New & Noteworthy

Archive for November, 2015

24 Nov 2015

Community Input Sought on Biological Informatics Training Needs

To members of the biocollections community,

The 2015 AIBS Council Meeting, “Addressing Biological Informatics Workforce Needs,” will convene on December 8th. The Council Meeting will consider the role of scientific societies and their journals in establishing training capacity and practice guidelines aimed at preparing the next generation of the scientific workforce to excel in the era of “big and open data.”

I have been asked to participate on behalf of the Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN) in a panel “Lessons from National Data Initiatives on How to Drive Data Integration Forward.” I will report on, “Biological informatics training needs for systematics and digitization.” I want my comments to reflect the community’s needs and am asking for your input. Please consider taking a few minutes to give me some feedback. All contributors will, of course, be credited. Below are the questions I hope can be addressed in the presentation:

  1. What do we need to incorporate in our undergraduate training to prepare undergraduates for graduate work in systematics and biological informatics?
  2. What do we want all biology undergraduates to know about documenting and digitizing biodiversity, biological informatics and big data when they enter the workforce?
  3. What do we need to incorporate in our graduate training to prepare graduate students for careers in systematics and biological informatics?
  4. What is needed to provide career systematists with training in digitization and biological informatics?
  5. How do we educate the existing scientific workforce about documenting and digitizing biodiversity, biodiversity science, data access, centralizing data and relational data sets?

This is an opportunity for the community to ensure that the biological informatics and digitization training continue to thrive in the new data publication environment. Your comments and suggestions have the potential to be incorporated into a consensus statement clarifying the actions needed of federal research agencies and universities, and specifying a role for scientific societies in promoting training and best data practices. Such a document can influence and strengthen the case for new investments in biological informatics training by universities and other bodies at both undergraduate and graduate levels. It could also catalyze the adoption of stronger career incentives for biodiversity and biological informatics specialists.

Please consider sending you thoughts regarding the questions above to I hope to compile all contributions by December 4th, 2015. Thank you for your time.

On behalf of the Biodiversity Collections Network,

Anna K. Monfils

19 Nov 2015

USDA Seeks Input on Agricultural Research Open Access Policy

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking public comment on the development of a policy to increase access to the results of federally-funded agricultural research.

If your organization wishes to provide input, it can do so during one of two live teleconferences or via email.

Teleconference on policy impacts related to scholarly papers
Monday, November 23, 2015
2:00pm EST

Teleconference on policy impacts related to scientific data
Friday, December 4, 2015
2:00pm EST

If you are unable to connect to the conference by computer, you may listen by telephone at 1-877-369-5243.

Written comments must be submitted by December 9, 2015 at

16 Nov 2015

NSC Alliance to Brief Congress in December

The NSC Alliance will convene a science briefing for members of Congress on 14 December 2015. The briefing will showcase how efforts to digitize natural science collections are driving scientific innovation, increasing scientific and public access to collections and specimen-related data, and how digitization initiatives are providing new opportunities to engage the public and increase STEM literacy.

Speakers participating in the briefing are Larry Page, President of NSC Alliance; Barbara Thiers, Vice President of Science, New York Botanical Garden; and Austin Mast, Florida State University and WeDigBio.

Any NSC Alliance members in Washington, DC on December 14th are welcome to attend this briefing, but registration is required. Please contact if you are interested in attending.

The NSC Alliance Board of Directors will meet in Washington, DC on 15 December.

10 Nov 2015

Illinois Legislature Passes Bill that Would Reopen State Museum

On 10 November, the Illinois House of Representatives passed a bill that would require the state government to operate an Illinois State Museum. SB 317 passed the Senate in August.

The bill’s sponsors hope that the legislation will force Governor Bruce Rauner (R) to reopen the museum, which closed its doors to the public at the end of September. The museum was shuttered because of a budget impasse and significant deficits in the state.

The Governor’s office is reviewing the legislation, which passed with enough votes to override a veto. Even if SB 317 becomes law, the Rauner Administration would not be forced to reopen the museum, as the bill does not provide funding to operate the museum.

The museum is at risk of losing its accreditation because of the closure.

“The actions by the Illinois state government that forced the Illinois State Museum system to close to the public left us no choice but to place this museum on probation pending further information from the museum system,” said Burt Logan, who chairs the American Alliance of Museums’ Accreditation Commission.

Earlier this year, the NSC Alliance was among numerous national organizations to urge the Governor to reverse course and keep the museum open.

09 Nov 2015

Budget Deal Will Provide Sequester Reprieve

In early November, lawmakers approved a plan to raise federal budget caps that have been limiting federal spending for three years. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, the last legislative achievement of former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), passed the House of Representatives with the support of all Democrats and 79 Republicans. The Senate approved the legislation with a vote of 64 to 35; all of the dissenting votes were cast by Republican Senators.

The measure will have a large impact on non-defense discretionary spending in the next two years. It eliminates 90 percent of budget cuts that would have occurred in fiscal year 2016 as a result of sequestration; in 2017, 60 percent of cuts will be avoided.

In total, the bill will provide Congress and the President with the authority to allocate an additional $80 billion over two years. The increased authorizations will be equally divided between defense and non-defense programs. The funding will be frontloaded in 2016 as compared to 2017, with an additional $25 billion going to non-defense programs this year and an additional $15 billion in 2017. The deal does not address sequestration in 2018 or beyond.

The new deal is not a guarantee that funding will be increased for research programs, but it provides Congress with greater flexibility to fund national priorities.

The House and Senate are now working to update allocations for the 12 spending bills that collectively fund the federal government. Work on fiscal year 2016 appropriations must be completed by 11 December, when the current funding bill expires.