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commissioned reviews by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) to address the questions raised by the OMB. This is the report of the NAS review; the NAPA study will be the subject of a separate report.
The Committee on Smithsonian Scientific Research was charged to provide specific recommendations and a rationale with criteria on what parts of the Smithsonian’s research portfolio should continue to be exempt from priority setting through competitive peer-reviewed grant programs because of uniqueness or special contributions. The charge to the Committee called for a review of the scientific research centers that report to the Smithsonian’s Under Secretary for Science—the National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, the National Zoological Park, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education, and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. The Committee was also charged to consider the effects on the Smithsonian, the research centers, and the relevant scientific fields of re-allocating the current federal support to a competitive process. Finally, the Committee was asked to make recommendations on how any Smithsonian science programs that continued to receive direct federal appropriations should be regularly evaluated and compared with other research in the relevant fields. The Committee was not asked to review the funding of SI research centers that report to the Smithsonian’s Under Secretary for American Museums and National Programs.
To respond to its charge, the Committee examined the research programs and the funding structure at the six Smithsonian scientific research centers. It also considered possible consequences of removing direct federal appropriations to the Smithsonian science programs and reallocating the funds to open competition.
In carrying out its review, the Committee established a framework of criteria to be applied to its review of the Smithsonian research centers in the execution of its task. The Committee considered
The nature of the Smithsonian as a scientific institution.
How uniqueness and special contribution apply to each of the six science centers covered by the study. In the context of this study, uniqueness and special contribution may have many meanings that refer to special attributes associated with a particular research center.
How opening some of or all the support now given to each of the centers to a competitive process would affect the science involved.
How the centers might be evaluated regularly to ensure that the quality of their science is maintained if any of the six are deemed to be unique and to warrant continuation of the current system of support.