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Archive for the 'Correspondence' Category

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.

22 Aug 2016

New NSC Alliance Member

The Entomological Collections Network is the newest member of NSC Alliance. The group is dedicated to the promotion of entomological science through the preservation, management, use and development of entomological collections and taxonomy.

20 Aug 2016

Over 50 Leading Organizations Call on Presidential Candidates to Address Major Issues in Science, Engineering

A coalition of fifty-six leading U.S. nonpartisan organizations, representing more than 10 million scientists and engineers, are calling on U.S. Presidential candidates to address a set of twenty major issues in science, engineering, health and the environment, and encouraging journalists and voters to press the candidates on them during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election season.

“Taken collectively, these twenty issues have at least as profound an impact on voters’ lives as those more frequently covered by journalists, including candidates’ views on economic policy, foreign policy, and faith and values,” said ScienceDebate.org chair Shawn Otto, organizer of the effort.

The group crowd sourced and refined hundreds of suggestions, then submitted “the 20 most important, most immediate questions” to the Presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Gary Johnson, “along with an invitation to the candidates to answer them in writing and to discuss them on television,” said Otto. The questions and answers will be widely distributed to the science community, journalists, and the general public to help voters make well-informed decisions at the ballot box this November.

The list of organizations is a who’s who of the American science enterprise.

“Science saves lives and improves our quality of life. The federal government provides almost half of the funding for basic research in the United States. This research is the foundation upon which society - from small start-ups to Fortune 500 companies - develops new products that improve human health, secures our food supplies, and solves complex environmental problems,” said Robert Gropp, interim co-executive director of the American Institute of Biological Sciences. “Just think of the benefits we have derived from the government’s support of the Human Genome Project. Scientists now have a base of knowledge they can use to more strategically and precisely study diseases and explore new treatments. The public deserves to know the candidates’ positions on science.”

“Sometimes politicians think science issues are limited to simply things like the budget for NASA or NIH, and they fail to realize that a President’s attitude toward and decisions about science and research affect the public wellbeing, from the growth of our economy, to education, to public health. Voters should have a chance to know where the Presidential candidates stand,” said Rush Holt, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “We want journalists and voters to ask these questions insistently of the candidates and their campaign staff.”

Norm Augustine, U.S. aerospace industry CEO and former Under Secretary of the Army: “The solution to many of the greatest challenges faced by our nation will depend to a large degree upon advancements in the fields of science and engineering. Such challenges include conquering diseases, creating jobs, developing clean energy, providing adequate water supplies, and defending our nation from terrorists and foreign aggressor nations. It is difficult to imagine how any citizen can intelligently cast their ballot without knowing where each candidate stands on the policy issues that will define whether America remains a leader or becomes a follower in the critical fields of science and engineering.”

“Informing citizens about the health of the nation and discussing pivotal science and policy issues such as mental health, chronic and emerging diseases and other public health threats, and vaccine research, are important to not only advance the national dialogue but also improve the country’s overall well-being,” said Victor J. Dzau, President of the National Academy of Medicine.

The candidates have yet to respond to the questions.

Nonpartisan organizations participating in the effort include:

**ScienceDebate.org
*American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Association of Geographers
*American Chemical Society
American Fisheries Society
American Geophysical Union
*American Geosciences Institute
*American Institute of Biological Sciences
American Institute of Professional Geologists
American Rock Mechanics Association
American Society for Engineering Education
American Society of Agronomy
American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
American Society of Mammalogists
American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering
Association for Women in Geosciences
Association of Ecosystem Research Centers
Automation Federation
*Biophysical Society
Botanical Society of America
Carnegie Institution for Science
Conservation Lands Foundation
Crop Science Society of America
Duke University
Ecological Society of America
Geological Society of America
*IEEE-USA
International Committee Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies
Materials Research Society
NACE International, The Worldwide Corrosion Authority
*National Academy of Engineering
*National Academy of Medicine
*National Academy of Sciences
National Cave and Karst Research Institute
*National Center for Science Education
National Ground Water Association
Natural Science Collections Alliance
Northeastern University
Organization of Biological Field Stations
Paleontological Society
*Research!America
Scientific American magazine
Seismological Society of America
*Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society
Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections
Society of Fire Protection Engineers
Society of Wetland Scientists
Society of Women Engineers
Soil Science Society of America
SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Tufts University
*Union of Concerned Scientists
University City Science Center
*U.S. Council on Competitiveness
The Wildlife Society
World Endometriosis Research Foundation America

*Codeveloper of the questions
**Lead partner organization

The consortium’s list of 20 questions are available online at ScienceDebate.org/20qs.

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