To the FWGNA group,
Yesterday's mail brought us formal notification that the proposal we wrote last fall to the NSF Biotic Surveys and Inventories Program was not funded. Apparently the BS&I program reviewed 84 proposals this year*, of which only 10 - 15 will be funded, "few at the requested amount." It's no great shame to receive a rejection under such circumstances, but as Tevye (from Fiddler on the Roof) said, "It's no great honor, either."
The NSF reviewers offered many glowing comments about our proposed effort, but the bottom line was simply that they didn't feel we have the taxonomic expertise necessary. This is especially frustrating because the 109 of us currently involved in the FWGNA project represent just about all the taxonomic expertise available.
Perhaps we need to re-order our tasks. Taxonomic review was originally scheduled for Phase III of the FWGNA project, but perhaps we should move it to Phase I. An NSF "PEET" proposal (Project to Enhance Expertise in Taxonomy) might be the logical first step.
It is also possible that some of the activities we scheduled under Phase II could be moved forward. I'm happy to report that an NSF proposal submitted by Rob Guralnick and his colleagues at the University of Colorado Museum was funded by the Biological Databases and Informatics Program. Rob's project will see all CU collections (everything!) databased, geocoded, and available for GIS visualization by 2004. Rob and I are exploring how the Colorado infrastructure might be expanded.
I hope that all 109 of you understand that the FWGNA project is not some sort of monolithic enterprise being guided from the top down. You should all feel free to take initiatives of any sort. I was happy to write a letter of support for Rob's proposal, and I would be happy to get behind anybody else with an idea on how to get this important job done.
We definitely need to put our heads together. Please send me any comments or suggestions you may have. Current plans call for a major strategy session in Charleston in August, 2002, but perhaps we can meet earlier.
Keep in touch,
*Last year the NSF reviewed 72 proposals to the BS&I program, and about 18 were funded. This is a worrisome trend.