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Archive for the 'News & Updates' Category

25 Jun 2018

Joint Stakeholder Statement on Promoting Sustainable Use and Conservation of Biodiversity Through Open Exchange of Digital Sequence Information

The Natural Science Collections Alliance has joined with more than 50 other leading scientific organizations from around the world to express a shared concern with emerging proposals on the regulation of use of digital sequence information.

The statement was issued in response to “activities pursuant to the decisions at the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CDB) (Decision XIII/16) and the Nagoya Protocol (NP) (Decision NP-2/14) to “consider any potential implications of the use of digital sequence information (DSI) on genetic resources for the first three objectives of the CBD and the objective of the NP”.”

The joint statement reads, in part, “As key stakeholders, the signatory organizations are vigilant about the potentially harmful effect of inappropriate or overly burdensome regulation of genetic resources. They are therefore greatly concerned about proposals to apply ABS obligations to DSI. Such obligations would place additional hurdles on biological research – with potentially negative consequences for the advancement of science and the huge societal value this generates, as well as for achieving the three objectives of the CBD.”

Read the full statement here.

20 Jun 2018

NSC Alliance Members Invited to Inform Science Policy This Summer

The Natural Science Collections Alliance is pleased to announce that your organization, as an Alliance member, is eligible to participate in the 2018 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 members, but registration will close on July 19, 2018. To register, visit https://www.aibs.org/public-policy/congressional_district_visits.html.

07 May 2018

NSC Alliance Provides Testimony in Support of Federal Funding for Science 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 in our national interest.”

NSC Alliance urged Congress to make additional investments in the National Museum of Natural History that will allow the museum to undertake critical collections care, make needed technology upgrades, and conduct cutting edge research. The testimony also requested lawmakers to support adequate funding for programs within the Department of the Interior, such as the Biological Survey Unit, that support the preservation and use of scientific collections.

Read the testimony here.

26 Apr 2018

NSC Alliance Urges Congress to Support Federal Funding for NSF

The Natural Science Collections Alliance (NSC Alliance) provided testimony to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, highlighting the importance and role of natural history collections.

“Natural science collections advance research that improves public health, agriculture, natural resource management, biodiversity conservation, and American innovation. Current research involving natural science collections also contributes to the development of new cyberinfrastructure, data visualization tools, and improved data management.”

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is a key federal supporter of scientific collections. NSF supports research that uses existing collections as well as studies that gather new natural history specimens. NSF’s Directorates for Biological Sciences (BIO) and Geosciences (GEO) support research and student training opportunities in natural history collections. NSF also supports biological research infrastructure, such as natural history museums, living stock collections, and field stations.

The testimony called for $8.45 billion for NSF in fiscal year 2019.

Read the NSC Alliance testimony.

23 Mar 2018

Congress Approves FY 2018 Omnibus Appropriations, Rejects President’s Cuts to Science

Congress has passed and the President has signed a bipartisan appropriations bill with $1.3 trillion in federal spending for fiscal year (FY) 2018. The House voted 256-167 and the Senate voted 65-32 to approve the bill that distributes funding for the remainder of FY 2018. The omnibus appropriations legislation provides either increased or level spending for science agencies, ignoring the deep cuts proposed by the President.

Congressional leaders announced an agreement late on 21 March after several weeks of negotiations and six months into FY 2018. A majority of environmental riders were dropped from the final bill.

The bill funds the National Science Foundation (NSF) at $7.8 billion, $295 million above the FY 2017 enacted level, with the Research and Related Activities (RRA) accounts funded at $6.3 billion (+$301 million). The RRA line includes funding for the various research directorates, including the biological sciences directorate. Details are not yet available for how these funds would be allocated. The bill states “this strong investment in basic research reflects the Congress’ growing concern that China and other competitors are outpacing the United States in terms of research spending.”

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will receive $37 billion, a boost of $3 billion, rejecting the President’s proposed 22 percent cut to the agency. The bill includes $1.8 billion (+$414 million) for Alzheimer’s research.

The omnibus provides funding increases for many agencies and programs at the Department of the Interior (DOI). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is funded at $1.6 billion (+$75 million) with the legislation prioritizing funding for addressing the endangered species delisting backlog, combating invasive species, preventing illegal wildlife trafficking, and preventing closure of fish hatcheries.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), slated for a 15 percent cut under the President’s request, will be funded at $1.1 billion, an increase of $63 million over FY 2017 levels. Funding will be targeted to critical infrastructure investments in natural hazards programs, stream gages, the groundwater monitoring network, and mapping activities. The legislation provides $23 million for early earthquake early warning systems and $26 million for funding the development of “Landsat 9” – a satellite program that provides land use measurements important for agriculture, forestry, energy and water resource decisions. The agency’s eight climate science centers will remain functional. The White House had proposed eliminating half of them.

The President’s FY 2018 request called for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) budget to be cut by 30 percent. The appropriations bill, however, provides level funding to the agency at $8.1 billion. EPA’s regulatory programs will be cut by $23.5 million. Funding for cleanup of Superfund sites will get a $66 million boost. The bill also includes $2.9 billion for Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan funds and $63 million for Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act to support for water infrastructure projects. The bill emphasizes the Administration’s goal to “rein in outdated, unnecessary and potentially harmful regulations at the EPA” and includes riders prohibiting the agency from regulating lead content of ammunition. EPA’s science and technology programs will be supported at a flat budget of $116 million, rejecting the administration’s proposed $30.8 million cut to the program.

A report that accompanies the bill indicates that the legislation “does not include any requested funds for workforce reshaping” at the EPA. President Trump’s proposal would have allowed EPA to extract about $68 million from various programs for the reshaping effort, to be implemented through buyouts. The bill also limits the agency’s reorganization and restructuring efforts to $1 million.

The Energy and Water portion of the spending bill, which funds the Department of Energy (DOE) and Army Corps of Engineers, received $43.2 billion, an increase of $4.7 billion. DOE will receive across the board funding increases, including for research efforts and energy efficiency programs. DOE’s Office of Science will see a 16 percent or $800 million funding boost to a record $6.26 billion. An increase of $163 million is targeted for advanced scientific computing research, a priority of the President. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program, slated for elimination in the President’s budget, will receive a record level funding of $353 million (+$47 million).

Agricultural research programs, including the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), will receive $3.03 billion, an increase of $138 million over FY 2017. The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) is funded at $400 million. The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) is funded at $6 billion, with $2.8 billion targeted at wildfire prevention and suppression. The USFS received $6.07 billion in FY 2017.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will receive $5.9 billion, a slight increase of $234 million above FY 2017 level, with the funding prioritized for National Weather Service ($1 billion), fisheries operations ($883 million), weather research, and ocean exploration.

The Smithsonian Institution will receive $1 billion in funding, an increase of $178 million, allowing all on-going operations to continue.

05 Mar 2018

NSC Alliance Requests Senate Appropriators to Restore Biodiversity Research Programs at USGS

The President of the National Science Collections Alliance sent a letter to the Senate Committee on Appropriations asking the lawmakers to reject the proposed termination of the Biological Survey Unit and restore other on-going research initiatives at the U. S. Geological Survey.

Read the letter here.

07 Feb 2018

NSC Alliance Asks USGS to Reverse Decision to Remove Curators from NMNH

On February 7, 2018, the NSC Alliance sent a formal request to the US Geological Survey requesting that the agency reverse a decision to remove 10 USGS scientists from their assigned job functions at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.

Read the letter here.

22 Dec 2017

2017 Year in Review

In 2017, 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:

  • Helped secure a 3 percent funding increase for the Smithsonian Institution in fiscal year 2017 and prevented large cuts to the budgets for the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies that support natural history collections.
  • Worked with other museum supporting organizations and museums to defeat a Trump Administration proposal to eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
  • Intervened when the University of Louisiana Monroe planned to dispose of its natural history collections. NSC Alliance’s involvement helped garner media attention and encouraged the university to facilitate transfer of the collection to other organizations.
  • NSC Alliance President Joseph Cook and Board member Scott Edwards organized the inaugural PFRB Symposium for 40 postdocs. The symposium highlighted new research uses of collections and provided an overview of opportunities in collections-based employment. The symposium was followed by a smaller BCoN workshop aimed at identifying new directions and opportunities for museums in the near future.

Read the full summary.

14 Dec 2017

Congress Reaches Deal on Tax Reform

On December 13, leaders in Congress announced that they had reached a final deal regarding tax reform legislation. The compromise is reportedly more similar to the bill passed by the Senate than the legislation crafted by the House.

Notably, the compromise purportedly retains the existing tax break for charitable deductions. However, since the standard deduction will be raised to $24,000 for couples and $12,000 for individuals, millions fewer taxpayers will be able to claim the deduction. Some non-profits have raised concerns about impacts to future charitable giving.

Another provision that would have taxed tuition waivers for graduate students does not appear in the final bill.

Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) and thirty other lawmakers had sent a letter to House leadership urging them to keep existing tax policies in place regarding tuition waivers for graduate students.

The tax reform bill passed by the House of Representatives, H.R. 1, would have increased taxes for many graduate students because tuition waivers would be taxed as income, even though students do not directly receive the money.

As the letter from lawmakers points out, 57 percent of waiver recipients are graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and math.

“A repeal of the income exclusion for graduate tuition waivers would harm our nation’s students, undermine our competitive position, and hold back economic growth,” states the letter. “We strongly urge you to ensure that this harmful provision is not in the final version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.”

The compromise legislation must pass the Senate and House of Representatives before going to the President’s desk for a signature.

11 Dec 2017

Arctic Public Programming Internships

Free this spring or summer? Intern at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) and join a team of passionate ocean educators and scientists to design and host public programs that expand the themes of the museum’s Narwhal: Revealing an Arctic Legend temporary exhibit to different audiences including adults, families, and teens.

Interns will work on programs such as live feeds to research vessels, Scientist is In programs, a teen climate Earth Optimism event, and film screenings. They will help with program evaluation and visitor observations, help improve volunteer-facilitated carts, conduct science content research, conduct scientist interviews, facilitate programs, and assist with program implementation and marketing.
Undergraduate students with a background and interest in science (course work, field work, other) and an interest in science communication and/or teaching are encouraged to apply. The time commitment is 40 hours a week. To maximize the project learning outcomes, applicants should have the following qualifications:

  • Ability to cooperate as part of a collective team, while also working independently to reach team goals.
  • Self-starter with passion and the ability to plan, organize and establish priorities to meet goals and achieve results according to a timeline with set deadlines.
  • Proficient in using Microsoft Word and Excel.
  • Able to speak and effectively communicate information to a group.

TIME COMMITMENT: 40 hours per week

STIPEND: $4,900 per internship

LEARNING OBJECTIVES: Interns will learn techniques for how to use objects to engage visitors and methods for engaging visitors in interactive dialogue; effective strategies for communicating about climate change; how to plan and implement science education programs and events; how to use visitor and volunteer feedback to meet visitor needs; how to work with a range of collaborators such as educators, volunteers, and scientists; and gain knowledge about narwhal, the Arctic, how science works, and climate change.

TIME FRAME: There are two internships available:
Spring 2018 – Three months from approximately April 2018 to June 2018
Summer 2018 – Three months from approximately June 2018 thru August 2018

TO APPLY: Please send a resume and a cover letter explaining your interests, qualifications, and what you hope to get out of such an internship to Jennifer Collins at CollinsJE@si.edu by Friday January 5, 2018.

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