Smithsonian Institution

Smithsonian Institution                                               

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Elizabeth Tait:  (202) 357-2627, ext. 129

Vicki Moeser(202) 357-2627, ext. 111

 Smithsonian Appoints Science Commission

 18-Member Panel To Guide Institution’s New Strategic Direction for Science

            The 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.

            Jeremy 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 questions:
·         For 155 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?

 ·         How should scientific research be organized to optimize the use of the Institution’s human, physical and financial resources?

 ·         How should the performance of scientific research by individuals and research departments be evaluated?

 ·         How can the relationship between research and public programming be enhanced?

 ·         What suggestions, of any type might the science commission have to strengthen research at the Smithsonian?

 ·         What should be the qualifications of those chosen to lead key scientific research units of the Smithsonian?

 ·         What should be done to enhance public recognition of Smithsonian science?

        The commission’s findings will be submitted to the Regents for their consideration.

        Commission members will not be compensated, but the Smithsonian will arrange their travel and cover their expenses for all meetings.