two of the top leadership positions in Smithsonian science to be vacant
following the May 31 departure of Under Secretary for Science Dennis O'Connor,
who also is serving as acting director of the Natural History Museum,
the Smithsonian Science Commission is recommending to Secretary Small
and the Board of Regents that work begin immediately to fill these two
positions permanently and, in the interim, on an acting basis.
advocates these interim appointments to fill a "critical void,"
Science Commission head Jeremy Sabloff said during an April 17 press briefing,
because "finding good candidates could take some time." During
this period, "lots of important decisions, from budget to planning,
are not going to stop. Science needs a representative at the table"
where these decisions are being made.
has been an assumption that the Smithsonian should wait until the Science
Commission has issued its final report before trying to fill these positions,"
Sabloff added. "Our final report is not due until December, and we
have been concerned from day one that a lot of things are being put on
hold. Science and Natural History can't afford to be in stasis until the
end of the year."
its April meeting, the commission discussed some of the criteria that
will be necessary to attract top scientific talent to both jobs. "Our
initial discussions with the Secretary indicate that he will do his best
to attract top people," Sabloff added. For both positions, the commission
would like strong scientists who have considerable administrative experience.
The MNH director should have fund-raising experience as well.
also said that the commission will be recommending no major changes to
the present organizational structure of science at the Smithsonian; it
also is still examining the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research
and Education and the Zoo's Conservation and Research Center.
have been all kinds of ideas floating about and talk about major changes
at Natural History and other science units," Sabloff said. "More
and more, the commission is coming to realize what needs to be addressed
is process and leadership. Our interim report will address leadership
During a March 2 press conference, Sabloff stated that the commission has found that Smithsonian science programs have eroded and need support. He compared their erosion to the deterioration of the Institution's physical plant, saying that, due to budget constraints, SI has lost some 25 to 30 percent of its curatorial, research and technical staff in the last 12 years. SI's collections also are suffering, he said.