New preprint from the lab on “Network analysis to evaluate the impact of research funding on research community consolidation”

We (me and David Coil) have a new preprint out on analysis we did in collaboration with Daniel Hicks and Carl Stahmer also from UC Davis. The paper is an analysis of the Microbiology of the Built Environment program funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation via analysis of publications from within and outside the program. We would love feedback …


Network analysis to evaluate the impact of research funding on research community consolidation. Daniel J Hicks, David A Coil, Carl G Stahmer, Jonathan A. Eisen.


In 2004, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation launched a new program focused on incubating a new field, “Microbiology of the Built Environment” (MoBE). By the end of 2017, the program had supported the publication of hundreds of scholarly works, but it was unclear to what extent it had stimulated the development of a new research community. We identified 307 works funded by the MoBE program, as well as a comparison set of 698 authors who published in the same journals during the same period of time but were not part of the Sloan Foundation-funded collaboration. Our analysis of collaboration networks for both groups of authors suggests that the Sloan Foundation’s program resulted in a more consolidated community of researchers, specifically in terms of number of components, diameter, density, and transitivity of the coauthor networks. In addition to highlighting the success of this particular program, our method could be applied to other fields to examine the impact of funding programs and other large-scale initiatives on the formation of research communities.

Microbiomes of the Built Environment NAS Meeting Webcast 4/11 10:30-5 EST

This may be of interest:

Microbiomes of the Built Environment: From Research to Application

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are conducting a consensus study that will examine the formation and function of microbial communities in built environments, the impacts of such microbial communities on human health, and how human occupants shape complex indoor microbiomes. This study is intended to provide an independent, objective examination of the current state of science regarding built environment microbiomes and their impacts on human health, and then attempt to bridge gaps in moving this research to an application stage, in which building materials and architecture will be designed with microbiomes in mind. The study is being conducted by a committee of experts and the consensus report is expected to be released in 2017.
The study’s first public meeting will be held on April 11, 2016 in Washington, DC. You may view the webcast of the public sessions, to be held from 10:30am – 5:00pm EDT by clicking here.
Please direct any questions or comments to
This study is sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Monday, April 11
10:30am Welcome Public Observers and Study Sponsors Committee Member Introductions
What are microbiomes of built environments and why is the study topic a compelling one to address?
Joan Bennett, Committee Chair
10:45 Discussion of Statement of Task with Study Sponsors
Sponsoring organizations will provide perspectives on the context for the study, how the study relates to their missions, and what they see as key needs and challenges for understanding microbiomes in built environments. Invited speakers will each provide 10 minutes of opening remarks.
Paula Olsiewski, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Tina Bahadori and Laura Kolb, Environmental Protection Agency David Tomko, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Lisa Chadwick, NIEHS, National Institutes of Health (remotely)

Committee Discussion with Sponsors
12:15 Lunch
1:30 Setting the Stage for the Study
Presentations will highlight developments and challenges in several background areas. Invited speakers will each give 15 minute presentations.
1:40 Built environment microbiome interfaces: Why is improving our understanding of these interactions an exciting topic and perspective on the eld?
Gary Andersen, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California, Berkeley
2:00 Understanding and modeling building systems: What’s known and how might these parameters impact indoor microbiomes?
Jelena Srebric, University of Maryland
2:20 Example of built environment microbiome studies and their potential human health links
Benjamin Kirkup, Naval Research Laboratory
2:40 Understanding microbes in water systems
Amy Pruden, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
3:00 Committee Discussion with Speakers 3:30 Break
Light snack will be provided
3:50 Further Discussion: Major Issues Relevant to the Study
Opportunity for committee members, sponsors, speakers, and meeting participants to further
discuss points raised during the presentations and to identify additional topical areas, gaps, or needs that may be relevant to the study’s statement of task.
4:30 Public Comment Period
Opportunity for meeting participants to share additional information or ideas they would like the committee to consider.
5:00 Meeting Adjourns

Evolutionary Biology of the Built Environment Working Group: Call for Participants

Call for participants: Evolutionary Biology of the Built Environment Working Group.  Details copied from the announcement pasted below:

The Basics: We need your help. We are organizing the first working group aimed at understanding the evolutionary biology of the built environment—our bedrooms, our houses, our backyards and our cities. This working group will occur June 10 – 14, 2013, in Durham, North Carolina. We are now inviting applications for participants in the working group.
Why: As recently as one hundred thousand years ago the indoor environment did not exist. Yet, this is now where most humans spend the majority of their life. One might imagine that in its relatively short history the built environment might have had time to accumulate very few species. Far from the case, an emerging body of literature shows that hundreds of multicellular species and thousands of unicellular species can be found in houses and buildings more generally. Among the species found in homes are those whose presence (or absence) is likely to have a large impact on human health and well-being, species including beneficial microbiota on the body but also pathogens and potential pathogens or toxic species such as extremophilic fungi. Yet, with the exception of a few deadly pathogens (such as MRSA), the evolutionary history of most of the species with which we most intimately interact in our homes remains unknown. To remedy our lack of knowledge and take advantage of recent advances in disparate fields we will bring together scientists studying both the fauna (microbiologists, entomologists, mammalogists, and any other -ologists you can convince us have some bearing on house biomes) and environment (engineers, architects) along with social scientists (anthropologists) and evolutionary biologists (e.g. theoreticians, bioinformaticians, geneticists) to begin to build a framework for the evolution of the indoor and more generally built biome. Our goal is to develop a framework for a comprehensive understanding of the evolution of the species we most intimately interact with, particularly in the context of considering how to build and design our environments so as to favor beneficial (rather than dangerous) evolutionary trajectories. We aim to understand both how to prevent the extinction of beneficial species and to favor the evolution of lineages and species with beneficial attributes, whether those be ecological functions, health benefits or simply aesthetic value.
Who: We’d like to convene a diverse group of scientists and practitioners at various stages in their careers, from graduate students and post-docs to senior scientists, representing an array of disciplines including the organismal -ologies (e.g. microbiology, entomology, etc.), engineering, architecture, anthropology, evolution, genetics, bioinformatics, art and design. We want to be inclusive of any field that you can convince us has something to bear on studying evolution in the built environment.
How: We are currently accepting applications to be part of this working group. If you are interested, you can apply online apply online here, but do so soon. We will select a group of 30 scholars and practitioners from the applicant pool who will meet in Durham with the goal of producing a series of general audience and peer-reviewed publications about the evolutionary biology of the built environment.
Sponsored by a partnership between the Sloan Foundation and the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center.
Have questions? Drop us a note at

Quick summary of session at #ASM2012 on “The Great Indoors” #microBEnet

 The session at the ASM 2012 meeting on “The Great Indoors” seems to have gone well. I will be writing up a more detailed report but here is a quick summary done via “Storify”.[<a href=”” target=”_blank”>View the story “Session at #ASM2012 on The Great Indoors: Recent Advances in the Ecology of Built Environments ” on Storify</a>]

An ecosystem in my house? Yes indeed. And with microbes too. #BostonGlobe #microBEnet

Well I am very excited about this article in the Boston Globe today: Ecosystem, sweet ecosystem – The Boston Globe. By Courtney Humphries the article discusses the Sloan Foundation program in the “Indoor Environment” that is focusing on microbial ecology of the built environment. I am, well, really into this area of work and have a grant from the Sloan Foundation in their program to crete something called “microBEnet” which stands for “microbiology of the Built Environment network.” And in case you were wondering, yes, the BE is supposed to be capitalized and the m in microbe is not. My work in microBEnet is focused on Science 2.0 activities to help boost interaction and communication and outreach relating to studies of microbiology of the built environment. Check out the microBEnet site for more detail on that project (more on this in a bit).
Anyway, a little while ago I was interviewed by Courtney Humphries about studies of microbes in the built environment and the conversation seemed to go pretty well. And I kind of forgot about it due to some family things going on in my life. And then yesterday I saw the article. It is quite nice. It starts off with a nice drawing of a house making it look like an ecosystem

and the headline/lead in is really quite perfect “Ecosystem, sweet ecosystem.” is the headline with the subtitle “What if we studies the indoors as an environment all it’s own”.  She goes on to quite Hal Levin (my collaborator on microBEnet), Jessica Green (the head of the BioBE center in Oregon focusing on biology of the built environment), me, Paula Olsiewski (the Program Officer at Sloan in charge of the Indoor Environment program) and Bill Nazaroff from Berkeley, who is also funded by the Sloan Foundation to work in this area.

The article is definitely worth a read.  Only issue really is that I have a feeling people may be distracted by some sort of storm hitting the East Coast right now.  Well, after the storm hits, microbiology of the indoor environment will likely be even more important to pay attention to.

If you want to brush up on studies of microbiology of the built environment check out some of the resources we have made and/or collated at microBEnet including:

Stay tuned for more, from microBEnet, from Sloan funded researchers, and from others studying microbiology of the built environment.  We spend on the order of 90% of our lives in built environments like buildings, cars, trains, etc.  It’s about time we started studying such environments as ecosystems …