May 25, 2010

Dr. Robert Guralnick
Writing Committee
Digitization of Biological Collections

Dear Writing Committee Members:

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) appreciates the opportunity to comment on the proposed Final Draft Strategic Plan for Establishing a National Digital Biological Collections Resource. AIBS strongly endorses the Final Draft Strategic Plan and looks forward to working with the Working Group, National Science Foundation, and other agencies and stakeholders to finalize and implement this important initiative.

It is important that all Federal agencies participate in this effort. We encourage the Working Group to solicit the support and involvement of various Federal agencies. Many departments maintain their own collections; however, most also rely upon non-Federal collections or have formal or informal curatorial arrangements with non-Federal collections. A coordinated national effort is required and all agencies should contribute resources.

As outlined in the proposed plan, this effort will drive innovation and increase access to important scientific specimens and data. For these reasons, in April 2010 AIBS urged the President to include digitization of science collections among his Grand Challenges for the 21st Century. AIBS wrote: "The United States should strive to discover and document all living species within its borders and to work with international partners to do the same throughout the world. A key aspect of these efforts will be the digitization of object-based scientific collections, which will provide researchers and students with greater access to specimens and data. Additionally, if we were to digitally capture the specimens and associated data currently in our nation's scientific collections, this knowledge could be made available to students learning in the digital libraries envisioned by the President."

AIBS is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) scientific association headquartered in Washington, DC, and dedicated to advancing biological research and education for the welfare of society. Founded in 1947 as a part of the National Academy of Sciences, AIBS became an independent, member-governed organization in the 1950s. AIBS is sustained by a robust membership of individual biologists and nearly 200 professional societies and scientific organizations; the combined individual membership of the latter exceeds 250,000. AIBS advances its mission through coalition activities in research, education, and public policy; publishing the peer-reviewed journal BioScience and the education website; providing scientific peer review and advisory services to government agencies and other clients; convening meetings; and managing scientific programs.

Once again, AIBS commends the Working Group and encourages the National Science Foundation and other agencies to include this important initiative in the fiscal year (FY) 2012 Federal budget. If we may provide any further information or assistance on this or related matters, please contact AIBS Director of Public Policy Dr. Robert Gropp at 202-628-1500.


Richard O'Grady, Ph.D.
Executive Director

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