Thank you for your feedback on the listserve and on social media. I want to reassure you that we are looking at our options for a response to the announcement by NSF about suspending the Collections in Support of Biological Research (CSBR) funding program. I reached out to the program officers for clarification and spoke with one of them this morning by phone. I also extended a verbal invitation to join us for the ECN meeting in Orlando (which they have tentatively accepted), and I will follow up with a formal invitation to join us in the coming weeks.
I would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that this is not an uncommon practice at NSF. Programs are regularly suspended for a top-level review of the program, which more often than not is focused on refining the language of the solicitation to better represent the short and long-term goals of the program respective to funding priority changes within NSF. Based on my conversation with one of the program officers, it appears that this decision was largely budgetary and was made well above their level. The recommendation at this point is for ECN and other sister organizations to develop formal responses on behalf of our constituencies (which we will be crafting in the coming days and weeks), but also to mobilize the collections community (researchers, collections staff, everyone) to submit feedback directly by email to [log in to unmask]. We need a tsunami of feedback (constructive feedback only, please) if we want to impress upon NSF how vital this program is and how vital collections are to biological research. The hiatus is temporary for now, but could be permanently shut down or replaced if we do not impress upon NSF at the highest level how important collections are how important this funding is to support collection infrastructure.
It is my understanding that ESA is working on a response, as are we, and I expect SPNHC is as well. Reed admitted that AIBS had also already reached out to them. Please be patient as we gather more information (it's coming very quickly now) so we can formulate the most appropriate response we can to this decision. In the meantime, I am calling for a volunteer to solicit and gather responses quickly from the ECN membership about how this specific funding program has been used at your institution and what the broader impacts of that funding was. Before I craft a letter to send on behalf of ECN, I'd like some more facts and data rather than just angry rhetoric (plenty of that elsewhere here in DC) so I can make the most effective argument I can in the official ECN response. And since I am ineligible for funding through this program and haven’t benefited from it directly, I NEED your input to make the best case I can.
Well before this announcement, the ECN officers were working on a number of things to increase our visibility and improve our capabilities in the area of policy and advocacy. We have been in discussions with the leadership of ESA about how ECN can formally endorse and adopt their position statement on the importance of entomological collections. Since our membership so broadly overlaps with ESA-SysEB and several of us (including me) helped draft it, adoption of an existing position statement seemed the best course rather than reinventing the wheel. Nonetheless, we also recognize there are other areas where ECN may need to draft up its own independent policy and position statements. To that end, we agreed at the last ECN officer meeting that we wanted to empanel our own science policy committee to do just that. We are actively seeking volunteers to serve on that committee to help select topics for development into ECN official position statements. Further, I have been asked by Alma Solis, President of ESA-SysEB, to serve as the rep for the Section on ESA's Science Policy Committee so I will also be aware of current and future position statements by ESA.
I strongly urge each of you to take seriously the opportunity to provide feedback directly to NSF about this program. I also want to thank all of you for what you do to build and protect natural history collections at your respective institutions and for your passion about collections in general!
Floyd W. Shockley, Ph.D., F.R.E.S.
Collections Manager (Acting)
Department of Entomology
National Museum of Natural History
P.O. Box 37012, MRC 165
Washington, DC 20013-7012
Tel (office): 202-633-0982
Fax (office): 202-786-2894
Mobile (personal): 703-789-4924
Staff Website: http://entomology.si.edu/StaffPages/ShockleyF.html