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Appoints Science Commission
18-Member Panel To Guide Institution’s New Strategic Direction for
Smithsonian has established – at the request of its governing body, the
Board of Regents – a science commission to advise the Secretary and the
Regents. The 18 commission
members, whose areas of academic interest span the disciplines from
anthropology to zoology, come from universities, research institutions,
museums and government agencies in the United States and the United Kingdom,
as well as from the Smithsonian.
Sabloff, the Williams Director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of
Archaeology and Anthropology, will serve as chairman.
The first meeting of the commission is scheduled for Sept. 6 and 7, at
the Smithsonian. To assure both the candor and the confidentiality of its
discussions, the commission is expected to meet for the most part in executive
session, according to a schedule to be determined at the first meeting.
A media briefing by commission chairman Sabloff and Under Secretary for
Science J. Dennis O’Connor will follow at 2:00 p.m. on Sept. 7.
All commission reports will be available on the commission’s
forthcoming Web site.
Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence M. Small recommended the establishment
of a commission to advise the Institution as it refines and focuses its
scientific research activities. On
May 7, the Smithsonian Regents, approved the adoption of a “new strategic
direction for Smithsonian science … reflecting, among other things, enhanced
focus, greater collaboration within and outside the Institution, and increased
opportunities for gathering and marshaling greater resources to advance the
Institution’s scientific research activities.”
The resolution included the provision for a science commission “to
advise the Secretary and the Board of Regents on the design of the full range
of elements to be addressed.”
Nominations for the commission were solicited from Smithsonian
scientists, as well as members of the Board of Regents who are scientists and
other, external scientists. From
the combined lists of all the scientists proposed, the Office of the Under
Secretary for Science selected a group of external and internal
scientists, taking into account an appropriate
balance of discipline and background. The
final list was discussed with nationally recognized leaders in science and the
academic community outside the Institution before being submitted to the
Secretary and Board of Regents.
“We are honored that this distinguished group has agreed to work with
us to achieve our goal of making Smithsonian science the best that it can
be,” said Small. “The
Smithsonian is a wellspring of scientific talent that has evolved in many
diffuse and disparate directions over the years in response to advances in
knowledge and technology,” Small added.
“The beginning of a new century is an optimum time to subject our own
organization to critical evaluation, with an eye toward sharpening the focus
on the Smithsonian’s unique strengths.”
The commission is charged to advise the Smithsonian on the following
years, the Smithsonian Institution has had as its mission “the increase and
diffusion of knowledge.” Given
the important questions facing the scientific world today, the existing level
of institutional financial and physical resources, the strengths of the
Institution’s people and its collections, how should the Smithsonian set
priorities for scientific research in the years ahead and, in general, carry
out its historic mission more effectively?
should scientific research be organized to optimize the use of the
Institution’s human, physical and financial resources?
should the performance of scientific research by individuals and research
departments be evaluated?
the relationship between research and public programming be enhanced?
suggestions, of any type might the science commission have to strengthen
research at the Smithsonian?
should be the qualifications of those chosen to lead key scientific research
units of the Smithsonian?
should be done to enhance public recognition of Smithsonian science?
commission’s findings will be submitted to the Regents for their
Commission members will not be compensated, but the Smithsonian will arrange their travel and cover their expenses for all meetings.