New & Noteworthy

Archive for December, 2012

21 Dec 2012

Field Museum Announces Budget Cuts to Research

The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois will cut $3 million from its budget for science.  An additional $2 million in reductions will be sought from other programs.  The spending reductions were prompted by the recession and institution’s debt.

Richard Lariviere, the museum’s president, announced the cost cutting plans this week.  Staff layoffs are possible, even of tenured scientists.  Lariviere told reporters that the bulk of the spending cuts will fall on research because of previous reductions in support staff.  The museum will also restructure its four discipline-based research departments into one Science and Education program.

The museum also plans to boost revenues by using its own collections for exhibitions, rather than paying to display outside specimens.

20 Dec 2012

Deadline Approaching for Graduate Student Award in Science Policy

Graduate students with an interest in science policy are encouraged to apply for the 2013 AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award.  This award recognizes graduate students in the biological sciences who have demonstrated initiative and leadership in science policy.  Recipients receive first-hand experience at the interface of science and public policy.

Winners receive a trip to Washington, DC, to participate in the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition Congressional Visits Day, an annual event that brings scientists to the nation’s capital to advocate for federal investment in the biological sciences, with a primary focus on the National Science Foundation.  The event will last for two days and will be held on 10-11 April 2013.  Domestic travel and hotel expenses will be paid for the winners.

The 2013 award is open to U.S. citizens enrolled in a graduate degree program in the biological sciences, science education, or a closely allied field.  Applicants should have a demonstrated interest in and commitment to science policy and/or science education policy.  Prior winners and AIBS science policy interns/fellows are not eligible.

Applications are due by 5:00 PM Eastern Time on Monday, 28 January 2013.  The award application can be downloaded at

19 Dec 2012

Smithsonian Releases Catalog of Field Books

Catalog records for thousands of field books from the Smithsonian Institution are now available online.  The Field Book Project makes available details about the collection of biological specimens from 542 collections housed at the Smithsonian Institution.  More than 6,600 field books are included in the project.

In addition to the detailed catalog records, researchers now have access to 927 authority files providing biographical and historical details for the persons, organizations, and expeditions involved in the creation of these field books.  A subset of these records includes digital images of field books for viewing alongside the records.

Access the Field Book Project at

17 Dec 2012

Now in BioScience: The Value of Hidden Scientific Resources

The December 2012 issue of the journal BioScience includes an article entitled “The Value of Hidden Scientific Resources: Preserved Animal Specimens from Private Collections and Small Museums.”  The article highlights the value of small natural history collections in research.  The article is available for free at

13 Dec 2012

NSC Alliance Releases New Resource on Value of Digitization

The Natural Science Collections Alliance has prepared a short report on digitization of natural history collections.  The document outlines the potential uses of digitized data and its value to researchers, students, decision makers, and the public.  Examples are presented of how digitized specimens and their associated data are being put to use.

The following is an excerpt from the paper:

Natural history collections contain a wealth of information about the organisms inhabiting our planet.  The knowl­edge produced from collections fundamentally shapes our understanding of the variety of life on Earth, the ef­fects of climate change on species distributions and extinction risk, and the threat posed by invasive species and pathogens, among many other issues.  With this information, we can advance and support basic science, economy and trade, public health and safety, agriculture, and national security.

This information, however, is often decentralized, shared among a multitude of institutions located around the world, and retrieving the information can be challenging.  This is beginning to change as technological advances revolutionize storage, access, and use of biological collections data.

Download the full document at  Read other papers in NSC Alliance’s series “On the Importance of Scientific Collections” at

12 Dec 2012

New Paper Highlights the Costs of Collecting and Preparing Specimens

A recent publication by the Texas Tech University Natural Science Research Laboratory presents methods for determining the costs of collecting and preparing mammal voucher specimens.  Such information is useful in justifying budget requests from administrators and in formulating policies on specimen usage and replacement, according to the paper’s authors.  At Texas Tech University, the average value for a locally collected specimen was $41 and $74 for a specimen collected abroad.  Costs did range, however, depending on the location of the trip, number of personnel, and number of specimens collected.  The paper can be downloaded for free at

10 Dec 2012

No More Cuts to Research: Join a National Day of Action

People around the country are taking action today to stand up for science. Join the national day of action to voice your support for federal investments in research and science education.

The biological sciences community needs to express its opposition to further cuts to the federal programs that invest in research, support education, and protect natural resources. These programs are essential to ensuring America’s global competitiveness, growing the economy, and addressing pressing social, public health, and environmental issues.

Take action now!

It’s easy to get involved. Send a prewritten letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Call your members of Congress. Send a Tweet to your elected officials.

Under current law, federal programs face devastating across-the-board budget cuts over the next decade. Unless Congress and the President act to prevent further cuts, non-defense discretionary programs, such as the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Department of the Interior, NOAA, and EPA, face mandatory 8.2 percent budget cuts next year, with further cuts over the next decade. Defense, including medical and environmental research supported by the Department of Defense, and security programs would be cut by 9.4 percent in 2013, with additional cuts in the subsequent years.

The net result of sequestration could be the loss of $12 billion in research funding next year; the loss of 31,000 jobs in the life, physical, and social sciences; and delays in the construction and renovation of facilities for research and environmental conservation.

Please join the national day of action.

Need more information? Watch this three-minute video from AIBS that explains the fiscal cliff and how it is likely to impact science. AIBS has also prepared a report about the fiscal cliff and budget sequestration.

03 Dec 2012

House of Representatives Selects New Committee Leadership

House Republicans were busy last week determining who will lead the chamber’s twenty-five committees in the next Congress. Although some chairmen will retain their positions, changes are in store for at least one committee with jurisdiction over science.

Notably, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will have a new leader next year. Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) won a three-way race for the spot that will be vacated by Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), who is facing a term limit as chairman under his party’s rules. Smith currently chairs the Judiciary Committee, but is also facing a term limit. Smith has served on the science panel since he was first elected to Congress in 1986. The committee oversees non-defense federal research and development, including the National Science Foundation.

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