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Archive for the 'News & Updates' Category

19 Oct 2018

Interior Announces “Open Science” Policy

The Department of the Interior (DOI) has adopted a new policy it contends will improve transparency and public access to scientific research. The “open science” order was signed by Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on September 28, 2018. Similar to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule “Increasing Transparency in Regulatory Science,” DOI’s order requires that scientific data used in policy decisions be reproducible and made publicly accessible.

“Any decision that is based on scientific conclusions that are not supported by publicly available raw data, analysis, or methodology, have not been peer reviewed, or are not readily reproducible should include an explanation of why such science is the best available information,” states the order. Interior officials said that the policy would boost public confidence in the agency’s decision-making and increase accountability.

“This order came about in response to perennial concerns that the department has not been providing sufficient information to the public to explain how and why it reaches certain conclusions, or that it is cherry picking science to support pre-determined outcomes,” said Interior spokesperson Faith Vander Voort. “The goal is for the department to play with its cards face-up, so that the American people can see how the department is analyzing important public policy issues and be confident that it is using the best information available to inform its decisions.”

The order could restrict how DOI agencies use certain research findings and will set new data disclosure requirements for Interior grant recipients.

The new order allows for exceptions and states that the data requirements may be “waived, in whole or in part, by the Deputy Secretary upon a written determination that a waiver is necessary and the least restrictive means of protecting privacy, confidentiality, including confidential business information and trade secrets; national security, and homeland security.”

The order has been criticized as a move to restrict the use of scientific findings in decision-making at Interior. “The ‘Promoting Open Science’ order signed on Friday should be named the ‘Removing Science from DOI’ order, as it simply slashes agencies’ ability to rely on, conduct and analyze science under a pretense of increased transparency,” said Tina Swanson, Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Science Center.

“They want everything publicly accessible, including the raw data, and that just doesn’t happen with peer-reviewed science, because that just doesn’t tell you anything,” said Charise Johnson, a researcher at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It also makes it look like they don’t trust their own scientists’ work.”

Unlike the EPA’s proposed “secret science” rule, which involved a public comment period, DOI’s order became effective immediately.

19 Oct 2018

Congress Averts Government Shutdown

Congress has approved and the President has signed a $853 billion spending package, which includes a stop-gap spending measure to avert a partial government shutdown. The short-term funding measure provides level funding for the government programs for which an appropriations bill had not been passed and signed into law prior to October 1.

The House approved this spending package by a 361-61 vote on September 26. The Senate had approved it a week earlier. President Trump signed the package on September 28 saying, “We’re going to keep the government open.”

The spending package includes fiscal year (FY) 2019 Defense, Labor-Health and Human Services, and Education spending bills along with the stop-gap continuing resolution (CR). The CR provides funding for Interior-EPA, Transportation-Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture and Financial Services, Commerce-Justice-Science, State-Foreign Operations, and Homeland Security at FY 2018 levels until December 7. There will be a lame-duck session after the November elections to finish work on FY 2019 appropriations.

This is the second spending package that Congress has sent to the President. The first included the Energy-Water, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, and Legislative Branch spending bills for FY 2019 and was signed into law by President Trump on September 21.

17 Sep 2018

Special Request to NSC Alliance Members

The NSC Alliance has been contacted by a National Academies study committee that would like to receive additional information from taxonomists and collections curators. Please consider sharing your thoughts and recommendations to the request below. Send all information no later than Friday, September 28, 2018, to rgropp@aibs.org. NSC Alliance will compile all information and transmit it to the study committee in one package.

The committee is looking into the “taxonomic status of the red wolf and the Mexican gray wolf. The committee is interested in the views of taxonomists and museum curators on the concept of subspecies. Specifically, what criteria are most often deployed in recognizing subspecies. If the subspecies designation is no longer viewed as useful, what, if anything, has replaced it and to what extent are those designations being sustained or submerged in official taxonomic records.”

13 Sep 2018

Collections and Education – Upcoming BCoN Webinar

The Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN) will convene a series of webinar programs in 2018 to share information about BCoN activities with the community and to receive community input on prior and pending BCoN programs. These webinars will include a formal presentation followed by an opportunity for participants to ask questions and share information. All programs will be recorded and posted to the BCoN website.

Five webinars have already been held. Recordings of past webinars are available here.

The next program will be on September 19 and will focus on new opportunities for education and outreach as a result of natural history collections and the mobilization of specimen and occurrence-based data.

Click here for more information regarding the webinar series and to register.

13 Sep 2018

New IMLS Grant for Small Museums

The Institute of Museums and Library Services has announced a new funding opportunity for small museums. Inspire! Grants for Small Museums is a special initiative of the Museums for America (MFA) program designed to motivate small museums to apply for grants to implement projects that address priorities identified in their strategic plans.

The program includes three project categories: Lifelong Learning, Community Anchors and Catalysts, and Collections Stewardship and Public Access. Under the program, grant funding of $5,000-$50,000 can be secured for a period of up to two years.

The deadline to apply for the grant is November 1, 2018. Learn more at https://www.imls.gov/grants/available/inspire-grants-small-museums.

13 Sep 2018

President Nominates NIFA, NPS Directors

The White House has nominated Dr. J. Scott Angle to be Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Mr. David Vela to be the Director of the National Park Service (NPS) at the Department of Interior (DOI).

Dr. Angle, President and CEO of the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), has a background in heavy metals and their interaction with the environment. He worked for 24 years as a professor of soil science and administrator for the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station and Maryland Cooperative Extension at the University of Maryland. He also served as Dean and Director of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of Georgia for 10 years. He is a Fellow at the American Society of Agronomy and the Soil Science Society of America. Dr. Angle earned his Ph.D. in soil microbiology from the University of Missouri.

Mr. Vela has worked at NPS for 28 years and currently serves as the Superintendent of Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. He has held various park postings within NPS, including at San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, and the George Washington Memorial Parkway. He has also served as Director of the NPS’ Southeast Region and Associate Director for Workforce, Relevancy, and Inclusion in the NPS headquarters in Washington, DC. Mr. Vela has a B.S. in recreation and parks from the Texas A&M University.

13 Sep 2018

Interior Rolls Out Reorganization Plan

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has announced the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) plan to reorganize its bureaus into 12 “unified regions.” The proposed management re-design establishes new regional divisions based on the boundaries of states and watersheds, including a California-Great Basin Region, a Lower Colorado Basin Region, an Upper Colorado Basin Region, and Mississippi Basin Region, among others.

The proposal has been under development for several months and was shared in a memo with DOI employees and Senior Executive Service (SES) personnel on August 29, 2018, according to departmental sources. “Our new Unified Regions will allow important decisions to be made nearer to where our stakeholders and intergovernmental partners live and work, and will make joint problem-solving and improved coordination between our Bureaus and other Federal, State, and local agencies easier,” stated Secretary Zinke.

The 12 unified regions will replace the 49 individual Interior Bureau regional boundaries. Secretary Zinke said that the reorganization will “reduce bureaucratic redundancy, will improve communication between our experts in the field and leaders in Washington, D.C., and will allow us to share our knowledge and resources more effectively.”

Under the plan, the national headquarters for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will be moved to a city in the western United States, where the vast majority of public lands managed by the agency are located. The location for the new headquarters has not yet been determined. Individual BLM state offices will continue to function under the new unified regions. Secretary Zinke has indicated that there will be no office or personnel relocations or changes to reporting structure during the initial stages of the implementation of the new plan.

Each new region will be managed under a “Regional Leadership Team”, an idea outlined by Susan Combs, acting Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget for DOI, at a roundtable discussion organized by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT). Combs described Alaska as a model for operations under the reorganization plan. “We started with a pilot in Alaska, because it’s one state that has all the bureaus, it already has a legislative framework that requires federal and state agencies to work together,” said Combs. “So, they are working away on inter-bureau collaboration.”

The regional leadership teams will be comprised of SES members from each bureau in each unified region, with an SES member from outside being appointed in cases where there are no SES members for every bureau. In the first month, a regional facilitator will be selected from each team to guide the team across six areas, including collaborative conservation, recreation, permitting, acquisition, human resource management, and information technology management. The regional facilitators along with their leadership teams will identify key personnel for the six areas of focus, determine the “as is” and “future state” operations for their respective unified regions, and also develop an options paper to be used in the selection and rotation process for the Interior Regional Director.

The plan applies to all Interior agencies, except the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians, and the Bureau of Indian Education. Whether these agencies are eventually aligned with the new regional boundaries will be determined after tribal consultation.

07 Sep 2018

Nominations Sought for National Academies Panel on Biological Collections

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s (NASEM) Board on Life Sciences (BLS) is seeking experts to serve on a committee that will review the contributions of biological collections in research and education.

The expert panel will examine both living organisms and preserved biodiversity specimens that are supported by the National Science Foundation. The committee will study the major advances in the use of collections in the last ten years, determine the biggest challenges in maintaining collections, recommend innovative ways in which biological collections can be utilized in the future, and suggest strategies for their sustained support of research and education.

The study entitled, “Biological Collections: Their Past, Present, and Future Contributions and Options for Sustaining Them,” requires experts with backgrounds in biodiversity, marine science, ecology, environmental science, and evolutionary biology, and experience with collection curation and management.

The deadline for submitting nominations is September 21, 2018. Self-nominations are accepted.

Nominations can be submitted here.

To receive updates about the study, subscribe at https://nationalacademies.us19.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=126022b3c9b5339309157088a&id=f2f3c4827d

31 Aug 2018

NSC Alliance to Convene Collections Policy, Advocacy Meeting

The NSC Alliance Board of Directors recognizes that there are a growing number of policy issues confronting the natural science collections community. To more effectively engage in these issues and to support more coordinated community action related to matters of funding, regulation, research and training, among other issues, the NSC Alliance is convening a meeting of its membership in Washington, DC, on April 2-3, 2019. This meeting, tentatively called: Collections Policy and Advocacy, provides the forum for representatives of NSC Alliance members to gather and discuss with policymakers and each other the significant issues shaping the community, and collections-based research and stewardship. In addition to formal presentations from national policymakers, the program will include sessions designed to support information exchange and networking among NSC Alliance members. Discussion sessions will also drive the development of policy recommendations and new, coordinated strategies for engaging key audiences.

Importantly, the meeting will include more than discussions of vexing issues. NSC Alliance will facilitate meetings between its members and congressional and executive branch officials, providing a valuable opportunity to educate the individuals who must ultimately support new investments or other policy remedies.

Additional information, including registration information, about this meeting will be shared with NSC Alliance members in the next few weeks.

30 Aug 2018

Expand Your Broader Impact Skills: AIBS Communications Boot Camp for Scientists

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) will offer its Communications Training Boot Camp for Scientists this October 15-16, 2018. Students and staff affiliated with NSC Alliance member institutions are eligible to receive a significant discount off of the regular program registration rate.

The AIBS Communications Training Boot Camp for Scientists was designed to enhance the communication skills of scientists, particularly those interested in communicating with decision-makers and the news media. The program is an excellent way to develop new communication skills and identify effective methods for broadening the impact of research and education programs.

The Boot Camp is an intensive, two-day, hands-on training program.

Participants will learn:

- How to translate scientific findings for non-technical audiences
- How to tell a resonant story that informs decision-makers
- How to prepare for and participate in a news interview
- How to prepare for and engage in a meeting with a decision-maker
- How to protect your scientific reputation
- How to identify and define the audience you need to reach
- What decision-makers want to hear from a scientist
- What reporters are looking for in an interview
- How to leverage social media
- How the nation’s science policy is developed and implemented

Participants will also have the opportunity for formal and informal discussions with science policy and communications experts working in Washington, DC.

Learn more about the program and register now at https://www.aibs.org/public-policy/communications_boot_camp.html.

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