New & Noteworthy

Archive for March, 2014

31 Mar 2014

NSC Alliance Testimony Supports Increased Funding for NSF

The Natural Science Collections Alliance submitted testimony to Congress in favor of increased funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF).  The requested $7.5 billion would restore proposed cuts to research funding and enable continued investments in natural history collections.

NSF requested $7.255 billion in fiscal year 2015.  At this level, biological research funding would be cut by $12.75 million, although significant new investments would be made in science education.

Congress is currently considering funding levels for the next fiscal year, which will start on 1 October 2014.

Click here to read the NSC Alliance testimony.

18 Mar 2014

NSC Alliance and iDigBio Cosponsor Symposium on 21st Century Collections

The Natural Science Collections Alliance and iDigBio will hold an important symposium on the future of collections this May.  NSC Alliance members are encouraged to participate in “Collections for the 21st Century” at the University of Florida on May 5-6.

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections Program (ADBC) is in its third year.  The primary goal of this wide-reaching program is to create online access to data from all of our nation’s natural history collections through the portal at iDigBio (, where data are available for more than 11,000,000 specimen records and the number is increasing weekly.

This massive amount of data provides new opportunities for previously intractable research requiring large amounts of spatial and temporal data, provides new information for educational and outreach initiatives and — importantly — provides opportunities to demonstrate the extraordinary value of our natural history collections.

To review how we can maximize the value of this national effort, a symposium, Collections for the 21st Century, sponsored by iDigBio and the Natural Science Collections Alliance will be held on May 5-6, 2014 at the University of Florida.  This important program will emphasize the value of collections and address questions relevant to the national digitization effort, such as:

  • What data are available or could be made available?
  • How are the data being used?  What research questions can we address?
  • Have we demonstrated the power of collections data to answer big-science questions?
  • How can the data improve our institutions’ educational and outreach activities?
  • How do we translate our accomplishments into more public and private support for our collections?

The symposium will feature a full day of talks on May 5 and a half–day of talks on May 6.  The draft agenda is available online at  Field trips to nearby natural areas will be held on the afternoon of May 6 for those who are interested, as will opportunities to work in collections or tour the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Registration for the symposium is free, but 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:

Please share this email with colleagues whom you think may be interested in attending.

12 Mar 2014

Smithsonian Institution Selects 13th Secretary

On March 10, 2014 the Smithsonian Institution selected Dr. David J. Skorton to be the 13th Secretary of the Smithsonian. Skorton will succeed the retiring G. Wayne Clough. Similar to Clough, who was president of the Georgia Institute of Technology, Skorton spent nearly eleven years as a college president, first at the University of Iowa and later at Cornell University. Skorton is a board-certified cardiologist, and will be the first physician to lead the institution.

“Becoming a part of the Smithsonian is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lead an institution that is at the heart of the country’s cultural, artistic, historical and scientific life,” Skorton said.

Clough will retire at the end of 2014.  Skorton will assume the position in July 2015.

10 Mar 2014

NSF Budget Proposal Would Boost Education, Operations Funding But Cut BIO

President Obama’s budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2015 requests $7.255 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF).  This is a proposed increase of $83.1 million, or 1.2 percent over the FY 2014 appropriation.

The proposed funding increase would be directed to education activities and for agency operations.  Each of these budget accounts would increase by about $40 million, resulting in a 5.1 percent increase for Education and Human Resources and a 13.5 percent increase for Agency Operations and Award Management.  Funding for the Research and Related Activities account, which includes funding for the various disciplinary directorates, would be cut by $1.5 million for a total of $5.8 billion.  The agency’s funding rate for grants is expected to remain at 22 percent.   Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction would also remain essentially flat; $96.0 million is proposed for the continued construction of the National Ecological Observatory Network.

The proposed $12.8 million reduction for Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO) is the largest cut among all of NSF’s directorates.  Two other directorates are facing cuts on the order of 0.1 to 0.3 percent.  Three directorates would receive increases of 0.1 to 6.0 percent.  BIO provides about 66 percent of federal funding for non-medical, basic life sciences research, including environmental biology, at academic institutions.

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06 Mar 2014

A Preliminary Look at the President’s FY 2015 Budget Request for Research and Development

President Obama released his proposed budget for fiscal year (FY) 2015 on 4 March 2014.  The new fiscal year begins on 1 October 2014.  The plan would provide $1.014 trillion for discretionary spending, the same level agreed to in the December 2013 Ryan-Murray budget accord.

Most federal science agencies would receive a small budget increase if President Obama’s request for fiscal year (FY) 2015 were enacted.  The administration proposes $135.4 billion for federal research and development, an increase of 1.2 percent relative to the FY 2014 enacted level.  This is less than the anticipated 1.7 percent increase in inflation, but higher than 0.2 percent increase proposed overall for discretionary spending.

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