New & Noteworthy

Archive for January, 2014

27 Jan 2014

Invitation to NSC Alliance Members

A symposium, ‘Collections for the 21st Century,’ sponsored by iDigBio and the NSC Alliance, will be held on May 5-6, 2014, in Gainesville, Florida. It will emphasize the value of collections data in meeting challenges facing biodiversity and human societies. The symposium will feature a full day of talks on May 5 and a half–day of talks on May 6. A workshop or other activities yet to be determined will be held on the afternoon of May 6. We will keep those who register informed of our plans as they develop.

The NSF-funded Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections program has been a tremendous boost to the collections community and will make data available for new and exciting uses in research and education. But, we need to take the initiative and demonstrate ways in which the data are being used now so that scientists and others make use of data as they becomes available, and administrators provide support beyond that provided by NSF. Digitized data are useful only if their value is known.

Registration for the symposium is free, but all travel-related expenses are the responsibility of each participant. Information on accommodations at a discounted rate will be provided when you register. Attendance will be limited to 80 persons so please register soon if you plan to attend. Register online at:

27 Jan 2014

Congress Approves Spending Plan for FY 2014

In mid-January, Congress overwhelmingly approved a $1.012 trillion spending plan to fund the federal government for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2014, which runs through 30 September 2014. The plan (HR 3547) will increase funding by $44 billion above the levels established by a 2011 budget deal.

The law, also called an omnibus, is a package of 12 appropriations bills that collectively fund the entire federal government. This is the first time since 2011 that all 12 bills were enacted; in recent years several sectors of the government have operated under continuing resolutions that maintain the previous year’s budget.

Science agencies did well relative to the FY 2013 post-sequestration levels. Increased funding was provided for:

  • National Science Foundation: $7.2 billion (+4.2 percent)
    • The increase will provide 780 more competitive grants in FY 2014.
  • National Institutes of Health: $29.9 billion (+3.5 percent)
    • NIH could offer funding for 385 additional research grants.
  • Department of Energy Office of Science: $5.1 billion (+9.7 percent)
    • This funding level includes $610 million for biological and environmental research.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $5.3 billion (+10.7 percent)
  • Agricultural Research Service, the intramural research program for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA): $1.1 billion (+10.2 percent)
  • Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, USDA’s extramural competitive grants program: $316.4 million (+14.5 percent)
  • Environmental Protection Agency, Science and Technology: $759.2 million (+1.9 percent)
  • U.S. Geological Survey: $1.0 billion (+2.0 percent)
    • This includes $152.8 million for the Ecosystems Activity.
  • Smithsonian Institution: $805 million (+4.3 percent)

The plan passed with the support of 72 Senators, including all Democrats, both Independents, and 17 Republicans. In the House of Representatives, 367 lawmakers voted in favor of the bill and 67 voted against. All but three of the ‘nay’ votes came from Republicans. President Obama signed the bill into law on 17 January 2014.

23 Jan 2014

NSC Alliance Announces 2013 Accomplishments

In 2013, the NSC Alliance engaged in a number of notable activities to raise the profile of natural history collections with policymakers, researchers, and the general public.  A few highlights are presented below:

  • Sponsored a symposium with iDigBio on digitization and dissemination of natural history data. The event was held at the 2013 Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) annual meeting.
  • Joined with SPNHC and the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) to submit a Research Coordination Network grant to the National Science Foundation. If funded, the grant would enable the three organizations to build a biocollections community that is able to fully implement and achieve the goals of the Network Integrated Biocollections Alliance.
  • Provided testimony to House and Senate Appropriations Committees in support of increased funding for research, curation, and digitization of natural history collections from the National Science Foundation and the Department of the Interior.
  • Sponsored the 5th Annual Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event. Several NSC Alliance member organizations participated.

Read all of NSC Alliance’s accomplishments from 2013.

22 Jan 2014

SPNHC Announces Changes to Newsletter

As of March 2014, the newsletter of the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections will be published in an electronic format. This will bring greater opportunities for advertising, active linking, sharing via social media, and multimedia capabilities. The newsletter will have an e-book format, with the feel of a magazine, but none of the paper waste or associated costs. It will be optimized for mobile devices as well. Access the newsletter at

15 Jan 2014

House Panel Considers Smithsonian’s Research

The House Science Subcommittee on Research and Technology held a hearing on 14 January 2014 on scientific research at the Smithsonian Institution.  The hearing provided the leadership of the Smithsonian an opportunity to showcase its varied scientific research programs.

Six Representatives attended the hearing: Chairman Larry Bucshon (R-IN), Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Robin Kelly (D-IL), Randy Hultgren (R-IL), and Chris Collins (R-NY).

Lawmakers seemed generally supportive of Smithsonian’s work and asked questions about a diverse array of issues, including:

  • The uniqueness of Smithsonian’s research from the scientific work of other federal agencies;
  • Big data and public access to data from federal scientific collections;
  • Preservation of biodiversity through DNA and seed banks;
  • Funding for climate change research;
  • Measuring outcomes of Smithsonian’s science education programs;
  • Partnerships with private entities on science education;
  • Deaccessioning collections in local museums; and
  • The ability of museums across the country to develop new exhibits.

To watch a recording of the hearing, visit