New & Noteworthy



Archive for December, 2017

22 Dec 2017

2017 Year in Review

In 2017, the NSC Alliance engaged in a number of notable activities to raise the profile of natural history collections with policymakers, researchers, and the general public. A few highlights are presented below:

  • Helped secure a 3 percent funding increase for the Smithsonian Institution in fiscal year 2017 and prevented large cuts to the budgets for the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies that support natural history collections.
  • Worked with other museum supporting organizations and museums to defeat a Trump Administration proposal to eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
  • Intervened when the University of Louisiana Monroe planned to dispose of its natural history collections. NSC Alliance’s involvement helped garner media attention and encouraged the university to facilitate transfer of the collection to other organizations.
  • NSC Alliance President Joseph Cook and Board member Scott Edwards organized the inaugural PFRB Symposium for 40 postdocs. The symposium highlighted new research uses of collections and provided an overview of opportunities in collections-based employment. The symposium was followed by a smaller BCoN workshop aimed at identifying new directions and opportunities for museums in the near future.

Read the full summary.

14 Dec 2017

Congress Reaches Deal on Tax Reform

On December 13, leaders in Congress announced that they had reached a final deal regarding tax reform legislation. The compromise is reportedly more similar to the bill passed by the Senate than the legislation crafted by the House.

Notably, the compromise purportedly retains the existing tax break for charitable deductions. However, since the standard deduction will be raised to $24,000 for couples and $12,000 for individuals, millions fewer taxpayers will be able to claim the deduction. Some non-profits have raised concerns about impacts to future charitable giving.

Another provision that would have taxed tuition waivers for graduate students does not appear in the final bill.

Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX) and thirty other lawmakers had sent a letter to House leadership urging them to keep existing tax policies in place regarding tuition waivers for graduate students.

The tax reform bill passed by the House of Representatives, H.R. 1, would have increased taxes for many graduate students because tuition waivers would be taxed as income, even though students do not directly receive the money.

As the letter from lawmakers points out, 57 percent of waiver recipients are graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and math.

“A repeal of the income exclusion for graduate tuition waivers would harm our nation’s students, undermine our competitive position, and hold back economic growth,” states the letter. “We strongly urge you to ensure that this harmful provision is not in the final version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.”

The compromise legislation must pass the Senate and House of Representatives before going to the President’s desk for a signature.

11 Dec 2017

Arctic Public Programming Internships

Free this spring or summer? Intern at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) and join a team of passionate ocean educators and scientists to design and host public programs that expand the themes of the museum’s Narwhal: Revealing an Arctic Legend temporary exhibit to different audiences including adults, families, and teens.

Interns will work on programs such as live feeds to research vessels, Scientist is In programs, a teen climate Earth Optimism event, and film screenings. They will help with program evaluation and visitor observations, help improve volunteer-facilitated carts, conduct science content research, conduct scientist interviews, facilitate programs, and assist with program implementation and marketing.
Undergraduate students with a background and interest in science (course work, field work, other) and an interest in science communication and/or teaching are encouraged to apply. The time commitment is 40 hours a week. To maximize the project learning outcomes, applicants should have the following qualifications:

  • Ability to cooperate as part of a collective team, while also working independently to reach team goals.
  • Self-starter with passion and the ability to plan, organize and establish priorities to meet goals and achieve results according to a timeline with set deadlines.
  • Proficient in using Microsoft Word and Excel.
  • Able to speak and effectively communicate information to a group.

TIME COMMITMENT: 40 hours per week

STIPEND: $4,900 per internship

LEARNING OBJECTIVES: Interns will learn techniques for how to use objects to engage visitors and methods for engaging visitors in interactive dialogue; effective strategies for communicating about climate change; how to plan and implement science education programs and events; how to use visitor and volunteer feedback to meet visitor needs; how to work with a range of collaborators such as educators, volunteers, and scientists; and gain knowledge about narwhal, the Arctic, how science works, and climate change.

TIME FRAME: There are two internships available:
Spring 2018 – Three months from approximately April 2018 to June 2018
Summer 2018 – Three months from approximately June 2018 thru August 2018

TO APPLY: Please send a resume and a cover letter explaining your interests, qualifications, and what you hope to get out of such an internship to Jennifer Collins at CollinsJE@si.edu by Friday January 5, 2018.