New & Noteworthy

Archive for January, 2020

16 Jan 2020

BCoN Briefs Interagency Working Group on Scientific Collections

On January 16, 2020, Robert Gropp briefed the members of the Federal Interagency Working Group on Scientific Collections about the Extended Specimen Network report and other recent Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN) activities and accomplishments. The NSC Alliance is an active leader of the BCoN effort and played an important role in shaping the Extended Specimen report, a version of which was published in the January issue of BioScience (

The briefing was well received and timely. The Interagency Working Group is in the process of developing a vision for federal collections.

NSC Alliance members and representatives of BCoN also participated in the December 2019 AIBS Council Meeting, Beyond Specimens. A report from this meeting, which will include a number of community-identified priorities is forthcoming. Thus, collections should not lack for attention in the spring of 2020. In addition to the BCoN report, forthcoming AIBS report, and deliberations of the Federal Interagency Working Group, the National Academies is expected to release a report on living and non-living collections in February.

16 Jan 2020

President Nominates New NSF Director

President Donald Trump has announced his intention to nominate Dr. Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan to serve as the next director of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). If confirmed, Dr. Panchanathan would be the agency’s 15th director. He would assume the office following Senate confirmation. He would replace Dr. France Cordova at the end of her term in 2020.

Following the announcement, Dr. Cordova said: “For five years, Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan has been a bold, energizing presence on the National Science Board and he was a leader in every sense of the word in the research community prior to that. I was delighted to learn that the White House named him as nominee to serve as the next director of the National Science Foundation. This position requires the ability to connect with all stakeholders in the U.S. science and engineering community, walking the fine line between serving and leading. Panch has the character and knowledge that make him an ideal fit for the job. As my own term draws to a close, I am heartened at the idea of Panch as my successor.”

Dr. Panchanathan has served as a member of the National Science Board – NSF’s governing body – since 2014. He currently heads the knowledge enterprise development at Arizona State University. In this capacity, he is responsible for advancing research, innovation, strategic partnerships, entrepreneurship, and global and economic development.

Panchanathan is a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), and a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering. He is also the Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and the Society of Optical Engineering (SPIE). He is currently serving as the Chair-Elect in the Council on Research (CoR) within the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). Panchanathan was the editor-in-chief of the IEEE Multimedia Magazine and is also an editor or associate editor of many other journals.

16 Jan 2020

FY 2020 Appropriations Finalized

Just prior to the expiration of the most recent stopgap funding resolution that kept the government running through December 20, 2019, both chambers of Congress passed two bundles of appropriations bills totaling approximately $1.4 trillion. The two compromise packages were signed into law by President Trump on December 20, 2019. As an indication of the compromise nature of the package, groups from the left and right have criticized the final fiscal year (FY) 2020 appropriations package.

Among the compromises are some funding for the border wall and significant new investments in renewable and clean energy research programs at the Department of Energy. These investments have been described by some as a Manhattan Project to find solutions to climate change.

For the National Science Foundation, which was included in the defense and security legislative package, Congress provided nearly $8.278 billion. This is an increase of about 2.5 percent from FY 2019 levels and a 17.2 percent increase from the President’s FY 2020 budget request for the National Science Foundation. The National Institutes of Health will receive an increase of about 6.5 percent, which will result in funding of about $41.8 billion. Within the Department of Commerce, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will receive about $1.034 billion, an increase of just under 5 percent. The Energy Department’s Office of Science will experience an approximate 6.3 percent budget increase, bringing its budget to 7 billion this fiscal year.

The Smithsonian Institution will receive an essentially flat budget of $1.05 billion. The National Museum of Natural History will be funded at $49.8 million in FY 2020, equal to its FY 2019 funding level. The Institute of Museum of Library Services, which was slated for closure in the President’s budget, will grow by 4 percent to $252 million.

Basic science within the Department of Defense will grow by 3 percent to $2.6 billion. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will essentially be flat funded, with an increase of approximately 0.9 percent providing some new funding to grow the programs budget to $3.458 billion. The total budget for NASA will swell by about 5.3 percent to $22.6 billion. NASA’s science directorate will grow to $7.139 billion, an increase of 3.4 percent. NASA STEM Engagement program which was zeroed out in the President’s budget, will be funded at $120 million, $10 million above the FY 2019 level.

Most environmental research programs saw at least modest increases. Doing surprisingly well, the Ecosystems function within the United States Geological Survey will receive about $171 million for FY 2020, which is a bump of approximately 9 percent. Overall, USGS is set for a 9.5 percent increase — placing its budget at $1.271 billion. Overall, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is being trimmed by about 1 percent. Importantly, however, most of the agency’s research programs will receive modest budget increases. The agency’s research office will receive about $590 million, an increase of 4.3 percent from FY 2019 and 76 percent more than the President’s request. For research at the Environmental Protection Agency, Congress has provided funding at 54.7 percent more than the President’s budget request. This increase represents a bump of just under 1.5 percent from the FY 2019 funding level.

Within the United States Department of Agriculture, the National Institute of Food Agriculture will grow to $1.527 billion, an increase of 3.8 percent from the FY 2019 enacted level. The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative will grow by $10 million, bringing its FY 2020 funding to about $425 million. Forest and rangeland research within the US Forest Service will remain essentially flat, with a FY 2020 funding level of approximately $305 million, up from approximately $300 million in FY 2019. The Agricultural Research Service will see its budget trimmed by about 4.5 percent. In FY 2020, it will operate with $1.607 billion.

16 Jan 2020

Now Available: The World’s Herbaria 2019

The latest Index Herbariorum annual report, The World’s Herbaria 2019, is now available along with previous reports from 2016-2019 at

This report provides an annual snapshot of Index Herbariorum data that helps to track any changes in the number of herbaria and their specimens over time. “Participating institutions can use these data to put their own collection in a global perspective and to understand how they contribute to the worldwide effort to document plant and fungal biodiversity,” reads the report.

According to the summary, as of December 15, 2019, there are 3324 active herbaria in the world (229 more than 2018), containing 392,353,689 specimens (4,739,636 more than 2018). Seven herbaria were reported as discontinued in 2019. There are 178 countries with at least one herbarium, same as in 2018 and associated with these herbaria are 12,135 staff members and associates.

16 Jan 2020

Registration Open: 4th Digital Data in Biodiversity Research Conference

Indiana University (IU), iDigBio, and the Natural Science Collections Alliance (NSCA) will hold the 4th annual Digital Data in Biodiversity Research Conference on June 1-3, 2020 at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN.

The theme for the conference is “Harnessing the Data Revolution and Amplifying Collections with Biodiversity Information Science.” Registration is now open and costs $50 for students and $100 for professionals. To register, visit:

For more information about the conference, please bookmark and regularly visit the conference announcement page:

To ensure that you receive regular announcements on the conference email list, please send your email address to Gil Nelson ( or Jill Goodwin ( at iDigBio.