An Open Letter to Groups Submitting Proposals for the NSF Open Environmental Data Center

Dear Colleague,

This serves as an open letter to any and all groups that are in the process of submitting a proposal for the National Science Foundation (NSF) Center for the Advancement and Synthesis of Open Environmental Data (Center) from the Biodiversity Collections Network. We are writing to offer our expertise and connections with the broader biodiversity collections community to amplify your proposal’s strengths for this data domain.

The Center’s success depends on engaging the environmental data community broadly and effectively, and underpinning this with specimen-based data signals and services only found in biological collections. Below is a summary of what BCoN has to offer by means of strengthening any proposal that is submitted under the Center RFP. 

What BCoN has to offer:

  • Through National Science Foundation (NSF) support, BCoN (previously the Network Integrated Biocollections Alliance or NIBA) has 16 years of experience advocating for and coordinating with the collections community that has resulted in program development at NSF for extensive and ongoing collections digitization.
  • BCoN has representation from a broad spectrum of the biodiversity collections community, including natural history museums and herbaria, long term-ecological research, and paleontological and living collections communities. 
  • Membership of BCoN includes expertise focused on biodiversity from collections, biodiversity data science, research, and education perspectives.
  • There are more than 2000 collections institutions in the U.S. that house more than one billion specimens; most are in the process of digitizing their holdings.
  • The collections community represented by BCoN has implemented globally operating efficient standards for managing and networking digital biodiversity data.
  • The community continues to evaluate, improve upon, and expand these standards and service implementations in a consultative way.  
  • BCoN is working with the national and international community to develop strategic planning and priorities for improving FAIR and CARE compliant biodiversity data integration and attribution.
  • BCoN has strong and active ties to existing biodiversity data portals at the national (iDigBio) and international (Global Biodiversity Information Facility or GBIF) levels. 
  • BCoN is represented by members with strong connections to the broader biological research and education community, including the American Institute for Biological Sciences and many other scientific societies. 
  • BCoN engages the biodiversity collections community through its representation on societies such as the Natural Science Collections Alliance and the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections.
  • BCoN members were co-authors on the 2020 National Academies of Science report on biological collections, which provided guidance to NSF about the sustainability of living stock and natural history collections and offered several recommendations that align well with BCoN’s vision for the future of collections: the Extended Specimen Network.

If you have been asked to submit a full proposal, we would welcome the opportunity to contribute to such a proposal under terms that are maximally beneficial to your goals and objectives, and share our perspectives and ideas with the leaders of the new Center. Our group aspires to provide the Center with the strongest possible collections-based data foundation to realize an expansive vision for research and training infrastructure in open environmental data. 

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to discuss further.

The BCoN Steering Committee