Forty-three scientific societies, including the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), have written to the National Science Foundation (NSF) to highlight the important role scientific associations have played during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our societies engage in an array of activities, consistent with the goals laid out in the National Science Board’s Vision 2030,” the groups note. “As a key component of the science and engineering ecosystem, we are in a position to provide our expertise and efforts to reach broad segments of the scientific community in ways that other institutions cannot.”
The letter lists crucial activities scientific organizations, including AIBS, have engaged in during the pandemic. Important AIBS work highlighted include:
- AIBS launched “Building More Resilient Societies and Organizations.” A discussion series where leaders from 130 scientific societies and related organizations share resources and identify strategies for tackling issues such as racism and bias in science, building more financially resilient scientific professional associations, and opportunities to deploy new communication tools to foster scientific engagement among scientists from different fields and regions.
- AIBS partnered with the Natural Science Collections Alliance and the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections to conduct a series of surveys to identify the financial and human resource impacts of COVID-19 related disruptions on the scientific and educational programs of natural history museums, university natural science collections, botanical gardens, herbaria, tissue collections, living collections, and other related scientific infrastructure.
- AIBS is actively researching gender bias in grant peer review. Findings from this work will inform the development of best practices for increasing equity in the grant peer review processes used by funding organizations and agencies.
Furthermore, the signatories call on NSF to continue to support the valuable programming provided by scientific societies and foster a culture of innovation to meet the needs of the scientific community. “With the proliferation of online meetings necessitated by the pandemic, we encourage NSF to seize this opportunity to support new forms of innovation in this space,” the groups urge. “Traditional success metrics for meetings will change, and NSF has a role to play in helping the larger scientific enterprise understand what works in this new environment. Additionally, NSF can support our efforts to promote new ways for scientists to connect across disciplines. Whereas it has traditionally been uncommon for scientists to travel to an in-person meeting outside of their discipline, the relatively low-cost investment of attending online meetings allows scientists to explore new topics and opportunities.”