New & Noteworthy



Archive for August, 2016

22 Aug 2016

New NSC Alliance Member

The Entomological Collections Network is the newest member of NSC Alliance. The group is dedicated to the promotion of entomological science through the preservation, management, use and development of entomological collections and taxonomy.

20 Aug 2016

Over 50 Leading Organizations Call on Presidential Candidates to Address Major Issues in Science, Engineering

A coalition of fifty-six leading U.S. nonpartisan organizations, representing more than 10 million scientists and engineers, are calling on U.S. Presidential candidates to address a set of twenty major issues in science, engineering, health and the environment, and encouraging journalists and voters to press the candidates on them during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election season.

“Taken collectively, these twenty issues have at least as profound an impact on voters’ lives as those more frequently covered by journalists, including candidates’ views on economic policy, foreign policy, and faith and values,” said ScienceDebate.org chair Shawn Otto, organizer of the effort.

The group crowd sourced and refined hundreds of suggestions, then submitted “the 20 most important, most immediate questions” to the Presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Gary Johnson, “along with an invitation to the candidates to answer them in writing and to discuss them on television,” said Otto. The questions and answers will be widely distributed to the science community, journalists, and the general public to help voters make well-informed decisions at the ballot box this November.

The list of organizations is a who’s who of the American science enterprise.

“Science saves lives and improves our quality of life. The federal government provides almost half of the funding for basic research in the United States. This research is the foundation upon which society - from small start-ups to Fortune 500 companies - develops new products that improve human health, secures our food supplies, and solves complex environmental problems,” said Robert Gropp, interim co-executive director of the American Institute of Biological Sciences. “Just think of the benefits we have derived from the government’s support of the Human Genome Project. Scientists now have a base of knowledge they can use to more strategically and precisely study diseases and explore new treatments. The public deserves to know the candidates’ positions on science.”

“Sometimes politicians think science issues are limited to simply things like the budget for NASA or NIH, and they fail to realize that a President’s attitude toward and decisions about science and research affect the public wellbeing, from the growth of our economy, to education, to public health. Voters should have a chance to know where the Presidential candidates stand,” said Rush Holt, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “We want journalists and voters to ask these questions insistently of the candidates and their campaign staff.”

Norm Augustine, U.S. aerospace industry CEO and former Under Secretary of the Army: “The solution to many of the greatest challenges faced by our nation will depend to a large degree upon advancements in the fields of science and engineering. Such challenges include conquering diseases, creating jobs, developing clean energy, providing adequate water supplies, and defending our nation from terrorists and foreign aggressor nations. It is difficult to imagine how any citizen can intelligently cast their ballot without knowing where each candidate stands on the policy issues that will define whether America remains a leader or becomes a follower in the critical fields of science and engineering.”

“Informing citizens about the health of the nation and discussing pivotal science and policy issues such as mental health, chronic and emerging diseases and other public health threats, and vaccine research, are important to not only advance the national dialogue but also improve the country’s overall well-being,” said Victor J. Dzau, President of the National Academy of Medicine.

The candidates have yet to respond to the questions.

Nonpartisan organizations participating in the effort include:

**ScienceDebate.org
*American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Association of Geographers
*American Chemical Society
American Fisheries Society
American Geophysical Union
*American Geosciences Institute
*American Institute of Biological Sciences
American Institute of Professional Geologists
American Rock Mechanics Association
American Society for Engineering Education
American Society of Agronomy
American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
American Society of Mammalogists
American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering
Association for Women in Geosciences
Association of Ecosystem Research Centers
Automation Federation
*Biophysical Society
Botanical Society of America
Carnegie Institution for Science
Conservation Lands Foundation
Crop Science Society of America
Duke University
Ecological Society of America
Geological Society of America
*IEEE-USA
International Committee Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies
Materials Research Society
NACE International, The Worldwide Corrosion Authority
*National Academy of Engineering
*National Academy of Medicine
*National Academy of Sciences
National Cave and Karst Research Institute
*National Center for Science Education
National Ground Water Association
Natural Science Collections Alliance
Northeastern University
Organization of Biological Field Stations
Paleontological Society
*Research!America
Scientific American magazine
Seismological Society of America
*Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society
Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections
Society of Fire Protection Engineers
Society of Wetland Scientists
Society of Women Engineers
Soil Science Society of America
SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Tufts University
*Union of Concerned Scientists
University City Science Center
*U.S. Council on Competitiveness
The Wildlife Society
World Endometriosis Research Foundation America

*Codeveloper of the questions
**Lead partner organization

The consortium’s list of 20 questions are available online at ScienceDebate.org/20qs.

17 Aug 2016

News Coverage of Previously Unknown Dolphin Species

As reported by The Washington Post, a new species of dolphin was discovered within the Smithsonian’s collections. “It happens more often than you’d think: Research scientists go digging around the dusty collections of your local natural history museum and find species hitherto unknown to science. Whatever sits on display when you visit—ancient human art, towering dinosaurs, slightly off-putting taxidermy—is just the tip of the iceberg.” Read the full article at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2016/08/17/new-species-of-dolphin-discovered-in-the-halls-of-the-smithsonian/.

17 Aug 2016

The Importance of Entomological Collections

According to a position statement issued by the Entomological Society of America, entomological collections and the staff that maintain them are “an irreplaceable historical reference” and are “of vital importance to current and future life scientists.” The statement, issued in January 2016, calls for the protection of “these irreplaceable resources, upon which the bulk of our scientific knowledge relies.”

Approximately 500 million entomological collections are preserved in the United States and Canada. Such specimens allow rapid identification of invasive pests, are used in research, and aid biodiversity conservation efforts.

“Despite these many contributions, funding cuts, collections staff reductions, and insufficient training of future taxonomists endanger both collections and the expertise required to care for and use them… The unfortunate results of this system-wide attrition of staff are reduced access for research, longer loan processing times, delayed response to inquiries, loss of diagnostic services, and closing of selected parts or entire collections when no staff are available to support them.”

Read the full statement.

15 Aug 2016

Save the Date: Inaugural Digital Data in Biodiversity Research Conference

iDigBio, the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the University of Michigan Herbarium are pleased to announce the inaugural Digital Data in Biodiversity Research Conference, to be held in Ann Arbor, MI, 5-6 June 2017.

The rapid mobilization of digitized biodiversity data, led largely in the United States by the National Science Foundation’s Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections program, has resulted in a substantial increase in available data for research and related activities. This conference will encompass the uses of digitized data across all biodiversity disciplines, with special emphasis on digitized specimen data and the potential for “big data” analytics in organismal biology.

A full conference description and call for papers are in process and will be released in late autumn. Please save the date and watch for further announcements on the iDigBio website (http://www.idigbio.org). This conference will provide an important opportunity to explore digital data tools, techniques, discoveries, and outcomes across the biodiversity sciences.

For further information or to ensure that you are on the email list, please contact Gil Nelson at iDigBio (gnelson@bio.fsu.edu).

15 Aug 2016

Students Can Contribute Species Content to the Encyclopedia of Life

The Encyclopedia of Life is encouraging professors to include undergraduate and graduate students in creating content for the website. The Encyclopedia of Life is a global collaboration among scientists and the general public to make authoritative information and literature about all 1.9 million named species freely accessible online.

Undergraduate and graduate students can contribute to the Encyclopedia of Life in the following ways:

  • Summarize species information in an overview suitable for the general public (Brief Summary; 300-400 words +/-)
  • Write a more comprehensive species account (Comprehensive Description; 500-700 words +/-)
  • Write about an individual topic such as general ecology (Please see Writing Content for EOL Chapters for more information: http://eol.org/info/writing_eol_chapters)

Instructors are responsible for reviewing and vetting student work. The EOL Learning + Education team can help facilitate the upload of reviewed information to the Encyclopedia of Life.

The benefits of this activity for students include an opportunity to research and synthesize information to communicate science to the general public. Students, instructors and institutions receive attribution and recognition on the Encyclopedia of Life.

If interested, please contact Tracy Barbaro: tbarbaro@eol.org.

05 Aug 2016

Smithsonian, IMLS Funding Bills Advancing in Congress

The Smithsonian Institution is among a handful of agencies that could receive a funding increase in fiscal year 2017, which starts on October 1, 2016. The House of Representatives passed legislation to fund the institution’s operations at $696.1 million, an increase of $16.4 million.

In the committee report accompanying H.R. 5538, lawmakers called out the “longstanding commitment to the preservation of priceless, irreplaceable Smithsonian Institution collections…The Committee is pleased by continuing efforts to improve the long-term inventory, preservation, and storage of historical collections.” The bill provides $1.5 million in new funding to address collections management deficiencies identified by the Smithsonian’s Inspector General.

It is unclear if new funding requested for digitization of collections and hiring additional curators was funded. Given that the House legislation provided $46.7 million less than President Obama requested for Smithsonian, some new initiatives will not be funded this year.

The Senate version of the bill passed the Senate Appropriations Committee in June. It would provide an even larger increase than the House bill for Smithsonian’s operating expenses and salaries (+$22.0 million). Within this amount, lawmakers say is enough funding to support the additional collections staff hired in fiscal year 2016.

The House and Senate are both considering legislation to fund the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) in fiscal year 2017. The House bill would flat fund IMLS as well as all museum related programs within the agency. Conversely, the Senate proposes a $1 million increase for IMLS and an additional $1.4 for the National Leadership Grants for Museums program, which supports collections stewardship, and informal education. This increase would be partly paid for by a $0.8 million cut to the Museums for America program, which similar work as the leadership grants, but in smaller amounts.