A quick, no joke post for the fools…
On March 16, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced a pause in its Collections in Biological Research funding program (H/T Ed Yong at The Atlantic). As the NSF describes the program (BIO refers to the Biological Sciences Directorate of the NSF):
“The Collections in Support of Biological Research (CSBR) Program provides funds: 1) for improvements to secure and organize collections that are significant to the NSF BIO-funded research community; 2) to secure collections-related data for sustained, accurate, and efficient accessibility to the biological research community; and 3) to transfer ownership of collections.”
In other words, this is an infrastructure program. It helps institutions (museums mainly) to make sure that their collections and associated data are kept in a manner that makes using the collections easier for the relevant research communities.
The official explanation on the website is that the Foundation is evaluating the long term resource needs and research priorities for the Biological Sciences Directorate. Yong’s piece confirms this, and notes that the Foundation is seeking feedback. The researchers and collections staff directly affected are understandably concerned, even though this is not the first such pause for the program.
I think the concerns over a program like this help demonstrate that supporting scientific infrastructure is important and that the indirect costs of administration and support covered by research grants do not cover all infrastructure costs. Thinking in terms of transportation infrastructure, it would be like assuming that gasoline taxes were enough to handle the costs of supporting roads and related structures.