New & Noteworthy

Archive for February, 2012

29 Feb 2012

Register for the Specimen Digitization Tools and Practices Workshop at Botany 2012

iDigBio, the National Science Foundation funded National Resource for Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections, is organizing a workshop on specimen digitization to be held on 12 July 2012.  The workshop will occur the day after the Botany 2012 conference.  The workshop is designed to introduce current and future biological and paleontological specimen collections staff to resources and workflows that can lead to greater efficiencies in the digitization of their collections.

Up to 25 participants will be supported by reimbursement of up to $500 to attend the workshop.  Those interested in attending should describe three things in an email:  (1) the status of digitization of biological or paleontological specimens at your institution (including total number of specimens and percent databased, imaged, and georeferenced), (2) your role in digitization of biological or paleontological specimens at your institution, and (3) your degree of interest in presenting a short talk (5-10 minutes) on your experiences with digitization.  It is not necessary for every participant to present a talk, nor is it necessary for all participants to be currently employed as staff at a biological or paleontological specimen collection. Graduate students are particularly encouraged to apply, but a clear connection should be made in the email between your career objectives and the topic of the workshop.  If you are interested in presenting a short talk, please specify the topic of your presentation in <200 words in the email.  Topics could include particularly efficient digitization workflows, ad hoc solutions to digitization bottlenecks, lessons from digitization coordination across multiple institutions, etc.  Further directions regarding reimbursement will be sent to the successful applicants in late March.

Send the email to Cathy Bester via the form at by 19 March.  Notification of selection by the committee will be made by 23 March.

iDigBio has also organized a symposium entitled “Building a High-Resolution, Specimen-Based Picture of Life: Possibilities and Challenges” for the Botany 2012 conference.  It will be held on the afternoon of Wednesday, 11 July.  More details on the symposium will appear later on the conference website (

28 Feb 2012

Upcoming Training Sessions from the National NAGPRA Program

Determining Cultural Affiliation

Review the tools and best practices for determining cultural affiliation as part of the requirements of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Each Federal agency and museum with control over Native American human remains must identify cultural affiliation if it can do so on the basis of reasonable belief. Discuss NAGPRA requirements, definitions of critical terminology, grant assistance, and the consultation and review process.

Date: Apr 25, 2012

Location: Denver, CO

Click here for more information and to register.

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27 Feb 2012

Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Selects Chief Science Officer

On Friday, 24 February 2012, the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) Research Board announced the selection of Dr. Charles “Chuck” A. Wilson to serve as the GoMRI Chief Science Officer.

The Chief Science Officer is a new position created by the Research Board to provide scientific and research advice and leadership to the GoMRI. Dr. Wilson will coordinate the work of the GoMRI Research Board with the various administrative units implementing the research program and with the Gulf of Mexico Alliance. Additionally, he will support the Research Board’s efforts to ensure the intellectual quality, research effectiveness, and scientific independence of the $500 million GoMRI research initiative.

Dr. Wilson is a distinguished scientist and academic leader. He has held faculty and administrative posts at Louisiana State University (LSU), where he joined the faculty in 1984 as an assistant professor in the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences. Since then, he has risen through the academic ranks to full professor and department chairman. Most recently, he has served as Executive Director of the Louisiana Sea Grant College Program, and prior to that as the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs. During his tenure at LSU, Dr. Wilson has received more than $15,000,000 in private, state, and federal funding for research and education programs, and has authored or co-authored more than 100 scientific publications.

Dr. Wilson’s leadership goes well beyond the academic setting. He has distinguished himself through service in scientific organizations and on scientific advisory bodies, including the GoMRI Research Board.

The GoMRI Research Board is an independent body that administers BP’s ten-year, $500 million commitment to independent research into the effects of the Deepwater Horizon incident.

24 Feb 2012

IMLS Budget Request is Flat

The fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget request for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) would fund IMLS at $232.0 million, the same as the FY 2012 enacted level.

Museum services would receive $29.4 million, which is unchanged from the current fiscal year.  Funding for Research, Analysis, Evaluation and Data Collection, a budget line that was recreated after the reauthorization of the Museum and Library Services Act of 2010, would remain at $1.9 million.

The budget request includes support for the first ever census of museums in the United States.  According to IMLS budget documents: “IMLS is undertaking a comprehensive census of museums in the U.S.  At this time no accurate inventory exists and we believe that our current assumptions vastly underestimate the number of U.S. museums.  This data will help public officials and practitioners make informed policy decisions about the future of museum service in the U.S.”

The budget also would support “innovative development of digital collections and develop new tools to help people find and use digital resources” through the National Leadership Grant program.

The complete budget request for IMLS can be downloaded at

24 Feb 2012

NSCA and Others Voice Concern about Collections Funding

On 24 February 2012 the NSC Alliance, Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, Association of Science Museum Directors, American Institute of Biological Sciences, and the American Association of Museums wrote to the National Science Foundation (NSF) regarding the agency’s proposed budget for support of scientific collections.

Although the President’s recently released fiscal year 2013 budget request is generally supportive of science, NSF proposes to change the Collections in Support of Biological Research program from an annual to biennial competition.  The change would effectively cut the program’s funding in half.

The CSBR program provides vitally important support to our nation’s biological sciences research collections.  The program is considered by some to be besieged by more grant proposals than it can support.  A biennial funding system would likely exacerbate the situation.

Click here to download a copy of the joint society letter.

24 Feb 2012

Analysis of President’s FY 2013 Budget for Biology

President Obama released a $3.8 trillion budget plan for fiscal year (FY) 2013 on 13 February 2012. According to the White House, the budget proposal would cut deficits by $4 trillion over the next decade and would avoid the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act signed into law in August 2011. The deficit reduction would be achieved by increased revenues, including higher taxes on families earning more than $250,000, and spending cuts.

Science is once again a priority in the President’s budget request. Despite a freeze on discretionary spending at the 2011 level for the second year in a row, the Administration proposed $140.8 billion for federal research and development (R&D), an increase of $2.0 billion. Non-defense R&D would increase by five percent above the FY 2012 level.

Nearly all science agencies would see increased funding in FY 2013. Notably, the National Science Foundation would receive a 4.8 percent increase. Other science programs slated for an increase include the Department of Energy Office of Science, Department of Agriculture research, and various Department of the Interior bureaus. Although the overall budgets for the Environmental Protection Agency and National Aeronautics and Space Administration would be cut, the agencies’ research programs would receive slight budget increases.

Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education programs would collectively receive $3.0 billion, a 2.6 percent increase.

The multi-agency U.S. Global Change Research Program would receive $2.6 billion (+5.6 percent).

Download the full analysis of the FY 2013 budget prepared by the American Institute of Biological Sciences at

21 Feb 2012

Encyclopedia of Life Launches Education Innovation Challenge

The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) is offering a $50,000 prize for the winner of the EOL Education Innovation Challenge.  This international competition aims to foster development of educational software tools, services, or games using EOL content.

The competition will award funding to the most scalable and innovative applications.  Target audiences can include the general public, citizen scientists, and learners of all ages in both formal and informal settings.

The Challenge is a two-stage process.  In Stage 1, applicants submit a product idea that includes an overview of the concept.  Applicants who are selected to continue to Stage 2 will be asked to submit a development plan and budget required to complete a working product.  One or more prizes will be awarded to successful Stage 2 proposals.

The deadline for Stage 1 applications is 23 March 2012.  For more information, visit

13 Feb 2012

President Obama Proposes FY 2013 Budget: Science Fairs Comparatively Well

On 13 February 2012, President Obama released his official budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2013. According to the White House, the spending plan would cut the nation’s deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade and would avoid the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts mandated by the debt limit deal reached last August. The deficit reductions would be achieved by increased revenues, including higher taxes on families earning more than $250,000, and spending cuts.

“I am proposing a 5-year freeze on all discretionary spending outside of security,” wrote President Obama in his message that accompanied the spending plan. “This is not an across-the-board cut, but rather an overall freeze with investments in areas critical for long-term economic growth and job creation. A commonsense approach where we cut what doesn’t work and invest in those things that make America stronger and our people more prosperous. Over a decade, this freeze will save more than $400 billion, cut non-security funding to the lowest share of the economy since at least 1962, and put the discretionary budget on a sustainable trajectory.”

Preliminary analysis suggests that science agencies fair reasonably well as compared to some other program areas. Overall, the President has proposed $140.8 billion for research and development (R&D) spending. Non-defense R&D would increase by about 5 percent from the 2012 level. The National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive $7.4 billion, a $340 million increase above the FY 2012 enacted level. The Administration’s funding priorities include cross-cutting research in advanced manufacturing, clean energy, wireless communications, and science and mathematics education. “[L]ower priority education and research programs that lack evidence of impact or do not align well with NSF’s core mission responsibilities” would be eliminated, according to budget documents. Details on how the $66 million in savings are achieved are not yet available. NSF’s Research and Related Activities account would receive nearly $6 billion, a funding increase of roughly 5 percent above FY 2012 enacted. The Biological Sciences Directorate, which is funded from this account, could see an increase of $22 million (+3.1 percent). Education and Human Resources would increase by $47 million, whereas the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account would be flat.

The following provides a quick first look at the top line numbers for some other key federal science agencies.

  • Environmental Protection Agency: $8.3 billion (-$104.9 million); Science and Technology would receive $807.3 million (+$13.5 million)
  • United States Geological Survey: $1.1 billion (+$34.5 million); the Ecosystems activity would receive $177.9 million (+$16.6 million)
  • National Institutes of Health: $30.7 billion, which is essentially unchanged from FY 2012
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $5.2 billion (+$160 million)
  • United States Department of Agriculture: Agriculture and Food Research Initiative would receive $325 million (+$60.5 million); the Agricultural Research Service would receive $1.1 billion (-$7.9 million)
  • Department of Energy Office of Science: $5.0 billion (+$118.4 million); Biological and Environmental Research would receive $625.3 million (+$15.8 million)
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration: $17.7 billion (-$58.6 million)

More detailed analysis of the President’s budget request will be provided by AIBS in the coming days.

10 Feb 2012

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

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Review Committee will meet on 28-29 November 2012 in Washington, DC.  The agenda for the meeting will include finalization of the Review Committee Report to Congress for 2012, the appointment of the subcommittee to draft the Review Committee’s Report to the Congress for 2013, and discussion of the scope of the Reports, and National NAGPRA Program reports.

The Committee may also consider requests for a recommendation to the Secretary of the Interior to effect the agreed-upon disposition of Native American human remains determined to be culturally unidentifiable.

The agenda and materials for this meeting will be posted by late October at

The Review Committee is also soliciting presentations by museums, Indian tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, and Federal agencies on the following two topics: (1) the progress made, and any barriers encountered, in implementing NAGPRA, and (2) the outcomes of disputes that have come before the Review Committee.  More information is available at