New & Noteworthy

Archive for April, 2015

29 Apr 2015

NSC Alliance Submits Testimony Regarding Interior Collections

In testimony submitted to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, NSC Alliance voiced support for funding for scientific collections at the Department of the Interior. Interior proposes to increase funding by $1.0 million for collections management in fiscal year 2016. Additionally, the U.S. Geological Survey and National Park Service would maintain efforts to make natural history collections and associated data accessible.

Read NSC Alliance’s testimony.

24 Apr 2015

NSC Alliance Member Recognized by National Science Board

The National Science Board will award the American Museum of Natural History with its 2015 Public Service Award. The award honors exemplary public service in promoting public understanding of science and engineering.

“Each year, the American Museum of Natural History shares the excitement and wonder of science with millions of students, teachers, families and other members of the public with its exhibitions and public programs,” said Vint Cerf, chair of the board’s Committee on Honorary Awards. “Additional initiatives of the museum contribute to the teaching and learning of science and the training of the next generation of scientists.”

The American Museum of Natural History is a member of the Natural Science Collections Alliance.

“We live in a time when many of our most pressing problems and opportunities are science based, a time in which scientific advancement and science literacy are essential elements in our nation’s continued leadership and key to a shared global future that is sustainable, responsible and peaceful,” said Ellen V. Futter, president of the museum. “Museums like the American Museum of Natural History have an important role to play in this, and we are honored to be recognized by the National Science Board.”

24 Apr 2015

House Science Committee Advances COMPETES Reauthorization

On 22 April, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee passed a bill along party lines that would reauthorize funding for three federal programs that support basic research. The passage came after lengthy debate of 25 amendments.

“The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act” is sponsored by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), chair of the House Science Committee. HR 1806 would set new two-year funding goals for the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy research programs, and National Institute of Standards and Technology labs, as well as make policy changes within these programs.

Many of the amendments would have removed the most contentious provisions of the bill. Democrats unsuccessfully offered amendments to remove funding specifications for NSF’s research directorates and to increase authorization levels for NSF education programs and operations.

Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY) commented that the bill should be called the “America Concedes Act” instead of the “America COMPETES Act” because the bill would cede the United States’ global leadership in science and technology. Another member, Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) offered the alternate title “America Retreats Act.”

Chairman Smith responded that the legislation supports investments in areas of basic research that advance economic competitiveness. Smith justified the funding levels as necessary to stay within the budget caps mandated by federal law. Members of the minority party responded that the Budget Control Act does not specify cuts to particular federal programs. Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD) said the problem with sequestration is that it is a “sledgehammer, not a surgical knife.”

HR 1806 proposes an authorization level of $7.6 billion for NSF in fiscal years (FY) 2016 and 2017, which is $253 million higher than the agency’s current funding level, but lower than President Obama’s budget request for FY 2016. The bill also specifies funding levels for each of NSF’s directorates. For many years, Congress has not specified this level of detail in NSF’s budget. If enacted, the reauthorization bill would benefit certain research areas—biology, computer science, engineering, and math and physical sciences—at the expense of the social sciences and geosciences.

In addition to the provisions debated during the committee markup, the legislation would make a number of changes to NSF policies. Research funded by NSF would have to be “in the national interest” and public announcement of each award would have to include a written justification. NSF would have to establish new procedures to ensure that research grants do not duplicate science funded by other federal agencies and that the principal investigators who receive multiple awards have sufficient resources to conduct the work. NSF would also have to justify the additional expenses of hiring rotating personnel. Additionally, new restrictions on the use of management fees for large facilities would be implemented.

22 Apr 2015

Enter the Faces of Biology Photo Contest

The 5th Annual Faces of Biology Photo Contest is now open for submissions. The competition, sponsored by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), recognizes scientists who use imagery to communicate aspects of biological research to the public and policymakers.

The theme of the contest is “Faces of Biology.” Photographs entered into the competition must depict a person, such as a scientist, technician, or student, engaging in biological research. The research may occur outside, in a lab, at a natural history collection, at a field station, on a computer, in a classroom, or anywhere else research is done.

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 the journal, and will receive a one year membership in AIBS, including a subscription to BioScience.

The winning photo from the 2014 contest is featured on the cover of the May 2015 issue of BioScience.

Submissions must be received by 11:59:59 p.m. Eastern Time on 30 September 2015.

For more information or to enter the contest, visit

22 Apr 2015

Workshop on Managing Natural History Collections Data

Arizona State University and iDigBio will host a workshop on 15-17 September 2015 on “Managing Natural History Collections Data for Global Discoverability.” The event will take place in Tempe, Arizona. The deadline to apply is 1 May. More information is available at