September 1, 2008

Robert Gropp (left), Mark Henry Sabaj Pérez, Representative Dennis Kucinich (D–OH), and John Sullivan discuss findings from the National Science Foundation–funded All Catfish Species Inventory research project. Photograph: Cristina Sabaj Perez.
On 25 June 2008, the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) held its 14th Annual Capitol Hill science ex­hibition and reception, “The Path to Innovation: Scientific Discovery and Learning.” AIBS and the Natural Science Collections Alliance (NSC Alliance)—an AIBS member society—are active members of CNSF.

CNSF is an alliance of more than 100 organizations united by a concern for the future vitality of the national science, mathematics, and engineering enterprise. The coalition supports the goal of increasing the national investment in the research and education programs of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in response to the unprecedented scientific, technological, and economic opportunities facing the United States.

The 2008 reception drew a large crowd, which included members of Congress and their staffs and a number of top NSF officials, including Director Arden L. Bement Jr., Deputy Director Kathie L. Olsen, and Assistant Director for Biology James Collins.

In addition to cosponsoring the exhibition and reception, AIBS teamed with the NSC Alliance to sponsor an exhibit. The AIBS–NSC Alliance exhibit showcased the vitally important role the NSF Biological Sciences Directorate plays in supporting natural science collections–based research and fundamental bio­diversity research. The exhibit, presented by John Sullivan and Mark Henry Sabaj Pérez from the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, showcased the NSF-funded All Catfish Species Inventory (ACSI). The ACSI research effort also includes principal investigators at the University of Florida, Auburn University, and Cornell University. The $4.68 million effort has involved 422 participants in 53 countries.

The ACSI research is one of seven large-scale projects funded by the NSF’s Planetary Biodiversity Inventories Program, which seeks to empower international teams of scientists and institutions to assemble a comprehensive framework for understanding Earth’s biodiversity through worldwide, species-level inventories of major groups of organisms.

Before the exhibit and reception, Sullivan and Perez met with staff from the offices of Senator Bob Casey (D–PA) and Representative Robert Brady (D–PA). These meetings, arranged by the AIBS Public Policy Office, allowed congressional staff to learn about NSF–funded research being conducted in their state. The meetings were also an important opportunity to remind members of Congress that the NSF is centrally important to the nation’s biological research enterprise—providing more than 65 percent of the federal funding for fundamental environmental biology research.

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