model for resource sharing to complete such a project.  Several additional projects will be established in 2004, which will build on resource sharing and address the issues encountered in the extremely complicated and unexplored nature of digital projects.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  As part of a major initiative to improve the housing and preservation of NAL’s extensive collection of rare and special materials, the construction of a state-of-the-art storage space on the 5th floor of the Abraham Lincoln Building for NAL’s Special Collections was completed in May 2003. 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The 9,000 square-foot facility was designed to meet NARA standards for housing materials requiring the highest level of environmental controls and security.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  An article in Agricultural Research magazine spurred the American Soybean Association (ASA) to provide the journals and field notebooks of William Morse to NAL Special Collections on indefinite loan.  William Morse was a key plant explorer for USDA and founded the ASA.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The field journals and transcripts of William Morse include photographs from locations in China and Japan.  The Morse materials complement other photograph albums owned by NAL and together offer a wealth of information about the plants, people, and culture of Asia.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Cybersecurity activities during the year included upgrading NAL’s electronic communications firewall, instituting new user password change procedures in conjunction with Windows 2000, responding to USDA security mandates, providing ARS online training in computer security, implementing a proxy server for USDA access to licensed databases through NAL, and initiating a Virtual Private Network (VPN).


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  NAL’s improved cybersecurity posture provides an even higher level of assurance for data integrity, mitigation of computer and network vulnerabilities, and at the same time, improved functionality for users.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS designated the Abraham Lincoln Building as one of its mission critical sites due to NAL’s collection of materials that could be researched and utilized in the event of a national disaster.  As a result, approximately $1 million was provided to NAL for facility security upgrades.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Security upgrades are all complete and most are operational.  The new building access system is the last phase of implementation and will be operational in April 2004.  The security upgrades will provide better oversight of access to the building.  A state-of-the-art camera system provides a visual overview of activities at several critical locations at both internal and external areas around the building.  Guard service was also increased to ensure better coverage throughout the building, especially the entrances, loading dock, and the parking areas.






Analysis of Results:  Under Goal 6, Management Initiative 2, 1 Indicator is aligned under 1 Performance Measure.  Because of the adoption of a new ARS Strategic Plan 2003-2007, the Performance Measures and Indicators have changed dramatically from those last reported in the FY 2002 Annual Performance Report and FY 2003 to 2005 Annual Performance Plan.  In addition, the agency made a policy decision to have fewer and broader Indicators then in past Plans and Reports.  While it is not possible to report all accomplishments numerically, the progress projected in this Indicator was completed during FY 2003.


Performance Measure 6.2.1:  Complete priority buildings and facilities projects on schedule and within budget.




During FY 2003, ARS will continue to modernize and construct new research facilities at priority locations.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS: ARS completed construction of research facilities at the following locations:  Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Beltsville, Maryland; National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, Maryland; U.S. National Arboretum, District of Columbia; and National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, Peoria, Illinois.


ARS completed design of research facilities at the following locations:  Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Beltsville, Maryland; National Agricultural Library, Beltsville, Maryland; Subtropical Horticultural Research Center, Miami, Florida; National Animal Disease Center, Ames, Iowa; and the Cereal Disease Laboratory, St. Paul, Minnesota.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  New or modernized laboratory facilities support the mission of ARS in the areas of nutrition, food safety/quality, animal production and protection, natural resources and sustainable agricultural systems, and crop production and protection.

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Last Modified: 3/1/2005
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