BER research seeks to uncover nature's mysteries involving the processes and interdependencies among genomics, plants, ecosystems, watersheds, regional climate, and the earth system.  By starting with the fundamental properties encoded in organisms' genomes, BER-funded scientists seek to define the principles that guide the translation of the genetic code into functional proteins and the metabolic/regulatory networks underlying the systems biology of plants and microbes as they respond to and modify their environments. BER integrates discovery- and hypothesis-driven science, technology development, and foundational genomics research into predictive models of biological function for DOE mission solutions.

BER also plays a unique and vital role in supporting research on atmospheric processes; terrestrial ecosystem processes, including nutrient cycling and water cycling; environmental and earth system modeling; and analysis of impacts and interdependencies of energy production and the environment. These investments are coordinated to advance predictive capabilities, involving community models open to active participation of the research community.  In addition, BER supports major long term experiments that focus on the largest uncertainties in model predictions, e.g., including clouds, aerosols, biogeochemistry, and the cryosphere.  Multidisciplinary studies are also supported to address earth system nonlinearities and tipping points as a means, for example, to better understand how perturbations in one part of the planet can influence the water cycle in another.

In coordination with its research agenda, BER supports three major national user facilities, the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM), Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL), and the Joint Genome Institute (JGI).