New & Noteworthy



Archive for January, 2019

24 Jan 2019

NSC Alliance 2019 Collections Policy and Advocacy Meeting: Register Now

Registration is now open for the NSC Alliance 2019 membership meeting, Collections Policy and Advocacy. The meeting will be held in Washington, DC, on April 2-3, 2019. Learn more about the meeting, including a draft agenda, and register at http://nscalliance.org/?page_id=1084. All NSC Alliance member institutions are encouraged to participate. In addition to being an opportunity for NSC Alliance members to network and exchange information with each other, this meeting provides a platform for the community to interact with federal program officers and lawmakers. The meeting will explore opportunities for the community to work collectively to promote new investments in natural science collections, and opportunities to inform or reform policies impacting collections. NSC Alliance members are also invited to share information about initiatives or programs at their institutions. Information about submitting an abstract is available on the meeting website.

Questions about the meeting can be directed to Robert Gropp at rgropp@aibs.org or 202-628-1500 x 250.

24 Jan 2019

Costs Mount as Government Shutdown Drags On

As government offices and research facilities across the country remain shuttered and services delayed or interrupted, the partial government shutdown that has resulted in 800,000 federal workers being furloughed or forced to work without pay has accomplished one thing – it has set a new record for how long the President and Congress have failed to govern the country.

The costs associated with the shutdown continue to grow. Beyond the pain inflicted on federal workers, contractors, and grantees, economists now estimate that the shutdown is having real and significant negative effects on Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Kevin Hassett, Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, now estimates that the shutdown will reduce quarterly economic growth by 0.13 percentage point each week. Hassett doubled his forecast after initially underestimating the economic impact of the shutdown. To put things into perspective, the economic growth in the first quarter of 2018 was 2.2 percent. Other economists also predict losses in the first quarter of 2019, including New York Federal Reserve President John Williams, who thinks the shutdown could cut quarterly U.S. economic growth by 1 percentage point. In an interview earlier this week, Hassett conceded that 0.0 first quarter growth is a real possibility. There are also a growing number of warnings of a new recession.

Prior to and subsequent to the shutdown, Congress endeavored to pass appropriations to fund the government. Prior to the beginning of the 116th Congress in January, the House and Senate were poised to pass bipartisan appropriations legislation only to have the effort thwarted by the President who at the eleventh hour said he would veto the measure. Rather than passing the legislation and forcing the President to carry out his veto threat, Congress capitulated. Congressional Republicans allowed the government to shutdown to force a standoff between the President and congressional Democrats at the start of the 116th Congress – a shutdown the President famously announced from the Oval Office that he would own. Upon taking control of the House of Representatives in January, Democrats approved appropriations legislation – the measures previously unanimously approved by the Senate in December, only to have Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) refuse to bring the measure to a vote in the Senate. Senator McConnell is now working on legislation that would fund all agencies in exchange for $5.7 billion in border wall money and other immigration reforms, based on a proposal put forth by the President. The measure, however, includes poison pills ensuring that Democrats will not support the plan. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), however, dismissed the President’s proposal and insists that any negotiations on immigration and border legislation take place only after the government is funded and back to work.

The budget impasse is a threat to science, with shuttered federal agencies unable to award grants until they are funded again. Research conducted by a significant number of federal agencies has also come to a halt or is significantly limited. Currently, the shutdown directly affects the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Institutes of Standards and Technology, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Smithsonian Institution, State Department, Census Bureau, United States Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, among others.

Efforts to highlight the negative impacts on science have sprung up on social media, where stories are being shared at #ScienceNotShutdown and #ShutdownBugsMe (a tag presumably initiated by the Entomological Society of America). NSC Alliance members are encouraged to share your stories with NSC Alliance via these hashtags.

The scientific community is also increasingly warning of the long-term negative effects of the shutdown. On January 18, 2019, the American Institute of Biological Sciences issued a statement warning: “This shutdown is irresponsible and it is doing real harm to people, the economy, and science… It is past time to open the government. Political fights over a wall can be conducted without destroying the morale of public servants, threatening people’s well-being, and damaging the economy. It is reprehensible to demand that federal workers be called to work without pay simply to mask the real negative impacts of this failure to govern.”

On January 23, 2019, the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) – a large coalition of scientific societies and universities that advocates for the National Science Foundation – sent a letter to the President and congressional leaders warning of the effects of the continuing shutdown. The letter urged the President and Congress to promptly fund the government and to provide the National Science Foundation with at least $8.175 billion for fiscal year (FY) 2019.

24 Jan 2019

Opportunity for NSC Alliance Members to Inform Future of Biodiversity Collections Research, Policy, and Education

The Natural Science Collections Alliance is a founding partner organization in the Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN), a National Science Foundation funded Research Coordination Network. A number of representatives of NSC Alliance members recently participated in a BCoN workshop convened on 30 October – 1 November 2018 at Oak Spring Gardens in Upperville, Virginia. The purpose of the workshop was to draft a future-focused vision document for the deployment of data held in U.S. biodiversity collections for research, policy, and education.

BCoN is accepting community feedback on this draft document through 1 February 2019. NSC Alliance members are encouraged to review the document and to provide feedback. The document, supporting materials, and instructions for submitting comments are available at https://bcon.aibs.org/2019/01/16/community-input-requested-extending-u-s-biodiversity-collections-to-address-national-challenges/.

24 Jan 2019

Update on NEON Biorepository Rolling Launch

In August 2018, Arizona State University’s (ASU) Biocollections and Biodiversity Knowledge Integration Center was selected by the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) leadership to be the NEON Biorepository, potentially for the full 30-year duration of the project. More information about the rolling launch of the NEON Biorepository is now available online.

The NEON Biorepository represents a unique collection of biological samples with more than 100,000 samples of 40-45 types collected on an annual basis. These samples are directly tied to the research design and purpose of the NEON project to facilitate long-term ecological monitoring/forecasting on a continental scale. Therefore, the available specimens will be representative of populations and communities and associated with high-resolution environmental data. The samples are expected and need to be used now and very frequently to fulfill their scientific and societal promise.

Researchers interested in using the NEON Biorepository samples are encouraged to reach out to Nico Franz at nico.franz@asu.edu. Additionally, the link below provides answers to several questions about the NEON Biorepository (e.g. location, accessing samples, personnel, etc.), and how it is similar and different from other collections.

https://biokic.asu.edu/blog/neon-biorepository-rolling-launch-update

24 Jan 2019

Participate in 2019 Congressional Visits Day

NSC Alliance members are invited to participate in the 2019 Congressional Visits Day organized by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS). The event will be held on March 27, with supplemental training available on March 25-26.

The event allows you to meet with your members of Congress to help them understand the important role the federal government plays in supporting the biological sciences. Advocate for federal investments in biological sciences research supported by the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies.

Participants will complete a communications and advocacy training program provided by AIBS that prepares them to be effective advocates for their science. AIBS also provides participants with background information and materials, as well as arranges meetings with lawmakers. On March 27, scientists will participate in meetings with their Representative and Senators.

Supplemental training program: In conjunction with the 2019 AIBS Congressional Visits Day, AIBS is offering its highly acclaimed Communications Boot Camp for Scientists. This professional development training course will be offered on March 25-26. All participants who complete the course will receive a certificate of completion indicating that they have successfully completed 12 hours of communications training. This professional development training program provides practical instruction and interactive exercises designed to help scientists (e.g. researchers, graduate students, professionals, educators) translate scientific information for non-technical audiences and to effectively engage with decision-makers and the news media. As affiliate members of AIBS, NSC Alliance members can register for the training at a discounted rate.

Scientists and graduate students who are interested in communicating the importance of federal investments in scientific research and education to lawmakers are encouraged to participate in this important event.

Express your interest in participating in the event by registering. Registration will close on February 8, 2019. Space is limited and it may not be possible to accommodate the participation of all interested individuals.

Register at: https://www.aibs.org/public-policy/congressional_visits_day.html