Science Takes A Hit In President Obama's 2012 Budget

As of January 15, the National Biological Information Infrastructure will be shut down.

National parks serve so many purposes. Expanding our knowledge about the natural world is just one role they fill.

Through scientific research in the parks we learn more about the world around us, are able to monitor the health of ecosystems, and possibly even find cures to diseases.

Failing to track what we learn, though, can be just as crippling as not knowing what exists. So imagine my surprise the other day to learn that the National Biological Information Infrastructure is being shut down January 15 due to budget cuts.

The program has been operated by the U.S. Geological Survey's Biological Informatics Office.

The NBII "is a broad, collaborative program to provide increased access to data and information on the nation's biological resources. The NBII links diverse, high-quality biological databases, information products, and analytical tools maintained by NBII partners and other contributors in government agencies, academic institutions, non-government organizations, and private industry. NBII partners and collaborators also work on new standards, tools, and technologies that make it easier to find, integrate, and apply biological resources information. Resource managers, scientists, educators, and the general public use the NBII to answer a wide range of questions related to the management, use, or conservation of this nation's biological resources."

With help from federal agencies such as the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state natural resources departments, international partners, universities, and others, the NBII has provided a rich, and easily searchable, database of information on the nation's biological resources.

Recently, for instance, the site added vegetation databases on both Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah and New River Gorge National River in West Virginia.

Fortunately, the National Park Service has its own inventory and monitoring program and website to track science in the parks. But the impending loss of the NBII reduces the depth of science readily available to the public and researchers alike.

Comments

I'm afraid this is just the beginning of a very long ordeal. Especially when we have people like Utah's Rep. Rob Bishop in charge of the bank accounts.

You know, for the millions of foreclosed on house owners you could shed some tears for also. From what I see there hasn't been an Obama budget since he assumed the top spot. Interesting the coincidence between the decline in revenues for these projects and the horrific decline in the private sector. When one is broke it just seems right to stop spending or fix the problem. To coin a phrase, "It's the economy stupid" or should this be the new reality?

It is true the NBII reductions will impact the available data and applications on the Web after the January 15 2012 closure date. However, USGS still maintains a collaboration with the National Park Service related to vegetetion mapping, standards, and data delivery. This effort was not directly funded by the USGS NBII Program and will continue to be supported by the USGS and National Park Service.

Hey Lee, they drop this, but Obama has the money by Executive Order, no less, to add a new fort to the national monuments yesterday. What do you suppose that will cost? What was the annual cost of running the Federal Biological thing? Or better yet, which one was more important?!? I'm not going to answer that. Probably get kicked off of here.

I love outdoor activities like camping, hiking, mountain biking, bouldering etc...I would hate to see all my favorite parks go down.

No, Dottie, you have a very valid point.

But I'll bet if we do some digging, we'll find some Congresscritter behind these two new NPS areas (Great Falls, Paterson, NJ, in addition to the fort) who is just bringing home the pork for his constituents.

Out here in Utah, the Department of Defense is going to cut some jobs at Hill AFB. Our entire Congressional delegation -- all of whom have been pumping the Tea Party's cut, cut, cut without increasing taxes line are having apoplectic fits. Yet every one of them has boasted frequently and recently about their success in bringing bacon home for their districts -- whether it was of any good for anyone besides a few special interests or not.

I have my issues with what USGS decided to defund in their reorganization, but NBII is a bit old as an information portal. DOI is not getting rid of public access to biological data, but reorganizing and consolidating the access. Everything currently available via NBII will still be available, although based on what USGS did with their geospatial clearinghouse, it may be harder to grab, at least in raw, bulk form (I'm still annoyed by the loss of ftp downloads in favor of an ArcMap plugin!).

Then again, much of the information may be easier to browse and search superficially. I don't speak for folks in DC, but the initiative from on high that rains down on me is to make more data available to the public, not less (also to cut costs by consolidating servers, reducing duplicated efforts, etc.).

The NPS I&M link Kurt gave is to information about the NPS I&M program, and isn't particularly a replacement for the NBII portal. If you want information on natural resource science in NPS, try http://nature.nps.gov which gives links to other NRSS (Natural Resource Stewardship Science) divisions as well; the Natural Sounds Program has some cool stuff (and some missing links the last time I looked).

If you want to find NPS data, reports, maps, species lists, etc., go to http://irma.nps.gov. [There are 2 separate servers with that name, the NPS/DOI intranet site with more data and services, and the site visible from non-NPS computers with only non-sensitive data available to the public.] The start page (or IRMA Applications, then Data Store) is a simple search interface to a database of reports, datasets, etc., many with links to electronic copies of the document (again, more available on the NPS intranet; not all documents about sensitive species, etc., have been vetted and put on the public-facing mirror). This replaces several separate old NPS catalogs such as NatureBib, and has a goal of making it possible for current managers to find that old report sitting on a shelf that happens to have the information they need now.

One key is that IRMA Data Store is not only the standard for NPS Natural Resources: NPS Cultural Resources has standardized on it, too.

[Facilities has FMSS. Accessioned items are in ICMS. At least the internal IRMA Portal for NPS staff should support searching ICMS along with IRMA Data Store in the near future.]

And, the last thing I heard, all of DOI was to get their own IRMAs (e.g., an IRMA for BLM, FWS, USGS, BOR, and presumably the rest), with the goal of easy confederated searching (check boxes to conduct a search in other agencies too, just like university library catalogs that let you broaden the search to other campuses. [IRMA is actually a set of services or application building blocks, a Lego set for building web data service applications without reinventing wheels, requiring separate logins for each application, duplicating and updating multiple copies of data, etc..]

The other application on the public-facing server is NPspecies, which lets you view or download the most current certified species lists for vertebrates or vascular plants for a chosen park. [If I get caught up on my "real" work in the next couple of months, I want to build the web application for each park to have an annotated certified species list, with links from species names to more NPS information on that species, and to external reliable resources such as that species' page in Cornell Lab of Ornithology's AllAboutBirds.]

IRMA grew out of NPS I&M's needs for informatics (the mission is not simply to collect data, but to make the data useful for park management). Either the "IRMA" link in the left navigation panel of http://science.nature.nps.gov/im or the "About" link on the IRMA page.