About the Natural Science Collections Alliance


The Natural Science Collections Alliance is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit association that supports natural science collections, their human resources, the institutions that house them, and their research activities for the benefit of science and society.

Our members are part of an international community of museums, botanical gardens, herbariums, universities and other institutions that house natural science collections and utilize them in research, exhibitions, academic and informal science education, and outreach activities.

Membership in the NSC Alliance links you to a network of institutions, scientists and other professionals in North America through which you can share news, information and common concerns - and help shape the future of our community.

 


NSC Alliance in the News



Published on 10 Apr 2019

NSC Alliance Urges Senate Appropriators to Support Federal Funding for Collections

The NSC Alliance provided testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee regarding fiscal year (FY) 2020 funding for certain programs that curate natural history collections within the Department of the Interior and Smithsonian Institution.

“Scientific collections are critical infrastructure for our nation’s research enterprise and a national treasure. Research specimens connect us to the past, are used to solve current problems, and are helping to predict threats to human health, methods for ensuring food security, and the impact of future environmental changes. Sustained investments in scientific collections are in our national interest.”

The testimony called for new investments within the Department of the Interior and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.

Read NSCA’s FY 2020 Interior testimony to Senate.

Published on 04 Apr 2019

New Report from BCoN: Extending U.S. Biodiversity Collections to Promote Research and Education

The Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN) has released its new report, Extending U.S. Biodiversity Collections to Promote Research and Education. You are invited to download and share the summary brochure and to review the longer report that provides additional detail about this vision for the future..

An excerpt from the report: “There is an urgent need to build a network of extended specimen data that represents the depth and breadth of the more than one billion biodiversity specimens held in U.S. collections institutions. The Extended Specimen Network (ESN) would include the physical specimen and its associated physical and digital genetic, phenotypic, and environmental data. The network would rely on new data integration mechanisms necessary to link all of the dynamic components together. The ESN will help researchers understand the rules that govern how organisms grow, diversify, and interact with one another, and how environmental change and human activities may affect those rules. As a resource for formal and informal education (including citizen science), the ESN will provide scalable learning opportunities for K–12 and lifelong learning in data literacy as well as the life sciences and humanities.”

Read the report.

Published on 29 Mar 2019

President Trump Proposes Large Budget Cuts for Science

The White House released the President’s Budget Request for fiscal year (FY) 2020 on March 11, 2019, proposing deep cuts to science funding for the third consecutive year. The proposal calls for significant cuts to many federal science agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the Smithsonian Institution.

The $4.7 trillion FY 2020 budget framework includes $1.3 trillion in discretionary spending, of which $543 billion (-5 percent) is for nondefense discretionary spending. Defense spending would receive a 5 percent boost to $750 billion. According to Science Insider, overall federal R&D funding would decrease by 11 percent.

According to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Acting Director Russ Vought, the proposal “embodies fiscal responsibility, and takes aim at Washington’s waste, fraud, and abuse.” The Administration’s key funding priorities include “addressing wasteful Washington spending, strengthening our southern border, promoting a healthy American economy, and maintaining a strong national defense.”

Some key budget items related to science include:
- NSF would receive $7.1 billion in FY 2020, a 12.5 percent cut from the FY 2019 level enacted by Congress.
- The Smithsonian Institution would receive a 6.2 percent budget cut, with the Salaries and Expenses account receiving a boost of $19.3 million.
- The Institute of Museum and Library Services has been proposed for termination for the third year in a row. The budget request would provide $23 million for its “orderly closure.”
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would get $4.5 billion (-17 percent), with funding for “lower priority” NOAA grant and education programs, including the Sea Grant, Coastal Zone Management Grants, and the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, zeroed out.
- A $12.6 billion (-14 percent) budget is proposed for the Department of the Interior. The National Park Service would receive $2.7 billion (-15 percent), with $321.6 million (-4 percent) targeted to natural and cultural resource stewardship. The Bureau of Land Management would be trimmed by 11 percent to $1.2 billion, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would receive $1.3 billion (-16 percent). The Administration requested $983.5 million for USGS, more than 16 percent below FY 2019. Under the request, 7 of the agency’s mission areas will be realigned into 5 mission areas. Under the new structure, the new Ecosystems mission area would receive a nearly 35 percent budget cut. The proposal would also terminate the Biological Survey Unit and Cooperative Research Units and reduce funding for climate research.
- NIH’s budget would be slashed by 13 percent to $34.4 billion.
- The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) would receive only $688 million, a 30 percent cut, in FY 2020.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would see its budget slashed by nearly 31 percent to $6.1 billion. Scientific research at EPA would be reduced by 35 percent.
- Agricultural research is also slated for large cuts. Funding for the Agricultural Research Service within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would be slashed by 26 percent. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) would lose 5 percent. On the upside, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) would receive an infusion of 20 percent to $500 million.

The FY 2020 budget proposal has already largely been dismissed by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and is unlikely to pass as proposed. However, science policy experts warn that given the myriad proposed cuts and realignments, science advocates must offer a spirited and persistent campaign to secure funding.

Describing the President’s budget, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) said, “President Trump has somehow managed to produce a budget request even more untethered from reality than his past two.” She added, “With such misguided priorities, the Trump budget has no chance of garnering the necessary bipartisan support to become law. I am committed to working with my colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans, to write appropriations bills that responsibly fund the government.”

House Interior-EPA Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Betty McCollum (D-MN), called the budget “dead on arrival.” Republican Appropriator Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) said, “In all the years that I’ve been here, there’s never been a president’s budget that has passed as submitted, and I don’t think this will be any different.”

Published on 25 Mar 2019

Registration for Report Release

bconreport2019.pngThe Biodiversity Collections Network is releasing its new report, Extending U.S. Biodiversity Collections to Promote Research and Education. at 9:00 AM EDT on April 4, 2019, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

This National Agenda is a synthesis of scientific community recommendations from workshops and townhall-style discussions convened by the Biodiversity Collections Network and its partners during the past four-years. This report offers a community-inspired shared vision for next generation uses of biodiversity collections that will inspire new research and education, develop new opportunities for public engagement, and provide new data and information to guide commercial interests and public policy decision-making.

Register today!

Published on 15 Mar 2019

NSC Alliance Urges Congress to Support Federal Funding for Collections

The NSC Alliance provided testimony to the House Appropriations Committee regarding fiscal year (FY) 2020 funding for certain programs that curate natural history collections within the Department of the Interior and Smithsonian Institution.

“Scientific collections, and the collections professionals and scientists who make, care for, and study these resources, are a vital component of our nation’s research infrastructure. Whether held at a museum, government managed laboratory or archive, or in a university science department, these scientific resources consist of data (for example, genetic, tissue, organism, and environmental) that are a unique and irreplaceable foundation from which scientists are studying and explaining past and present life on earth. Research results improve human health, enhance food security, and provide monitoring for responses to environmental change and species conservation.”

The testimony called for new investments within the Department of the Interior and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.

Read NSCA’s FY 2020 Interior testimony.

Published on 27 Feb 2019

NSC Alliance Announces New Partnership

The NSC Alliance has just signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Florida (iDigBio) to “promote the sustainable implementation of a national digital data meeting.”

In response to a request from iDigBio in 2018, the NSC Alliance Board of Directors has entered into an agreement that will result in the NSC Alliance becoming a cosponsor of the annual Digital Data in Biodiversity Research Conference beginning this year. Additionally, NSC Alliance and iDigBio will work to secure funds over the next three years to ensure the conference continues after the Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections and iDigBio sunset in their current form.

The NSC Alliance looks forward to working with iDigBio, future conference hosts, the scientific community, and our member institutions to sustain this important scientific program. We hope that you will plan to participate in the 2019 conference this June. The 2019 conference is being held at Yale University from June 10-12. To learn more and register, please visit https://www.idigbio.org/content/save-date-methods-protocols-and-analytical-tools-specimen-based-research-biological-sciences.

Published on 12 Feb 2019

Training Course for Biological Infrastructure Project Leaders

Ecological Society of America’s (ESA) Sustaining Biological Infrastructure (SBI) training initiative is offering a short course, “Strategies for Success: Training for Project Directors”, on June 12-14, 2019 at Yale University, New Haven, CT. The course is co-located with the 3rd Annual Digital Data in Biodiversity Research Conference to be held on June 10-12, 2019 at Yale University.

During the 3-day course, participants will:

- Create a plan to make their project more financially sustainable and successful;
- Learn how to secure funding from private foundations;
- Hone their skills in strategic planning, finances, and communication; and
- Network with colleagues who face similar challenges.

View the course outline.

Registration deadline is May 17, 2019. Learn more and register at https://esa.org/sbi/for-participants/june-2019-course/

Published on 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.

Published on 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.

Published on 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/.

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