New & Noteworthy

Archive for April, 2014

30 Apr 2014

NSF Seeks Community Input on Genomes-Phenomes Research Frontiers

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has launched a Wiki to seek community input on the grand challenge of understanding the complex relationship between genomes and phenomes.  The Wiki is intended to facilitate discussion among researchers in diverse disciplines that intersect with biology, such as computation, mathematics, engineering, physics, and chemistry.

The Wiki format encourages open communication, captures new viewpoints, and promotes free exchange of ideas about the bottlenecks that impede progress on the genomes-phenomes grand challenge and approaches or strategies to overcome these challenges. Information provided through the Wiki will help inform BIO’s future research investments and activities relevant to understanding genomes-phenomes relationships.

To provide comments, ask questions and view input from and interact with other community members, first-time users should sign up for an account at  Additional guidance and subsequent visits can be accessed here.

25 Apr 2014

NSC Alliance Member Organizations to Be Honored at White House

On 8 May 2014, three NSC Alliance members will be awarded the nation’s highest honor conferred on museums and libraries for service to the community.  Only five museums and five libraries will be awarded the National Medal for Museum and Library Service this year. Among the 2014 award winners are the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

The award is presented by the Institute for Museum and Library Services.

“Congratulations to the 2014 winners of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. From programs that foster passion for science, literature and cultural heritage, to critical 21st century skills training for improved educational outcomes and workforce readiness, the services and programs of these institutions truly do make a difference,” said Susan H. Hildreth, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. “We thank each of this year’s medal recipients for their innovation and their dedication to serving their communities.”

“Brooklyn Botanic Garden is tremendously honored to receive the 2014 National Medal for Museum and Library Service from IMLS,” said Scot Medbury, president of Brooklyn Botanic Garden. “Winning the medal this year is especially meaningful as BBG celebrates the centennial of its pioneering Children’s Garden.”

Brooklyn Botanic Garden was founded in 1910 as an urban botanic garden.  One hundred years ago, BBG launched the first-ever children’s garden within a public botanic garden, where generations of city children have learned to plant, tend, and harvest their own garden plots.

“For many years, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences has been an invaluable resource to our state’s people,” said U.S. Representative David Price (NC). “It has helped generations of North Carolinians discover not only our state’s unique natural history and unique habitats, but also our shared responsibility to preserve these treasures for future generations.”

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh is the state’s most visited cultural attraction. It is an active research institution that engages visitors of every age and stage of learning in the wonders of science and the natural world, drawing them into the intriguing fields of study that are critical to the future of North Carolina.

“The Sam Noble Museum is proud to be selected for this national honor. We share this award with the people of Oklahoma who made this museum and its programs possible and who continue to support us in every way,” said Michael Mares, museum director and a past president of NSC Alliance.

The Sam Noble Museum was founded in 1899 and is located on the campus of the University of Oklahoma. In 1987, the museum was designated as the state’s natural history museum. The museum houses more than 10 million objects.

21 Apr 2014

Informal Education Research Funding Opportunity

A new funding opportunity is available that will provide up to $14.4 million to support research into how learning happens outside the classroom.  The new program is supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation, UK-based Wellcome Trust, UK Economic and Social Research Council and other collaborators including the MacArthur Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the Noyce Foundation.

Science Learning+ aims to (1) to learn more about, evaluate, and maximize the impact of informal learning experiences, and (2) to improve understanding of how informal environments may help to widen access to STEM for youth from all backgrounds.

Learn more at

17 Apr 2014

NSC Alliance Releases New Resource on Importance of Collections to Wildlife Management

The Natural Science Collections Alliance has prepared a short report on how natural history collections contribute to wildlife management.  “Informing Wildlife Management: Genetics Research Uses Natural History Collections” shows how researchers use genetic information preserved in scientific collections in cutting-edge wildlife research.  Natural history collections are being used to prevent bird strikes with aircraft, better understand population genetics, and potentially revive extinct species.

Download a free copy of the issue brief at  Access other reports in NSC Alliance’s series “On the Importance of Scientific Collections” at

17 Apr 2014

Enter the Faces of Biology Photo Contest

Biological research is transforming our society and the world.  Help the public and policymakers better understand the breadth of biology by entering the Faces of Biology Photo Contest.  The competition is sponsored by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS).

The theme of the contest is “Faces of Biology.”  Photographs entered into the contest must depict a person, such a scientist, technician, or student, engaging in biological research.  The depicted research may occur outside, in a lab, with a natural history collection, on a computer, in a classroom, or elsewhere.

The First Place Winner will have his/her winning photo featured on the cover of BioScience, and will receive $250 and a one year membership in AIBS, including a subscription to BioScience.  The Second and Third Place Winners will have his/her winning photo printed inside BioScience, and will receive a one year membership in AIBS, including a subscription to BioScience.

The contest ends on 30 September 2014 at 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time.

For more information and to enter the contest, visit

15 Apr 2014

OSTP Issues Directives on Scientific Collections

In March 2014, President Obama’s science advisor directed federal agencies to develop policies to improve the management of and access to scientific collections that are owned, directly managed, or financially supported by the federal government.

Notably, agencies are required to improve public access to collections.  Agencies are directed to work with the Smithsonian Institution to ensure that information on the contents of the collection is available in a central online clearinghouse.  Several new directives deal with budgeting for collection care, including outlining procedures for supporting new scientific collections.

Agencies will also be required to describe how they will apply their policy to collections managed by a third party.

In regards to de-accessioning collections, agencies are directed to give preference to transferring collections to other federal agencies or non-federal institutions that will “continue to make the collections and information about the collections accessible for research and education.”  Agencies will have to develop standards for review of the value of a collection to science, education, and resource management.  Prior to de-accession, an agency will have to consult with researchers who have used the collection and external parties interested in using the collection for research, resource management, or education.

The new guidelines were developed by the Interagency Working Group on Scientific Collections.  Agencies will have six months to comply with the new requirements.  The policy only applies to “assets with long-term scientific value,” not “materials assembled specifically for short-term use… and not intended for long-term preservation.”

Congress directed the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in a 2010 law to develop “policies for the management and use of Federal scientific collections to improve the quality, organization, access, including online access, and long-term preservation of such collections for the benefit of the scientific enterprise.”  The memo by Dr. John Holdren fulfills this requirement.

In 2010, Holdren directed federal agencies to budget realistically for proper care of collections, to develop best practices for maintaining and preserving scientific collections, and to make collections more accessible to the public.

15 Apr 2014

Report Analyzes Science Funding in President Obama’s Budget Request

A report from the American Institute of Biological Sciences analyzes funding for biological research in President Obama’s budget request for fiscal year 2015.  Most federal agencies would receive a small budget increase, but less than the rate of inflation, if the spending plan were enacted by Congress. The report provides detailed breakdowns of funding for the National Science Foundation, Smithsonian Institution, and other agencies.  Download a free copy of the AIBS report on science funding in the President’s budget request at

15 Apr 2014

USGS Develops New DNA Tool to Identify Invasive Plants

Researchers at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) have developed a new DNA protocol to distinguish between native and invasive aquatic plant species that have almost identical appearances.  The tool was created using voucher plant specimens.

“When invasive plants appear in a body of water, local people naturally are alarmed” said Nancy Rybicki, a USGS biologist who worked on the team that developed the new testing technique.  “Enormous amounts of money are spent on control.  Some species may look very nearly identical, but they have unique reproductive and growth characteristics.  Identification, the first step for control or eradication, needs to be precise.”

The tool will be used to combat invasive hydrilla in the Potomac River near Washington, DC.

15 Apr 2014

iDigBio User Survey

iDigBio is seeking input from the digitization community, broader collections community, other scientists, stakeholders, and any others interested in iDigBio’s activities.  iDigBio is funded by the National Science Foundation as a national hub to advance digitization of biological collections.  The survey addresses ways users have interacted with iDigBio; views regarding iDigBio’s website, portal, and social media efforts; and thoughts regarding future efforts.

The survey takes 10 to 15 minutes to complete. For your responses to be of greatest value, please respond by 21 April 2014.

Take the survey at:

11 Apr 2014

NSC Alliance Policy Director Testifies Before House Appropriations Panel

On 10 April 2014, the NSC Alliance director of public policy Dr. Robert Gropp was a witness on a panel testifying before the House Subcommittee on Interior and Environment Appropriations.  He testified in his capacity as Chairman of the USGS Coalition, an alliance of organizations united by a commitment to the continued vitality of the United States Geological Survey.  The NSC Alliance is a member of the coalition.  He offered testimony in support of fiscal year 2015 funding for the United States Geological Survey.