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Archive for the 'Correspondence' Category

25 May 2017

Biology Community to Congress: Reject Budget, Fund Science

A letter to Congress calls for lawmakers to reject the deep cuts to research and science education proposed in President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget request.

“The budget cuts outlined by the Administration for 2018 would set back American innovation for years. Funding rates for programs that support foundational biological research are already extremely low, with roughly four out of five research proposals rejected by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. The proposed budget would slash these funding rates even further for researchers at universities, colleges, marine labs, field stations, biological collections, and other non-profit research centers. Research conducted at federal labs would be harmed by likely staff reductions and cuts to research budgets.”

The letter was signed by the NSC Alliance and 40 other scientific organizations.

Read the letter at https://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20170523multisocietyletter.html.

24 May 2017

NSC Alliance Weighs in on Federal Funding for Collections

The NSC Alliance provided testimony to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees regarding funding for certain programs that curate natural history collections. The testimony addressed programs within the Department of the Interior and Smithsonian Institution.

“Scientific collections are critical infrastructure for our nation’s research enterprise. Research specimens connect us to the past, are used to solve current societal problems, and are helping to predict threats to human health, methods for ensuring food security, and the impact of future environmental changes. Sustained investments in scientific collections are critical for our nation’s continued scientific leadership.”

NSCA FY 2018 Interior Testimony

10 May 2017

NSC Alliance Members Invited to Interact With Lawmakers This Summer

The Natural Science Collections Alliance is pleased to announce that Alliance members are eligible to participate in the 2017 Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event.

This national initiative is an opportunity for scientists across the country to meet with their federal or state elected officials to showcase the people, facilities, and equipment that are required to support and conduct scientific research.

There is a pressing need for the scientific community to engage with policymakers about the value of natural history collections in research and education. As called for in the recent report from the Biodiversity Collections Network, “The community must do a better job of communicating outcomes and benefits of digitization efforts to policymakers, administrators, other scientists, and the public.”

The Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event enables scientists, curators, museum professionals, and graduate students to meet with their elected officials without traveling to Washington, DC. Participants may either invite an elected official to tour their research facility or can meet at the lawmaker’s local office. Meetings will take place mid-July through October, depending on the participant’s schedule.

NSC Alliance members who participate will receive one-on-one support and online training to prepare them for their tour or meeting.

The event is open to all types of natural science collections, including biological, geological, and anthropological collections.

Participation is free for NSC Alliance member organizations, but registration will close on July 18, 2017. To register, visit https://www.aibs.org/public-policy/congressional_district_visits.html.

05 May 2017

Action Alert: Speak Up for Museum Funding

Call your Senators and ask them to sign the dear colleague letter in support of funding for the Office of Museum Services within the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The letter is being circulated by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

The deadline for Senators to sign the letter is 17 May.

Find your Senators’ contact information at https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/.

A record number of Representatives signed the House dear colleague letter. 166 Representatives supported the request for “robust funding” for IMLS Office of Museum Services in fiscal year 2018.

President Trump proposed the elimination of IMLS in his 2018 skinny budget request to Congress.

05 May 2017

NSC Alliance Board of Directors to Meet in Denver, Prior to Director’s Summit

The NSC Alliance Board of Directors will meet on 18 June 2017 in Denver, Colorado. The board meeting precedes a one-day Director’s Summit meeting co-organized by NSC Alliance. More information about the Summit meeting is available here. The Summit meeting also precedes the annual meeting of the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections.

NSC Alliance members interested in learning more about the NSC Alliance board meeting should contact NSC Alliance president Dr. Joseph Cook.

07 Apr 2017

NSC Alliance Urges Congress to Invest in NSF

In testimony to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, the NSC Alliance highlighted the important role that natural history collections play.

“Natural science collections play an integral role in advancing research that improves public health, agriculture, natural resource management, biodiversity conservation, and American innovation,” states the testimony. “Current research involving natural science collections is also contributing to the development of new cyberinfrastructure, data visualization tools, and improved data management.”

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is a core federal supporter of scientific collections. NSF supports research that utilizes existing collections as well as studies that gather new natural history specimens. NSF’s Directorates for Biological Sciences (BIO), Geosciences (GEO), and Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) support research and student training opportunities in natural history collections.

The testimony called for $8.0 billion for NSF in fiscal year 2018.

Read the NSC Alliance testimony.

25 Jan 2017

NSC Alliance Calls for Changes to Paleo Rule

In official comments to the Department of the Interior, the Natural Science Collections Alliance recommended several revisions to the draft rule on paleontological resources preservation.

The proposed rule is intended to address the management, collection, and curation of paleontological resources from federal lands using scientific principles and expertise, including collection in accordance with permits; curation in an approved repository; and maintenance of confidentiality of specific locality data.

Among the concerns expressed are the proposed prohibition on disclosing information about the specific location of paleontological resources and the burdensome permitting process. Under the proposed rule, the National Park Service and other Interior Bureaus would have their own permit application forms. Moreover, although the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Fish and Wildlife Service are all using DI Form 9002 (Paleontological Resource Use Permit Application), each bureau has its own instructions for how to complete each field on the form. The differences in the instructions are significant enough that an applicant would have to complete a new application for each permit they seek.

The letter also addresses the financial burdens faced by paleontological resources repositories. “The organizations that house paleontological resources bear a large financial burden in terms of storage, curation, and reporting requirements. Although many federal collections are curated by DOI, many others are located in non-governmental facilities, such as museums and universities. The federal government should do more to defray the associated costs of curation of federal paleontological resources. Ownership comes with financial responsibilities.”

Read NSC Alliance’s comments.

10 Jan 2017

2016 Year in Review

In 2016, the NSC Alliance engaged in a number of notable activities to raise the profile of natural history collections with policymakers, researchers, and the general public. A few highlights are presented below:

  • NSC Alliance led the effort to reverse the suspension of the Collections in Support of Biological Research program by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The program was put on “hiatus” in the spring of 2016 pending agency review. In response to community opposition, NSF reinstated the program on a biennial basis.
  • Advocated to congressional lawmakers in support of increased funding for research, curation, and digitization of natural history collections for the National Science Foundation, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Department of the Interior.
  • Sent a letter signed by 63 scientific organizations to President-elect Trump about the role science should play in his administration.
  • Created two short reports on how natural history collections contribute to climate change research.
  • Gained five new institutional members: Berkeley Natural History Museums, Duke Lemur Center, Entomological Collections Network, Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research, and Milwaukee Public Museum.
  • Supported a bill to reauthorize the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the primary federal agency that supports museum education programs, collections curation, and museum professional development.

Read the 2016 NSCA summary.

03 Nov 2016

NSC Alliance Supports IMLS Reauthorization Bill

The Natural Science Collections Alliance signed a letter in support of S. 3391, “The Museum and Library Services Act of 2016.” The thank you letter was sent to the bill’s sponsor, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), and primary cosponsors, Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Thad Cochran (R-MS), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

The legislation would reauthorize funding levels for IMLS for six years. IMLS is the primary federal agency that supports museum education programs, collections curation, and professional development.

The America Alliance of Museums organized the letter, which was signed by 22 national organizations and 40 state and regional organizations.

Read the letter.

03 Nov 2016

NSC Alliance Members Meet with Federal, State Lawmakers

Science took center stage in recent interactions between researchers and policymakers. Across the nation, dozens of researchers and educators met with their lawmakers as part of the Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event, an initiative organized by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) and sponsored by the Natural Science Collections Alliance.

This nationwide event facilitates meetings between scientists and their elected officials in their local area rather than in Washington, DC or a state capital, and allows lawmakers to learn first-hand about the science and research facilities in their district.

Scientists participating in the event discussed the importance of life sciences research with the individuals responsible for casting the votes that shape the nation’s science policy. Participants ranged from graduate students to senior researchers.

“The Natural History Museum of Utah hosted Congressman Chris Stewart’s District Director and other members of his Utah staff in August. This was a wonderful opportunity to get to know the Congressman’s great staff, to spend time together in the Museum’s collections areas, as well as in the exhibits and other public areas of the Museum–and to talk about how to connect with the Congressman and his staff in the future,” said Ann Hanniball, Associate Director for Community Relations at the Natural History Museum of Utah, which is a member of the Natural Science Collections Alliance, Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, and AIBS.

Congressman Beto O’Rourke visited the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) Biodiversity Collections and posted on Facebook: “Impressed by UTEP’s Biodiversity Collections. These repositories of natural history show the unique and special treasures of El Paso and Castner Range. Over the next few days I’ll be posting highlights from these collections so you can share with your friends the special and historical significance of El Paso and Castner Range.”

Representative Tom Cole and his staff visited the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. The University of New Mexico Museum of Southwestern Biology hosted U.S. Senator Tom Udall’s staff. Several other NSC Alliance member organizations participated.

The 8th annual Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits were made possible by AIBS, with support from event sponsors Botanical Society of America, Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, Natural Science Collections Alliance, Organization of Biological Field Stations, Paleontological Society, Society for Freshwater Science, and Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections.

Participants in the event were prepared for their meetings during an interactive training webinar. The program provided information about how best to communicate science to non-technical audiences and tips for conducting a successful meeting with an elected official.

More information about the Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event is available at www.aibs.org/public-policy/congressional_district_visits.html. Resources are also available for scientists who are interested in meeting with policymakers at www.aibs.org/public-policy/congressional_district_visits_resources.html.

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