New & Noteworthy

Archive for March, 2010

26 Mar 2010

NSC Alliance Members Write to Chairman Lipinski About Collections

Several NSC Alliance members have written to House Research and Science Education Subcommittee Chairman Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) asking that his Subcommittee include natural science collections in the reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act.  The letters support a request sent by NSC Alliance President William Y. Brown to Rep. Lipinski that the House adapt the language and policy objectives of the NSC Alliance proposed Presidential Executive Order for the Preservation and Use of Science Collections.

NSC Alliance members are encouraged to write to Rep. Lipinski about including collections in the reauthorized America COMPETES Act and to share a copy of the letter with Dr. Robert Gropp.

Arizona State University Letter
California Academy of Sciences
The Field Museum Letter
Tulane University Museum of Natural History

22 Mar 2010

NSC Alliance Asks Congress to Include Collections in Legislation

On 15 March 2010, the NSC Alliance sent a letter  to House Research and Science Education Subcommittee Chairman Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) asking that his Subcommittee include natural science collections in the reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act.  Specifically, the letter asked that the House adapt the language and policy objectives of the NSC Alliance proposed Presidential Executive Order for the Preservation and Use of Science Collections.  The NSC Alliance launched a campaign in 2009 to ask the President to establish a federal infrastructure that would identify and prioritize the needs of federal and non-federal science collections.

Click here to read the letter

18 Mar 2010

New Rule Regarding Culturally Unidentifiable Native American Human Remains

The Department of the Interior has finalized a rule regarding procedures for the disposition of culturally unidentifiable Native American human remains in the possession or control of museums or federal agencies.  The rule implements the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

According to the notice published in the Federal Register:

“In brief, this rule pertains to those human remains, in collections, determined by museums and Federal agencies to be Native American, but for whom no relationship of shared group identity can be reasonably traced, historically or prehistorically, between a present day Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization and an identifiable earlier group.  These individuals are listed on inventories as culturally unidentifiable Native American human remains.  The rule requires consultation on the culturally unidentifiable human remains by the museum or Federal agency with Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations whose tribal lands or aboriginal occupancy areas are in the area where the remains were removed.  If cultural affiliation still cannot be determined and repatriation achieved, then the Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization may request disposition of the remains.  The museum or Federal agency would then publish a notice and transfer control to the tribe, without first being required to appear before the Review Committee to seek a recommendation for disposition approval from the Secretary of the Interior.  Disposition requests, which do not meet the parameters of the rule, would still require approval from the Secretary, who may request a recommendation from the Review Committee.”

The rule will go into effect on May 14 2010.  Until that time, comments being accepted.  For more information, please visit

12 Mar 2010

Support NSF: Write Your Representative Today

Congress is now considering appropriations for federal agencies for fiscal year 2011.  It is important that members of Congress understand why federal investments in the National Science Foundation (NSF) are important to the nation and their district.

NSF provides roughly 68 percent of federal funding for competitive, peer-reviewed grants in fundamental and environmental biological research at our nation’s universities and non-profit research centers.  NSF is also provides essential grant funding to natural science collections to help train the next generation of scientists and curators, digitize specimens and associated data, and to provide important formal and informal science education programs to students and the public.

Please write to your Representative today by going to  Send your Representative a letter asking that he/she support increased funding for NSF by signing the “Dear Colleague letter” being circulated by Representatives Ehlers (R-MI), Holt (D-NJ), Inglis (R-SC), and Lipinski (D-IL).  This bipartisan letter will be sent to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee with jurisdiction over NSF’s budget.  The more members of Congress that sign this letter, the more likely NSF is to receive increased funding.

Act today to ensure that your member of Congress can sign this letter before the March 17, 2010 deadline.

Simply go to to send a prepared letter to your Representative.

08 Mar 2010

GEOSS Seeks Input

The intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations recently initiated a mid-term evaluation of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).

GEOSS was initiated in 2005 with a vision to realize a future wherein decisions and actions for the benefit of humankind are informed by coordinated, comprehensive and sustained Earth observations and information.  GEOSS implementation is half-way through the first 10-year plan and an Evaluation Team has undertaken the task of developing the first progress assessment.

Direct feedback from the diverse and widely dispersed communities of stakeholders, users, and intended beneficiaries of GEOSS is vital to the evaluation.  To that end, we have opened an electronic survey and are working to distribute it as widely as possible via the GEOSS community.  However, we recognize the potentially limited reach of distribution solely through GEOSS, which is why we would like your assistance in inviting and encouraging broad participation from the relevant portions of your membership at the Natural Science Collections Alliance.   Any assistance your organization could provide such as an announcement, link on your website or a notice in a regular communication to your membership would be greatly appreciated.

The GEOSS Evaluation Survey ( is currently available and will remain and will remain open through the end of March.  The survey is designed for all potential and actual stakeholders, contributors and beneficiaries of GEOSS; prior experience with the Group on Earth Observations and Global Earth Observation System of Systems is not a requirement.  We anticipate the survey should take an average of 20 minutes, but may last longer depending on your previous involvement with GEO/GEOSS and the depth of your responses.

Thank you,
The GEOSS Evaluation Team

04 Mar 2010

Comments Sought on Strategic Plan to Digitize Biological Collections

A strategic plan is being developed for a 10-year, national effort to digitize and mobilize images and data associated with biological research collections.  The plan aims to create a publicly available, comprehensive collections resource that will increase access to biological collections across the country.  The plan was drafted by workshop participants at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in February 2010.

The strategic plan is seen as “a grand challenge” and will be undertaken “as a unified mission involving a coordinated funding program and well designed strategy for execution.”  The plan calls for the development of cyberinfrastructure “to promote efficient and standard capture and mobilization of these data to make the national biological collections resource publicly available for analysis.”

The plan has several goals for the digitization effort:

  • Making images and data from all U.S. biological collections available in an integrated, web accessible interface using shared standards and formats.
  • Developing and launching new web interfaces, visualization and analysis tools, data mining, image analysis, and georeferencing processes.
  • Digitizing and web mobilizing the existing backlog of non-digitized collections, and developing tools, training, and infrastructure to prevent the reoccurrence of such a backlog.

These goals would be accomplished by a three tiered approach.

  1. Develop a coordinated effort to provide technological support for the nationwide collections digitization effort, to organize new efforts with existing collections-based projects and international efforts, and to disseminate standards, techniques and best practices.
  2. Develop a network of regional collaborations for collection digitization across the U.S.
  3. Develop investigator-driven and cross-regional collaborations driven by the specific needs of collections of a particular clade or preservation type, or motivated by a particular scientific question to be addressed by the use of collections images and data.

Feedback on the strategic plan from the collections community is sought and can be made on the plan’s website ( or by sending an email to  Group feedback based on institutional priorities or taxon-based needs is welcomed.  Specific feedback is needed in areas such as support for the proposed model, suggestions for revision, ideas regarding the three-tiered approach, priorities for collection digitization, and ways to maximize collaboration across institutions and federal agencies, and at the international level.  This feedback will be aggregated and provided to participants in future planning sessions that will develop a final strategic plan.

02 Mar 2010

Upcoming Meetings of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Review Committee

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Review Committee will be holding three meetings to discuss matters relating to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).

Included on the agenda for the May 14, 2010 meeting are presentations to the Review
Committee by Indian tribes, museums, and federal agencies on both the positive experiences and the barriers encountered with NAGPRA compliance.  The June 11th meeting will focus on discussion of the committee’s draft report to Congress for 2010.  Both of these meetings are open to the public and will be teleconferenced.  A third meeting will be held from November 17-19, 2010 in Washington, DC.

For the May 14 meeting, the Review Committee is soliciting presentations by Indian tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, museums, and federal agencies on both the positive experiences and the barriers encountered with NAGPRA compliance.  The deadline for submitting presentations on this topic is April 9, 2010.  Electronic submissions are preferred, and are to be sent to:

For more information, please visit