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 20 Feb 2020

President Proposes Cuts to Science

The White House released the President’s Budget Request for fiscal year (FY) 2021 on February 10, 2020. The budget once again proposes deep cuts to science programs. The $4.8 trillion budget framework calls for cuts to most federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The proposal would provide $1.3 trillion for discretionary programs, including $590 billion for non-defense spending – the source for most scientific research programs. Last year, Congress reached a bipartisan budget deal to raise the overall federal spending caps by $320 billion over FY 2020 and 2021. The agreement set the caps for defense and nondefense discretionary spending in FY 2021 at $741 billion and $635 billion, respectively. While the President’s request of $741 billion for defense spending is in line with the budget deal, the request for nondefense discretionary spending falls $45 billion below the cap.

The Administration has proposed increased investments in technologies that will be “at the forefront of shaping future economies,” including artificial intelligence, quantum information sciences, advanced manufacturing, and biotechnology. The budget describes these technologies as “Industries of the Future.”

Overall federal investments in R&D would decrease by 8.8 percent in FY 2021 to $142.2 billion. Some key items related to science in the budget request include:

  • NSF would receive $7.7 billion, a 6.5 percent cut relative to the FY 2020 enacted level. The Research and Related Activities account within NSF, which includes the Biological Sciences Directorate, would be cut 7.8 percent to $6.2 billion.
  • The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is slated for termination for the fourth year in a row. President Trump has proposed $23 million for its “orderly closure.” Congress provided $252 million (+4 percent) to IMLS in FY 2020.
  • A $12.8 billion (-16 percent) budget is proposed for the Department of the Interior. The National Park Service would be funded at $2.8 billion, 17 percent below FY 2020, with $327 million (-4.4 percent) targeted to natural and cultural resource stewardship. The Bureau of Land Management would be trimmed by more than 10 percent to $1.2 billion, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would receive $1.4 billion (-16 percent). The department’s science agency, the USGS, would see its budget slashed by nearly 24 percent. The Administration has once again proposed restructuring its 7 mission areas into 5 mission areas. Under the proposed structure, the new Ecosystems mission area would receive a nearly 50 percent budget cut. The proposal would terminate the Cooperative Research Units and reduce funding for climate research.
  • NIH’s budget would be slashed by 7.2 percent to $38.7 billion in FY 2021.
  • NOAA’s budget would shrink by 14 percent to $4.6 billion. The Administration has again proposed eliminating the National Sea Grant College Program.
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) would take a 29 percent hit, shrinking its budget to $738 million in FY 2021.
  • EPA is slated for a 26.5 percent budget cut in FY 2021. Overall, the agency would receive $6.6 billion, with $485 million targeted to science and technology (-32 percent).
  • Funding for the Agricultural Research Service within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would be slashed by 12 percent. On the upside, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) would receive a boost of 3 percent, with the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) slated for a 41 percent increase to $600 million.
  • The budget request for Smithsonian Institution has not yet been released.

Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle have rejected the President’s proposal and said that they will adhere to the budget agreement. “We’re going to write our bills according to the agreement that we have with the administration,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also indicated that he would stick with the agreed upon spending caps. “What we will be looking at is trying once again to have a relatively regular appropriations process since we have agreed on what the cap is supposed to be for this year,” said McConnell.

Published on 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 (https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biz140).

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.

Published on 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.

Published on 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.

Published on 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 http://sweetgum.nybg.org/science/ih/annual-report/.

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.

Published on 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: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/4th-annual-digital-data-in-biodiversity-research-conference-tickets-86931098255.

For more information about the conference, please bookmark and regularly visit the conference announcement page: https://www.idigbio.org/content/digital-data-2020-harnessing-data-revolution-and-amplifying-collections-biodiversity.

To ensure that you receive regular announcements on the conference email list, please send your email address to Gil Nelson (gnelson@floridamuseum.ufl.edu) or Jill Goodwin (jvgoodwin@fsu.edu) at iDigBio.

Published on 11 Dec 2019

Action Alert: Ask Congress to Fund Science, Complete FY 2020 Appropriations

Congress has yet to pass legislation providing fiscal year (FY) 2020 funding for science. Government agencies, including the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, have been operating under FY 2019 funding levels since FY 2020 began on October 1, 2019.

More than two months into FY 2020, Congress has passed two continuing resolutions to avert government shutdowns, but this stopgap approach expires on December 20 and stifles the government’s ability to initiate new programs.

NSF is the primary federal funding source for fundamental biological research at our nation’s universities and colleges. The agency provides nearly 69% of funding support for non-medical, fundamental biological and environmental research at academic institutions. Uncertainty in its funding allocations hinders scientific progress.

If funded at $9 billion, NSF can accelerate progress on its 10 Big Ideas, expand support for early career researchers, and create new interdisciplinary research programs. This investment will sustain core research and education programs that are vital to U.S. competitiveness.

Scientists interested in the National Science Foundation (NSF) should consider contacting their U.S. Representative and Senators to ask that they complete work on FY 2020 appropriations bills and provide NSF with $9 billion in FY 2020.

Individuals can send a letter to their members of Congress from the AIBS Legislative Action Center.

Published on 11 Dec 2019

IMLS Seeks Comments on a Proposed Information Collection

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is soliciting public input on a Museums for America grant program, entitled “Museums Empowered: Professional Development and Capacity Building Opportunities for Museums–A Museums for America Special Initiative.”

Museums for America (MFA) grants support efforts that strengthen the ability of museums to serve the public. This is a special MFA initiative with the goal of strengthening the ability of an individual museum to serve its public through professional development activities that cross-cut various departments to generate systemic change within the museum.

Written comments should be submitted on or before January 12, 2020. More information is available at: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2019-11-14/html/2019-24725.htm

Published on 11 Dec 2019

OSTP Requests Input on American Research Environment

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has requested information from the public on the American Research Environment. In a notice published in the Federal Register on November 26, 2019, OSTP has requested input on behalf of the National Science and Technology Council’s (NSTC’s) Joint Committee on the Research Environment (JCORE) on “actions that Federal agencies can take, working in partnership with private industry, academic institutions, and non-profit/philanthropic organizations, to maximize the quality and effectiveness of the American research environment.”

Comments should be submitted on or before 11:59 PM Easter time on December 23, 2019.

Details of the Request for Information and instructions for submitting comments are available at https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2019-11-26/html/2019-25604.htm

Published on 11 Dec 2019

NIH Seeks Input on Proposed Data Management and Sharing Policy

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is seeking public comment on a proposed NIH Policy for Data Management and Sharing and supplemental guidance. According to NIH, the purpose of this draft policy and guidance is “to promote effective and efficient data management and sharing to further NIH’s commitment to making the results and accomplishments of the research it funds and conducts available to the public.” Deadline to submit comments is January 10, 2020. For more information, go to: https://osp.od.nih.gov/scientific-sharing/nih-data-management-and-sharing-activities-related-to-public-access-and-open-science/

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