New & Noteworthy



Archive for September, 2012

27 Sep 2012

Article on the History and Value of Natural History Collections

The September 2012 issue of the journal BioScience includes an article entitled “Doing Natural History.”  The article, which appears in the journal’s Biology in History column, explores how natural history research changed during the twentieth century.  The article is available with a subscription at http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/bio.2012.62.9.8.

25 Sep 2012

NSF Awards Grants for Research on Dimensions of Biodiversity

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $26.4 million for 14 research grants that will expand our understanding of biodiversity.  “This year’s awardees will study subjects as diverse as the biota of the Amazon and its environment, how nutrient input drives biodiversity in China’s extremely oxygen-deprived–or eutrophic–Lake Taihu, the components of tree biodiversity, and the lineage of species in Hawaii,” according to a press release issued by NSF.

“The innovative and interdisciplinary teams of the Dimensions of Biodiversity program may accomplish in 10 years what, with a piecemeal approach, would have taken 50 years–a half-century we can no longer afford to wait,” says Joann Roskoski, NSF deputy assistant director for Biological Sciences.

This is the third year that NSF has funded research through its Dimensions of Biodiversity programs.  The projects that use remote sensing will be co-funded by NASA.  The program aims to integrate our understanding of taxonomy, genetic diversity, and functional role of taxa in order to understand the key dimensions of biodiversity in a changing world.

See the list of awardees at http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=125495&WT.mc_id=USNSF_51&WT.mc_ev=click.

20 Sep 2012

Deadline Approaching for Digitization Grants

The National Science Foundation is accepting proposals for the Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections program.  This initiative seeks to enhance and expand the national resource of digital data documenting existing vouchered biological and paleontological collections and to advance scientific knowledge by improving access to digitized information residing in vouchered scientific collections across the United States.  The full proposal deadline is 19 October 2012.  More information is available at http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=503559&WT.mc_id=USNSF_39&WT.mc_ev=click.

20 Sep 2012

Impending Budget Cuts to Science Detailed in New Report

The American Institute of Biological Sciences has produced a report that explains the fiscal cliff, budget sequestration, and other forthcoming fiscal problems that have the potential to negatively impact federal investments in research and science education.

Under current law, $6.8 trillion in deficit reduction will occur over the next decade through increased taxes and spending cuts.  The increasingly discussed ‘fiscal cliff’ refers to this abrupt and significant change to the federal budget that will occur in January 2013. If Congress and the President fail to reach an agreement to forestall the fiscal cliff, government spending will automatically be cut in January, and tax rates will rise for many Americans.

One aspect of the fiscal cliff that is of particular concern is $1.2 trillion in defense and non-defense spending reductions set to occur over the next decade.  This budget sequestration will start in 2013.  Non-defense agencies, including the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Department of the Interior, and others, will lose about 8.2 percent of their funding next year.  Defense programs, including various research and development programs, will be subject to a 9.4 percent reduction.  These cuts will likely cause layoffs of federal employees, cuts to external grants and contracts, and reduced government services.

Download a free copy of the report to learn more: http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/resources/AIBS_Sequestration_Report.pdf.

12 Sep 2012

USGS Coalition Honors Representatives LaTourette, McCollum

On Wednesday, 12 September 2012, the USGS Coalition honored Representatives Steven LaTourette (R-OH) and Betty McCollum (D-MN) with the Coalition’s 2012 Leadership Award. The awards were presented during the USGS Coalition’s annual reception on Capitol Hill.

The NSC Alliance is a member of the USGS Coalition. In addition to remarks by both Representatives, two senior Interior officials spoke. Lori Caramanian is the deputy assistant secretary for water and science at the Department of the Interior. Suzette Kimball, deputy director of the USGS, thanked the Representatives and the USGS Coalition for the years of effort they have given to elevating the profile of the USGS among policymakers.

“We are pleased to recognize Representatives LaTourette and McCollum for their sustained efforts to champion the scientific programs of the United States Geological Survey. Their leadership in Congress has helped increase awareness of the USGS,” stated Dr. Gropp. “Representatives McCollum and LaTourette clearly understand that USGS research in biology, geology, water and geography provides the American people with vitally important information every day. USGS research and information contribute to economic growth, improve the public health and safety, and enhance our ability to wisely manage our natural resources.”

Congressman LaTourette is serving his ninth term in the U.S. House of Representatives and represents Northeast Ohio’s 14th Congressional District. He serves on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, which oversees funding for the USGS and other Department of Interior programs. As a member of the subcommittee, LaTourette plays an important role in ensuring that the USGS has the resources it needs to provide the department and the nation with the scientific information required to make informed decisions. He emphasizes effective use of tax dollars in the management of these natural and cultural resources with a keen understanding that these resources also enhance economic development.

“I’m flattered by the award. I truly believe the only way we can protect our country’s greatest natural resources is to understand them better. It’s one of the reasons I’m such a huge fan of the USGS work and have been a proud supporter of it for these past 18 years in Congress,” states Congressman LaTourette.

Representative McCollum is serving her sixth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Minnesota’s 4th District. In 2000, Congresswoman McCollum made history as the second Minnesota woman elected to serve in Congress since statehood in 1858. She serves on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, which oversees funding for the USGS. Her strong support of USGS science to manage natural resources and improve clean energy technologies emphasizes her commitment to environmental stewardship and global economic competitiveness.

Representative McCollum attests, “It is an honor to be recognized by the U.S. Geological Survey Coalition for the work we do together to wisely manage America’s natural resources so that we can improve public health and grow our economy. Communities and businesses across our country rely on the scientific information USGS provides to make informed decisions. I will continue working with my Republican and Democratic colleagues in Congress to ensure USGS has the resources it needs to serve the American people.”

For more information about the USGS Coalition, please visit www.usgscoalition.org.

07 Sep 2012

College Biology Faculty Named Leadership Fellows

The Partnership for Undergraduate Life Sciences Education (PULSE) program announced today that it has selected 40 Vision and Change Leadership Fellows.  The fellows will identify and consider how to eliminate barriers to the systemic changes that are needed to improve undergraduate life sciences education.

The PULSE program is a joint initiative of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  The effort is supporting a yearlong program in which Vision and Change Leadership Fellows consider and then recommend models for improving undergraduate life sciences education.

“The fellows represent a diverse group of extremely capable faculty,” said Judith Verbeke of NSF.  “They bring a variety of experiences that will inform the development of an implementation framework that will transform undergraduate education in the life sciences.”

These post-secondary life sciences faculty members were competitively selected by an expert panel for their experience in catalyzing reform in undergraduate biology education.

After evaluating more than 250 applications, the PULSE steering committee selected the fellows announced today.  These individuals come from 24 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and represent research universities, liberal arts colleges, comprehensive/regional universities, and two-year colleges.

“We are very excited about the work on which the fellows are about to embark,” said Clifton A. Poodry of NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences.  “The PULSE program will help move life sciences education forward.”

“The strong response we received to the call for applications reflects broad consensus in the community that change is needed,” said HHMI’s Cynthia Bauerle.  The way biology is taught needs to change in order to spark student interest in science and prepare them to answer challenging 21st century problems.  “The time is now,” said Bauerle.

In 2006, NSF initiated a multi-year conversation with the scientific community, with assistance from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  That dialogue, which was co-funded by NIH and HHMI, generated the 2011 report, Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: A Call to Action.

The scientific community actively informed the recommendations in the Vision and Change report.  Among these were a recognition that a 21st century education requires changes to how biology is taught, how academic departments support faculty, and how curricular decisions are made.

“To foster this widespread systemic change, NSF, HHMI, and NIH launched the PULSE program,” said Verbeke.  Supporting the effort are Knowinnovation, Inc. and the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

PULSE will stimulate systemic change in undergraduate life science education by focusing on strategies that drive institutional change.  Because a change in institutional culture is needed, PULSE activities are focused on academic departments and not individual faculty members.

In May, PULSE announced a national competition to identify Vision and Change Leadership Fellows.  The 40 fellows announced today will produce an implementation framework describing strategies for change.  This document will be available on the PULSE website where other life scientists may review it and provide comments from November 2012 until May 2013.  The biology community is encouraged to review and enrich this framework via the PULSE online colleague community.  Program organizers stress that they welcome the participation of the breadth of the post-secondary life sciences community.

A list of the Vision and Change Leadership Fellows is available at www.pulsecommunity.org/forum/topics/announcement-v-c-leadership-fellows.  Learn more about PULSE or engage with the growing online PULSE community at www.pulsecommunity.org.