New & Noteworthy



Archive for March, 2013

26 Mar 2013

Advances in Computational Research Transform Scientific Process and Discovery

The National Science Foundation is highlighting some of the research advances that have been made possible because of supercomputing.  From better prediction of earthquakes to describing the minute details of proteins, supercomputers are enabling researchers to push the boundaries of scientific knowledge.

“Science is now investing in these super computers, and they are where many new scientific discoveries are being made,” said Michael Wiltberger, who studies space weather at the high altitude observatory of the National Science Foundation.  “These computers are moving science out of the ivory tower and out into the real world, where it can have a direct impact on peoples’ lives.”

Read more at http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=127385&WT.mc_id=USNSF_51&WT.mc_ev=click.

26 Mar 2013

Congress Passes Budget Plans for 2014

Even though President Obama has yet to release his budget plan for fiscal year (FY) 2014, both chambers of Congress have pressed ahead with their planning. Last week, the House and Senate each passed a budget resolution for FY 2014.

Although a budget resolution is not binding, it does provide a target for total spending for the federal government for the upcoming fiscal year. FY 2014 starts on 1 October 2013. Both plans set the same legally required discretionary spending limit of $966 billion for FY 2014. Discretionary programs include defense, education, science, environmental conservation, housing, foreign affairs, and other programs.

Although the House and Senate plans share the same top line budget number for next year, they offer different spending limits for future years and address sequestration and deficit reduction differently.

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26 Mar 2013

Congress Maintains Spending Cuts in FY 2013 Appropriations

Lawmakers have avoided a government shutdown with passage of a Continuing Resolution for fiscal year (FY) 2013. The legislation, H.R. 933, will fund the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends on 30 September 2013. The House and Senate have passed the bill with bipartisan support, and it has been sent to President Obama for his signature.

Since the legislation maintains the $85 billion sequestration cuts, the net impact for most federal agencies is a budget decrease.

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21 Mar 2013

NSC Alliance Asks Congress to Sustain Funding for NSF

The NSC Alliance submitted testimony to the House of Representatives in favor of sustained funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in fiscal year 2014.

“The progress of basic scientific research requires a steady federal investment,” stated the testimony authored by NSC Alliance President Larry Page.  “Unpredictable swings in federal funding can disrupt research programs, create uncertainty in the research community, and impede the development of solutions to the nation’s most pressing problems.”

The testimony also highlighted the value of NSF’s support for digitization of scientific collections, biodiversity research, and informal science education.

The request was sent to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, which has jurisdiction over funding for NSF and other federal agencies.

Click here to read NSC Alliance’s testimony

15 Mar 2013

NSC Alliance and iDigBio Sponsor Symposium at 2013 SPNHC Meetings

On Thursday, 20 June 2013, NSC Alliance and iDigBio will sponsor a symposium on digitization and dissemination of natural history data.  The symposium is broken out into two sessions.  The morning program will be an introduction to digitization and dissemination of data and will focus on iDigBio and other initiatives.  The afternoon session will focus on diverse uses of natural history collections data.

For more information about the symposium, the SPNHC meetings, or to register for the conference, please visit http://cfrspnhc2013.com/idigbio-and-nsca-symposium.html.

15 Mar 2013

Conference to Consider ‘De-Extinction’ of Lost Species

The potential of reviving extinct species and re-introducing them into the wild may seem like something out of the movie “Jurassic Park,” but some scientists and environmentalists are engaged in an effort to do just that.

The topic of ‘de-extinction’ will be considered in a daylong public forum to be held on 15 March 2013 in Washington, DC.

One of the speakers, Ben Novak of the University of California, Santa Cruz, has been working to extract DNA from specimens of passenger pigeons in the hopes of recreating a species that has been extinct for a century.

Other presenters will address the methods to resurrect species and the ethics of such activities.

The event will be webcast live at http://longnow.org/revive/tedxdeextinction/webcast/.

15 Mar 2013

Upcoming NAGPRA Events

The National Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Program will hold a webinar on 2 April 2013 on identification of aboriginal lands.  Under federal law, museums and federal agency officials must consult with Indian tribes from whose aboriginal land human remains and other cultural items were removed.  Register for the event at https://www.livemeeting.com/lrs/8000963084/Registration.aspx?pageName=7111×2nwqg6m8c0w.

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act Review Committee will meet on 22 May 2013 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm EDT.  Members of the public are welcome to join the conference call.  Those wishing to present public comment must register for the meeting and sign up to speak. To register for the meeting, please send an email to NAGPRA@rap.midco.net by 17 May 2013.

14 Mar 2013

Sequestration Cuts Take Effect

On 1 March 2013, federal budget cuts that — according to the White House and members of Congress — were not meant to happen, began.  Sequestration — $85 billion in across-the-board budget cuts to nearly all federal agencies — was meant as a threat to force congressional action to reduce the federal budget deficit.  For a year and half, lawmakers have bemoaned how terrible the impacts of sequestration would be.  Yet, as the deadline approached for action, little effort was made to further delay or avert the spending reductions, which some have compared to using a meat cleaver instead of a scalpel to cut spending.

Non-defense programs, including agencies that support science, will be cut by about 9 percent over the next seven months.  Defense funding will be cut by 13 percent in the remainder of fiscal year 2013.  An additional $700 billion in sequestration cuts will occur over the next decade unless current law is changed.

The White House Office of Management and Budget has estimated the impacts of sequestration to federal programs.

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14 Mar 2013

NSC Alliance Board Meeting to be Held in June

The next meeting of the NSC Alliance Board of Directors will be held on Wednesday, 19 June 2013 from 10 a.m. to noon (Mountain Time) in Rapid City, South Dakota at the 2013 annual meeting of the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC).  The board meeting is the day before the NSC Alliance - iDigBio sponsored symposium on digitization and dissemination of natural history data.  For more information on the symposium, please see http://cfrspnhc2013.com/idigbio-and-nsca-symposium.html.  This link also provides information about the SPNCH meeting and registering for the meeting.

04 Mar 2013

Scientists Call for Greater Access to Biodiversity Resources, Data

A new report calls for the creation of a Network Integrated Biocollections Alliance to increase research productivity, solve societal problems, and drive innovation.  The report was the outcome of a workshop of experts that was convened last fall to outline the steps needed to build a Network Integrated Biocollections Alliance (NIBA) in the next ten years. NIBA is a national scientific, engineering, and data management initiative first called for in 2010. When built, NIBA will provide online access to digitized data for biological specimens held in natural history museums, university science departments, and government laboratories, among other repositories.

The experts’ workshop was convened by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) with support from the National Science Foundation.

NIBA is a coordinated, large-scale and sustained effort to digitize the nation’s biological collections in order to make their data and images available through the Internet. The Implementation Plan for a Network Integrated Biocollections Alliance (http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/biocollections.html) “provides a detailed roadmap to achieve a vital national goal, which will be extremely important in coping with consequences of climate change, invasive species, pollution and other major environmental problems,” said Dr. James Hanken, director of Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology and an author of the report.

In 2010, the scientific community developed a Strategic Plan for NIBA. The Strategic Plan has been well received, but the scientific community also recognized a need to augment the Strategic Plan by identifying the key steps, milestones, and stakeholders required to fully achieve its goals. Thus, AIBS convened a workshop to develop an Implementation Plan for NIBA. Both documents have emerged from the biocollections community and have been widely informed through workshops of experts. The broader scientific community and the public have also provided input that informed the final Implementation Plan.

“Scientists are eager to see the NIBA implemented,” said Dr. Lucinda McDade, Interim Executive Director of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden and an author of the report. Hanken concurs and notes that NIBA is required to help move research forward and to ensure that policymakers and the public have access to the information they need to make informed decisions.

“This report strongly emphasizes research applications while also highlighting important educational components and focusing on workforce training that will be necessary to achieve and sustain NIBA,” said McDade.

The National Science Foundation already is showing earnest commitment to achieving many of the goals identified in the report through several current funding initiatives, notes Hanken. “Full implementation of NIBA will require additional investments by other federal and state agencies that hold major biocollections.”

The report identifies many specific activities that can and should be led by individual scientific societies, biocollections institutions, federal and state agencies, colleges and universities, and other consumers of digitized data.

The Implementation Plan includes detailed recommendations to:

  1. Establish an organizational and governance structure that will provide the national leadership and decision-making mechanism required to implement NIBA and to fully realize its Strategic Plan.
  2. Advance engineering of the US biocollections cyberinfrastructure.
  3. Enhance the training of existing collections staff and to create the next generation of biodiversity information managers.
  4. Increase support for and participation in NIBA by the research community and a broad spectrum of stakeholders.
  5. Establish an enduring and sustainable knowledge base.
  6. Infuse specimen-based learning and exploration into formal and informal education.

“We urge all stakeholders to join the NIBA effort,” said McDade.

The Strategic Plan for NIBA is at http://digbiocol.wordpress.com/brochure/.

The Implementation Plan for NIBA is at http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/biocollections.html.