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2 Description of the Smithsonian Scientific Research Centers This chapter describes each scientific research unit covered by this study. The descriptions include background information on the centers, information on their budgets, an analysis of how the terms uniqueness and special contribution may apply to each unit, and other information that the Committee considered relevant. INTERPRETATION OF TERMS IN THE CHARGE The charge to the Committee was to determine whether any part of the Smithsonian research portfolio should be exempt from open competition for federal support. The Committee established a framework of criteria to apply to its review of the Smithsonian research centers in the execution of its task. The Committee used the following set of criteria as a guideline; it is not an exhaustive list of all the factors considered. The nature of the Smithsonian as a scientific institution, including The role of the Smithsonian in the nation’s research complex. The interplay between the six research centers. The research, education, and public outreach activities of the centers. How the loss of one or more of the centers from the Smithsonian would affect the Institution as a whole. How uniqueness and special contribution apply to each of the six research centers. In the context of this study, the terms are complex and
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may have many meanings that refer to special attributes of a particular research center, such as The terms of the center’s creation. The location and ownership of, or agreements on, property in use by the center. The scope of the science engaged in and how it is related to the current status of the center. The existence, if any, of one-of-a-kind datasets that confer special significance on the research carried out by the center. The ties between the research carried out by the center and the collections of the Smithsonian Institution. How opening some of or all the support now given to each of the centers to a competitive process would affect the science involved. Questions considered included: Would the cyclic nature of a competitive process have a favorable or adverse effect on achieving the goals of the field? How would opening the research to a competitive process affect the resources of the research centers, including personnel? Would any detrimental effect be outweighed by the enhancement of opportunity that a competitive system would give to relevant fields to reach their scientific goals? Given the assumption that any of the six research centers are deemed to be unique and to warrant retention of their current system of support, what recommendations can be made for regular evaluation of the centers to ensure that the quality of their science is maintained? The Committee considered The evaluation structures and methods currently in place. How these evaluation schemes compare with systems in place in similar institutions. In addition, in keeping with its charge to address whether any portions of the Smithsonian research portfolio should be exempt from priority setting through a competitive peer-reviewed grants program, the Committee considered the current role of competition in the funding of Smithsonian research. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY NMNH is the largest of the Smithsonian Institution’s museums and is the most visited natural history museum in the world. Established in 1910, NMNH was the first Smithsonian unit to be housed in a building
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constructed specifically for its collections, research facilities, and exhibits. NMNH is SI’s largest research center and employs a staff of over 550, of whom about 140 are federally funded research staff, including about 100 curators with PhDs. The current number of curators is about 25% less than the number 10 years ago. Research at NMNH provides information vital to understanding the dynamic geological, biological, and cultural patterns and processes that have shaped our world. The research center comprises the Departments of Anthropology, Mineral Sciences, Paleobiology, and Systematic Biology. Each department pursues two kinds of intertwined activities: basic research and public educational outreach. The value and appeal of the Museum’s exhibits are derived as much from its staff members’ scientific expertise and interpretations as from the unique quality of its collections. The research of the Department of Anthropology addresses three interconnected themes: human interaction with the natural environment, human biology and cultural processes, and human communities in a changing world. Even though their main geographic focus is on North America, the research programs cultivate a broad outlook that contributes to intercultural understanding and enhances the comprehension of humankind’s role in the processes of global change. In the past, innovative members of the department originated the distinct field of museum anthropology; today, they provide assistance to law enforcement agencies by sharing their expertise in forensic biology. The Department of Mineral Sciences is dedicated to understanding the origin and evolution of the Solar System, Earth processes and their products, and the effects of geologic and meteoritic phenomena on Earth’s atmosphere and biosphere. As the only physical science department in the museum, it is responsible for maintaining a large and expensive suite of analytical instruments. The group is responsible for some of the museum’s best-known exhibits on subjects that include gems (such as the Hope Diamond), volcanoes, and meteorites. These popular exhibits typify the extensive public outreach activities carried out by the curators and other staff scientists in the department. The Department of Paleobiology houses NMNH’s collections of millions of fossil plants and animals, including the popular dinosaur collections, and geologic specimens (rock and sediment cores and samples). Among the topics investigated by members of the department are how long-term physical changes in ancient global geography and climate have affected the evolution of plants and animals, how ecosystems have responded to the changes, and how these responses have influenced today’s patterns of biodiversity. The department’s studies also provide insights into the processes that control the evolution of species and ancient ecosystems.
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Scientists in the Department of Systematic Biology use both time-honored and advanced techniques in phylogenetics, computer analysis, and biochemical comparison to describe and name some of the millions of species that remain unclassified and to understand their relationships in the tree of life, whose branches link all organisms. The department’s taxonomic coverage ranges from microorganisms to mammals and from protists to plants and includes the wide variety of terrestrial, freshwater, and marine life. In addition to the breadth of organisms studied, its geographic scope is global. At a time when there is a greater demand for biodiversity information than ever, the NMNH collections are an invaluable source of required knowledge. The work of the museum further develops our understanding of species richness and of habitat degradation. In a unique interagency cooperation, the NMNH curators are joined by 40 systematists from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Department of Commerce (DOC), DOD, and DOI, which colocate their systematics researchers and identification services at the museum to take further advantage of the collections and minimize duplication of effort. Those partnerships contribute $6.5 million dollars per year, an important source of cost-sharing for NMNH (Miller, 2001). Research Support1 and Research Output Of the $46.7 million of direct federal appropriations and transfers to NMNH for FY 2001, $15 million (32%) was allocated to research, and the remainder was used to cover expenses for collections and administrative and other infrastructure costs (Table 2-1). In fact, over 80% of the federal research appropriation was allocated for payment of $12.4 million for salary and benefit costs of research personnel in FY 2001. It should be noted that this $12.4 million for “research” covers the salaries of about 100 curators and other staff who perform many duties—including maintenance and care of collections, exhibitions, and educational outreach—in addition to research. According to figures provided by SI, government grants and contracts supplemented the research budget at the level of about $1 million per year. Sources of government contracts received by NMNH curators in FY 2001 were NASA, NSF,2 DOC, DOD, DOI, USDA, and the US Fish and 1 Figures on research budgets were provided by SI. 2 Past guidance (NSF Circular 108) stated a policy that SI research staff who are federal employees are ineligible to apply for NSF research funds. Although this policy is apparently no longer in NSF’s current grant policy manual, it is apparently still adhered to by many NSF program managers, so that the application of this rule is applied unevenly across NSF Directorates. In addition, some SI staff have been successful in securing NSF support through collaborative projects with other institutions in which they act as coprincipal investigators.
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TABLE 2-1 Estimated Research Expenses of NMNH by Source for FY 2001 (in Millions of Dollars) Federal Appropriations Federal—Othera Government Grants and Contracts Other Trustb Total Research 14.8 0.2 1.0 4.8 20.8 Salaries and benefits 84% 0% 9% 24% 66% Other research costsc 16% 100% 91% 76% 34% Other expensesd 31.9 1.0 0.8 11.7 45.4 TOTAL 46.7 1.2 1.8 16.5 66.2 aRepresents appropriations transfers from federal agencies. bRepresents portion of endowment income, business income, and gifts raised by the research centers or allocated to them by SI. cIncludes travel and transportation; rent, communication, and utilities; printing and reproduction; other contractual services; supplies and materials; equipment and structures; and other costs. dIncludes expenses for collections, exhibits and education, administration, facilities, and security and safety. Wildlife Service (USFWS). Funds were also received from state and regional governments, nonprofit organizations, and private foundations. Only $400,000 of government grant and contract funds and $3.5 million of trust or gift and endowment funds were applied to salary costs. Because SI receives a direct federal appropriation, its federal employees are not eligible for NSF support as a general policy, except in special circumstances when their contributions are deemed unique. Even with the latter exceptions, opportunities for Smithsonian curators are more constrained than those investigators in other eligible institutions.3 (Of all federal science agencies, NSF supports research that is, in general, most closely related to the topics covered by NMNH.) During discussions with NMNH department heads, the Committee found that there was considerable variation among the Museum’s departments in terms of success in winning research funds from NSF. The Department of Anthropology, for example, reported that it does not have funding from NSF and is barred from applying for NSF grants. The Department of Paleobiology reported, however, that it has had considerable success in obtaining funding from 3 The Committee consulted the NSF program directors for biotic surveys and inventories, and systematic biology regarding the eligibility of SI curators to apply for NSF grants.
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NSF. The Department of Systematic Biology reported that it has obtained funding from NSF only when its scientists have partnered with university researchers and the names of SI scientists have not appeared on the grant applications. Adherence to the policy on funding research at the Smithsonian appears to vary across NSF; some parts of the foundation are more willing than others to entertain proposals from SI scientists. This explains partly why only about 30 of 102 curators in recent years are listed as coprincipal investigators on NSF grants. (According to data provided by NAPA, only 27 of 259 federal grants awarded to SI researchers in FY 2001 came from NSF. NASA made 195, the most from any agency. Sixty-three grants were also awarded by non-federal sources. See NAPA 2002.) The NMNH curators published 1328 articles during 1995-2000. Journals in which the articles were published include Nature, Science, Ecology, Oecologia, Proceedings of the Royal Society, Systematic Biology, Paleobiology, Journal of Paleontology, the Biological Journal of the Linnaean Society, Zoological Journal of the Linnaean Society, Geology, and Evolution. NMNH curators also contributed to 264 books during that period. After recruitment into permanent positions, curators are evaluated on the basis of accomplishments by a peer-review system at 3-7 year intervals depending on their seniority. In a procedure similar to that in universities, performance is evaluated by 10 external reviewers, three nominated by the candidate and seven appointed by the department chair. Reviews follow the Smithsonianwide Performance Accomplishment Evaluation Committee (PAEC) procedures. In 1999, NMNH also underwent an unprecedented process of external programmatic review, when NMNH departments were reviewed by three committees of external scientists, resulting in three independent reports. In 2000, an integrating review committee extracted the overarching themes in the three reports and recommended an action plan for NMNH as a whole. Unique Characteristics and Special Contribution Of the 142 million specimens and objects in SI’s collections, 90% belong to NMNH, and these collections are a central focus of the research performed at the museum. They include the National Gem and Mineral Collection; the US National Meteorite Collection; the US National Herbarium Collection; 40-50 million fossils, plants, animals, and geologic specimens; and 1500 cataloged specimens of dinosaurs. The collections serve as reference materials for investigating the processes that have modified Earth and shaped the human environment. The presence of worldclass researchers at the museum optimizes the access to and organization of the collections in response to changing research needs in various fields. The museum’s collections are unique assets with intrinsic value. They
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reflect a legacy of over a century of research, exploration, discovery, curation, conservation, maintenance, database management, and use for scientific publication, education, and exhibit. Moreover, the collections are resources that serve the work of many scientists and scholars who conduct study visits to NMNH or borrow material for extended study. In the year 2000, for example, the biologists at NMNH hosted over 900 scientific visitors for over 10,000 visitor-days, made 1433 outgoing loans totaling 166,695 specimens for research, and made over 50,000 identifications (Miller, 2001). Clearly, the health of the Smithsonian’s collection-based science is of vital importance to all such efforts worldwide. Collection-based research helps us to understand the diversity of cultures and the wonders of their achievement, the geologic forces that shaped the planet, the early evolution of the Solar System (through clues provided by meteorites and other materials), the history of life on Earth, and the rich diversity of the living world. Those issues are important both scientifically and in a societal context. Notwithstanding recent dramatic breakthroughs in genetics, proteomics, neurobiology, astrophysics, and many other fields, science remains challenged by some of the most urgent and important problems of our times—the rampant loss of biodiversity; the global-scale degradation of water, the atmosphere, and soils; and the emergence of resilient and highly adaptive infectious organisms. NMNH in the very size and scope of its staff and collections uniquely provides the foundation for a sense of our place in the history and evolution of life and for our stewardship of Earth’s biota. NMNH researchers draw directly from the grandest of all biological experiments—the evolution of the biota on a 3.6-billion-year scale—to extract insights bearing on our understanding of life patterns, processes, and history and on our application of this knowledge in ways that directly serve human and societal needs. Examples of important research by NMNH scientists include: Global Volcanism Program: This is the only group in the world dedicated to documenting the current and past activity of all volcanoes on the planet active during the past 10,000 years. Members of the program have analyzed worldwide patterns in volcano-related deaths, examining the different mechanisms by which human fatalities have been caused by volcanoes during historical time. Findings from the program underscore the importance of monitoring and evacuation and contribute to strategic planning. Forensic anthropology: NMNH researchers are able to distinguish one person’s bones from another’s by visual examination and DNA analysis. NMNH researchers helped to identify some of the remains of victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks. Applying knowledge of biodiversity to human health: On the basis of
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the evolutionary relationships of yew trees, NMNH researchers identified a species of yew that produces larger quantities of taxol than other species. This work has helped to reduce the production cost of the taxol, a powerful drug used to fight ovarian and breast cancer. Ticks and Lyme disease: Using museum collections of ticks from the 1940s, NMNH researchers analyzed for the genetic indicators of the bacterium responsible for Lyme disease. They showed that Lyme disease has been present for at least 3 decades, and for much longer at some sites. Mass-extinction events: NMNH scientists are among the leaders in documenting some of the great biotic catastrophes in the fossil record, including the Permian extinction event of 250 million years ago that may have exterminated more than 90% of the species living at that time. These studies illuminate the nature and pace of extinction and the lag time in recovery of an ecosystem after such mass destruction—patterns instructive for assessing the current wave of biological extinction induced by human activity. Conservation of song birds: Analyzing diagnostic isotopes in museum collections and feathers collected from living birds, NMNH researchers demonstrated that loss of winter breeding habitat is correlated with a decline in bird populations in their summer habitat. This is an important finding for conservation strategies. Global climate change: Specimens of deep-water corals at NMNH hold within their mineral parts a record of ocean circulation and global climate for the last 50,000 years. Using the coral collection, NMNH scientists make inferences about global-scale changes that help to inform predictions of future worldwide climate patterns. Understanding the tree of life: All the world’s species are linked in a great branching pattern of relationships that reflects a shared evolutionary history of 3.5 billion years. NMNH scientists bring unique data to bear on understanding the branching relationships of spiders, insects, other invertebrate groups, land plants, birds, fishes, reptiles, mammals, and many other organism groups. With the museum’s important holdings come the responsibilities for care, security, database management, conservation, and access that challenge all large museums. As the holdings become more rare and precious as scientific resources, there are new tools to enhance their access and utility. A recent development that has revolutionized museum collection-based science is the digitization of collection data, supplemented by brilliant digital imagery, remote sensing and geographic information system (GIS) data, and specimen data on size, shape, and other characteristics. NMNH staff members are exploiting these technologies and assembling powerful new databases. Accordingly, NSF has made awards in
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rare cases to the Smithsonian scientific effort related to unique collections and their database management and imaging. Other Activities By statute, NMNH serves the public. Enhancing public understanding of the life sciences, geosciences, and human sciences through exhibits and educational programs is central to its role. One of the best ways to maintain popular interest in the Smithsonian collections is for its exhibits to reflect the latest scientific breakthroughs, and this effort is greatly facilitated by having a curatorial staff that actively participates in leading-edge scientific activities. Indeed, although use of its collections forms the core of its service to the scientific research community, the science performed at NMNH also informs its exhibits and interpretive programs and helps to attract millions of members of the general public as visitors each year. NMNH strives to reach out to audiences of all ages across North America through inhouse and traveling exhibits and supports K-12 science education by providing educational content, teacher training, and student support. Status of the National Museum of Natural History in the Museum Community NMNH’s mission in research, collection care, database management, exhibition, and public education is shared by such major natural history museums as the Field Museum (Chicago), the American Museum of Natural History (New York City), and the California Academy of Sciences (San Francisco). However, NMNH plays a unique and critical role in the natural history museum community. The collections at NMNH are vastly larger in size and scope than those of any comparable US institution; for example, at 142 million specimens, the NMNH collections are more than 4 times the size of the next largest group of collections (32 million specimens) maintained by the American Museum of Natural History. Its breadth of research mission and the extent of its service to the museum research community are correspondingly greater. The support and function of an institution of the size of NMNH warrant high national priority for collection-based research that is vital to the accomplishments of an international community devoted to the natural sciences. SMITHSONIAN ASTROPHYSICAL OBSERVATORY SAO is SI’s research center for astronomy and astrophysics. From the earliest days of the Institution, there were those who thought that as-
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tronomy should be a central pursuit for an organization charged with “the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” In 1890, SAO was established initially mostly as a solar observatory. Over a century later, SAO is a research center with more than 900 employees active in nearly every field of astronomical observation, from the gamma-ray regime to the radio, and with a major science education group. SAO is in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where it moved from Washington, DC, in 1955 to affiliate with the Harvard College Observatory. The affiliation was strengthened and formalized in 1973 by the creation of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics under a single director with a joint appointment to SI and Harvard University. Of the 907 staff at SAO, 341 had PhDs according to the most recent annual staff census. The research staff is divided among seven research divisions: atomic and molecular physics, high-energy astrophysics, optical and infrared astronomy, planetary sciences, radio and geoastronomy, solar and stellar physics, and theoretical astrophysics. In addition to education and outreach activities in its research divisions, SAO has a department devoted to science education. SAO owns and operates two major astronomical research facilities: the F.L. Whipple Observatory, including the multiple mirror telescope (MMT), which is operated jointly with the University of Arizona and has been in operation since the 1960s; and the submillimeter array (SMA) on Mauna Kea, under development as a joint project with the Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics of the Academia Sinica of Taiwan. The conversion of the MMT to a single 6.5-m telescope and the construction of the SMA along with their major instrumentation programs are funded separately from SAO’s basic operations and research budget. SAO also has major roles in other astronomy research facilities, the largest of which is operating the Chandra X-ray Observatory (CXO) and its associated Chandra Science Center under contract with NASA. The contract was extended in July 2002 to August 2003. Research Support and Research Output As is true of the other SI units, the SAO budget includes funds from direct federal appropriations and other sources. But in contrast with the other units, for which the direct federal appropriation provides the majority of operating funds, the appropriation for SAO represents only about 24% of its total budget. That is because SAO receives substantial funding from federal contracts and grants (59% of its total budget). The largest is a contract with NASA to operate the orbiting CXO. SAO also receives grants from DOE, NSF, the US Air Force, and foreign governments. In FY 2001, 16% of the overall SAO budget was supported by funds from Smithsonian’s endowment and business activities and by private funds.
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The total research expenditure by SAO in FY 2001 was $83.9 million, of which the federal appropriation was $24.9 million (Table 2-2). The FY 2001 federal appropriation for research also included $7.0 million for major construction of scientific instrumentation (for example, the SMA and MMT). Most SAO staff are paid from trust funds rather than from direct federal appropriations (federal funds and trust funds paid for 64 and 148 full-time-equivalent staff, respectively), and they compete both internally and externally for research support. As noted above, most of SAO’s income comes from government contracts and grants obtained through competitive peer review. In FY 2001, SAO was awarded 214 contracts and grants amounting, over the lifetime of the awards, to a total of $88.7 million. In addition, SAO staff compete internally for research project support from trust funds and for access to the observing facilities supported by the federal appropriation. In 1995-2000, an estimated 219 SAO scientists produced 2409 research publications. SAO has instituted a system of assessment and review of the individual scholarly accomplishments of the staff in addition to the normal annual review required of all Smithsonian employees, both federal and trust-fund. The members of the PAEC are appointed by the SAO director on the advice of the associate director of each division. The PAEC is charged to review the work of each member of the staff above grade G-13 TABLE 2-2 Estimated Research Expenses of SAO by Source for FY 2001 (in Millions of Dollars) Federal Appropriations Federal—Other Government Grants and Contracts Other Trust Total Research 17.9 0.4 54.7 3.9 083.9 Salaries and benefits 63% 0% 41% 34% 42% Other research costs 37% 100% 59% 66% 58% Major scientific instrumentationa 7.0 0 00 00 000 Other expensesb 2.5 0 12 13.9 28.4 TOTAL 27.4 0.4 66.7 17.8 112.3 aIn addition to the federal appropriations for research and infrastructure, SAO received $7 million for the construction of major scientific instrumentation, such as the multiple-mirror-telescope and submillimeter array. bIncludes expenses for exhibits and education, administration, and facilities.
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In 1995-2000, STRI staff scientists generated 511 scholarly publications in a broad array of books and journals—Science, Nature, Ecology, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, American Naturalist, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and other high-impact journals with wide readership and international recognition. STRI has benefited from the use of peer review committees in evaluating the accomplishments of its professional employees and its programs. External review committees generally consist of four or five individuals with experience and reputation appropriate to senior scientists. Professional evaluation is based on research, dissemination of ideas (including publication of research articles and books, invited and contributed papers at scientific meetings, teaching and educational materials, supervision of graduate students, editorial and review work for scientific journals, and organization of symposia, conferences, and international meetings), and science administration at STRI. Accomplishments of reviewees are assessed by 10 external reviewers, and the results are then examined by the external review committee. Institutional evaluation includes assessment of STRI’s research programs, their relationship to other functions of the Institute, and future directions for STRI. STRI was last evaluated by an external visiting committee in 2000. Unique Characteristics and Special Contributions STRI is internationally recognized for its outstanding and diverse research on the New World tropics, including the fields of tropical biodiversity and systematics, plant-animal interactions, archeology, behavioral ecology, cultural anthropology, environmental monitoring, tropical forest ecology, paleoecology, molecular evolution, plant physiology, and tropical marine ecology. STRI is one of the few tropical research stations that takes an integrated approach to studying plant and animal ecological interactions. The US Forest Service has stations in Puerto Rico and Hawaii that focus on forests and forest disturbance, but none of these stations performs work with the breadth of that found at STRI. Both resident and visiting biologists at STRI have the advantage of living at the site of their field work while having access to cutting-edge facilities and laboratories—a situation rarely found in the tropics. Sophisticated large-scale equipment, such as canopy cranes and GIS facilities, is also available at STRI; this is another factor that provides unique advantages to STRI. The opportunity for scientists to exchange ideas and observations makes this station a “think tank” for understanding complex tropical ecosystems. The breadth of these scientific interactions goes far beyond what is possible in a university department, where few specialists are focused on similar or related research questions.
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Highlights of STRI research achievements include the following: The first and most extensive long-term study of the population dynamics of trees in tropical forests encompassing more than 3 million individuals in large-scale (typically 50-hectare) plots in more than 14 countries throughout the tropics. The study of flower and seed production in 625 species of trees, shrubs, and lianas at weekly intervals for 16 years in order to understand the life histories of these species in intact tropical forests. The quantification of larval settlement on coral reefs at monthly intervals for 20 years and monitoring of populations of sea urchins for 15 years to understand the processes that control marine biodiversity. These data make up a few of the long-term records against which effects of global change on coral reefs might be assessed. More than 2 decades of study of the life histories of various tropical insect species to understand their role and behavior in intact and disturbed tropical forests. The pioneering long-term study of the behavior and population dynamics of tropical lizards, birds, and other vertebrates. Some studies have extended for more than 30 years. Building of a repository of over 300,000 mollusk specimens from Central America with extensive geographical, sediment, taxonomic, and biological information; this is the most complete collection of this kind in the world. Service as the repository of 50,000 marine fossils in which the evolution of marine biodiversity can be traced. Continuous recording of rainfall and temperature data for Barro Colorado Island for more than 80 years and operation of a class A weather station there for 31 years. Because of long-term support for its research programs, STRI can answer “big picture” questions that require continuity over decades. Research carried out over years or even decades is now recognized as fundamental and vital both to scientific understanding and to society’s ability to make informed policy choices, for example, about climate change. Many ecological processes vary over decades, and short-term observations of a few months, seasons, or years provide incomplete and inadequate data for understanding ecosystem behavior. This type of long-term program can be effective only at an established site with stable long-term support. Having a stable source of funding, STRI scientists have the unique ability to examine both terrestrial and marine tropical systems over long timeframes. (See Appendix D for examples of long-term projects at STRI.) In addition to facilitating long-term research, the stability of the cur-
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rent federal support for STRI helps to underpin the strong 90-year relationship of trust and confidence between STRI and the government of the Republic of Panama. In June l997, STRI signed an agreement with the government of Panama whereby the Institute is authorized to continue its research activities and maintain the custodianship and management of the Barro Colorado Nature Monument and its international mission status for an additional 20 years. Recently, STRI also signed agreements with the Interoceanic Canal Authority (ARI) to ensure continued use of its current structures, areas, and facilities for 20 years upon termination of the Panama Canal Treaties in 2000. Other Activities STRI engages in a variety of educational and training activities. Although STRI is not a degree-granting institution, it hosts undergraduate and graduate students from US and Latin American universities who engage in field work in collaboration with STRI staff scientists. The most important educational activity is the fellowship program, which provides support for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and senior fellows. In 2000, 38 fellows and 50 interns were supported at STRI, 31% with institutional funds and the remainder with grants. This is an outstanding contribution to science training, surpassing the scope of fellowship support provided by many educational institutions of comparable size. STRI is one of the few places where US students in tropical biology are trained. SMITHSONIAN CENTER FOR MATERIALS RESEARCH AND EDUCATION Originally established as the Analytical Laboratory of the United States National Museum in 1963, SCMRE is a unique organization whose primary purpose is to increase and disseminate scientific knowledge that contributes to improved preservation and conservation of museum collections and related materials and contributes to enhancement of their contextual interpretation. All museum curators are acutely aware of the need to preserve the materials in their care, as are any museum visitors who have observed the ravages of time on their favorite exhibits. After its founding in 1963, there was some expectation that the center would be a service organization helping to conserve the general collections of the Smithsonian. Its actual role, however, is much broader and more valuable. In its conservation activities, SCMRE seeks to identify and solve general problems in need of solution for the museum community as a whole rather than focusing exclusively on the day-to-day conservation of particular specimens.
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Similarly, its research for extracting information from the collections harnesses modern developments in nuclear chemistry, molecular genetics, instrumental analysis, and related fields. Rather than trace the source of a particular pre-Columbian pot or the foundry where a particular Middle Eastern bronze axe was produced, SCMRE develops and then applies new methods, such as neutron activation analysis of ceramic or metallic artifacts, to trace the sources of such materials. Although research and teaching of this sort are carried out to some extent by universities and museums elsewhere, few centers have SCMRE’s breadth of purpose or impact. Research Support and Research Output In FY 2001, SCMRE scientists received $3.5 million in direct federal appropriations, which made up almost the entire SCMRE budget (Table 2-5). The majority of the appropriated funds are allocated to administrative and infrastructure costs (62%). Of the $1.2 million expended on research, 80% was used to pay staff salaries and benefits. All staff scientists at SCMRE are paid by federal appropriations. Until the 1980s, SCMRE staff were discouraged from applying for extramural funding. Even now, applying for funding from some federal agencies is generally not successful because no federal agency has a dedicated program in this discipline. To overcome that barrier, SCMRE staff have been collaborating with scientists outside the Smithsonian and receiving some “in kind” support through partnerships. For example, some travel and field expenses and laboratory supplies were provided by the TABLE 2-5 Estimated Research Expenses of SCMRE by Source for FY 2001 (in Millions of Dollars) Federal Appropriations Federal—Other Government Grants and Contracts Other Trust Total Research 1.2 0.2 <0.05 <0.05 1.4 Salaries and benefits 80% 0% 88% 0% 69% Other research costs 20% 100% 0% 100% 31% Other expensesa 2.0 0.1 0 0.1 2.2 TOTAL 3.2 0.3 0 0.1 3.6 aIncludes expenses for collections, exhibits and education, administration, and facilities.
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National Park Service, the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, NSF, Kress, and the Latino Fund for Scholarly Studies through collaborations. These external funds are not reflected in the SCMRE budget because travel or other support costs were paid directly by external collaborators and there was no money transferred to SI. SCMRE has a staff of 26, including nine PhD scientists. The research interests of the staff encompass a variety of disciplines, including the application of organic chemistry to museum conservation, ceramic science, materials characterization, chemistry of archeological and organic materials, mechanical properties of modern materials, the effects of environmental influences (e.g., moisture) on these materials, metallurgy, and the conservation of furniture, paintings, paper, and textiles. Thirteen staff members published 133 articles in 1995-2000, including 19 contributions to books. In addition to publication in the professional literature, staff members published technical monographs on such subjects as insect pests in museums and historical textile dyestuffs. They also produced technical videos for nonconservation collection professionals. All staff scientists at SCMRE are evaluated periodically by PAEC. Each staff scientist is required to submit a curriculum vitae, forms describing the reviewee’s research and professional and educational service, copies of publications, and letters from outside reviewers to the director, who passes the information on to the PAEC. The PAEC commonly includes scholars from outside the SI and occasionally one non-SCMRE SI scholar. Programs of the research unit are also reviewed periodically by external visiting committees. Visiting committees generally review the mission statement and accompanying documents and the effectiveness, relevance, and importance of the programs and make recommendations for long-term priorities. SCMRE was last reviewed by a visiting committee in 1995 when it was known as the Conservation Analytical Laboratory. Uniqueness and Special Contribution One of the goals of the SCMRE, in its own words, is “to be a driving force for the promotion and improvement of conservation and preservation of Smithsonian collections.” SCMRE has a unique and important role in the Smithsonian, as it provides analytical, technical, and information support for the care and curation of institutional collections at the request of Smithsonian staff. Furthermore, SCMRE staff members assist and support the Smithsonian administration in the design and execution of collection care and management. In 1996-2002, SCMRE performed 4470 analyses for various Smithsonian museums, including NMNH, the National Museum of American History, the National Air and Space Museum, the Freer Gallery of Art, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Hirshhorn Mu-
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seum and Sculpture Garden, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the National Museum of African Art, and the National Museum of the American Indian. Apart from SI staff, faculty and students in various universities in the United States, Canada, and Argentina also use the analytical facilities and unique databases that SCMRE offers. Well recognized achievements and special contributions made to its field of research include the following: A 500-fold increase in the stability of storage of 20th century photographic collections through the development of low temperature (–20oC) storage. In-depth studies of the aging effect of temperature and humidity in the curation of organic materials. Unique research focused on the preservation of the Star Spangled Banner. The analysis and reconstruction of ancient technologies, leading to a deeper understanding of such issues as pottery making among native Californian and Mayan cultures. The development of advanced artifact packing guidelines based on shock and vibration analysis. Special research in archaeometallurgy with such results as the demonstration that the Wright brothers’ use of the alloy duralumin was the earliest by 6 years. The unique role and special contribution of SCMRE are possible only because of the federal support for its unique niche. The specialists it recruits have accumulated experience in the application of their analytical techniques in a museum context, and this experience is vital to the success of the research and the training and display programs. The long-term research in cultural and archeological materials that SCMRE undertakes is also unique. In partnership with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, SCMRE produces high-precision analytical chemistry data for compositional characterization in studies of archeological, historical, and art history research projects using instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA). SCMRE maintains all these data in an INAA database that is accessible to its collaborators around the world. It is unlikely that the types of projects SCMRE excels at would, or could, be supported by a system of competitive grants. First, no science funding agency in the federal government has a mission that overlaps extensively with the needs of the museum community. Second, SCMRE’s long-term projects are not compatible with the federal science agencies’ typical 2- to 3-year cycles of support.
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The work of SCMRE is paralleled by few institutions in North America. Two similar institutions are the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) and the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI), both of which specialize in research that differs somewhat from SCMRE’s. GCI is a nonprofit organization that obtains its funds almost exclusively from the J. Paul Getty Foundation. It conducts research that is related primarily to the conservation of architecture, archeological sites, monuments, and large objects, such as statues and wall paintings. Because it is a private foundation, its research is not necessarily driven by requests from museums. CCI is a special operating agency of the Department of Canadian Heritage in the Canadian government. Its work is mostly supported by direct appropriations from the Canadian government, even though it generates some revenue from contracts with private and international clients. CCI’s four main activities are treatment, analysis, research, and transportation. CCI treats and analyzes objects from various museums, galleries, and archives in Canada. Projects range from research on materials used by Canadian artists to work on a standard for permanent paper. CCI also provides transportation services. Like SCMRE, GCI and CCI have stable sources of funding for their operations, but neither of them conducts extensive archaeometric research. Other Activities In addition to conducting research, the SCMRE staff is active in providing exhibits, courses, and workshops for an audience ranging from the bilingual public of California to university students of museum conservation and curators of museums throughout the United States and the world. SCMRE offers internships and fellowships for all educational levels and 15-20 professional courses each year in artifact analysis, preservation, and materials science. It also provides technical information services to conservation and collection professionals outside SI and advises the general public on the preservation of family heirlooms and other privately owned artifacts on request. SMITHSONIAN ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH CENTER SERC occupies 2700 acres adjoining the Chesapeake Bay in Edgewater, Maryland, about 25 miles from the Smithsonian complex on the Mall in Washington, DC. Employing 14 principal PhD scientists, SERC is one of three Smithsonian research centers (along with SAO and STRI) that function essentially like academic departments or laboratories, with research, educational, and outreach obligations. SERC scientists perform research in environmental science; estuarine,
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watershed, and coastal ecology; and climate change, especially its effects on ecosystems. In its words, SERC is dedicated to increasing knowledge of the biological and physical processes that sustain life on earth. SERC’s interdisciplinary research applies long-term studies to examine the ecological questions about landscapes of linked ecosystems, especially those impacted by human activities. SERC is the youngest of the Smithsonian organizations, but it has achieved an internationally recognized reputation for outstanding research on environmental problems and the ecology of the land-sea interface since its founding in 1965. The 14 principal investigators are supported by a staff of about 80 (federally supported and trust supported) on the SERC campus in Edgewater. Research Support and Research Output Research at SERC is supported by a combination of direct federal ap-propriations and funding from a variety of other sources, including federal, state, and local grants and contracts received by the principal investigators. In FY 2001, $1.2 million (36%) of the $3.3 million direct federal appropriation was spent on administrative, education, and other infrastructure costs (Table 2-6). The remainder of the direct appropriation was used for research, of which 82% was spent on staff salaries and benefits. The salaries of all but one staff scientist are paid by the federal appropriation. In addition to the federal funds, SERC received about $2.7 million from contracts and grants and $1.2 million from donations and other SI TABLE 2-6 Estimated Research Expenses of SERC by Source for FY 2001 (in Millions of Dollars) Federal Appropriations Federal—Other Government Grants and Contracts Other Trust Total Research 2.1 0.1 2.2 0.8 5.2 Salaries and benefits 82% 33% 47% 46% 61% Other research costs 18% 67% 53% 54% 39% Other expensesa 1.2 0 0.5 0.4 2.1 TOTAL 3.3 0.1 2.7 1.2 7.3 aIncludes expenses for exhibits and education, administration, and facilities.
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sources. The sources of those grants and contracts included NSF, DOC, DOD, DOE, DOI, the Department of Transportation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Chesapeake Bay Consortium, Inc. The 14 SERC scientists published 239 articles in 1995-2000. SERC lists articles in 73 journals, including Science, Nature, Ecology, Limnology and Oceanography, American Naturalist, Geophysical Research Letters, Plant Physiology, BioScience, and other high-impact journals. SERC authors also wrote or contributed to 36 books in the same period. SERC, like other Smithsonian units, performs annual personnel evaluations and has fully external peer review evaluations at 3- to 7-year intervals for all promotions. The system in place for staff evaluation entails solicitation of external reviews by mail and their evaluation by a panel of three outside scientists. In addition, SERC has an external visiting review committee that periodically evaluates the relationships between SERC research programs and the broader ecological community and its overall program performance. SERC was last reviewed in 1997. Unique Characteristics and Special Contributions One of seven major estuarine research facilities surrounding Chesapeake Bay, SERC is distinguished by its focus on the entire watershed of the bay, with a balanced program of marine, freshwater, and terrestrial studies. SERC scientists conduct research on wetland and forest plants, estuarine microorganisms, ecosystem responses to rising atmospheric CO2concentrations and ultraviolet radiation, mangrove forests, primary production by phytoplankton, fish and invertebrate population dynamics, nutrient transport and eutrophication, migratory and wetland birds, carbon storage, and invasive species. SERC scientists perform their field research on the SERC campus, throughout the Chesapeake Bay region, and in 20 states and 23 countries. Also notable is SERC research at the other Smithsonian marine and tropical research centers, the Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce in Florida and the Carrie-Bow Marine Field Station in Belize. By exploiting the Smithsonian’s unique network of marine laboratories in temperate, subtropical, and tropical latitudes, SERC scientists are able to pursue ecological and environmental topics on a wide variety of spatial scales, from local to intercontinental, and in a variety of landscapes and ecosystems. That cosmopolitan scope makes SERC unique among its peer coastal and estuarine institutions around Chesapeake Bay and across the nation. Another notable aspect of SERC research is an unusual concentration on long-term studies. (See Appendix E for examples.) Once dismissed as monitoring, research carried out over multiple years or even decades is
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now recognized as crucial to both scientific understanding and the ability to make informed policy about climate change, land management, and maintenance of surface and groundwater quality. The pervasive influence of El Niño on weather around the planet is a familiar example of how disconnected or short-term observations fail to penetrate the dynamics of climate forcing and ecosystem response to El Niño Southern Oscillation variability. Longer-term trends in nutrient delivery to coastal systems and secular trends in atmospheric CO2 increase and ozone depletion provide further examples of the need for sustained, long-term observations. Some of the important accomplishments of SERC scientists include: Recognition by the journal Science as one of the Smithsonian’s crown jewels (Pennisi, 2001a) with the highest publication citation impact among SI centers (15 citations per paper in plant and animal science and 13 citations per paper in environment and ecology; Pennisi, 2001b). Recognition as the national center for research on biological invasions in marine ecosystems, including establishment of the National Ballast Water Information Clearinghouse, a key information source for the US Congress. Invention and patenting of the spectral radiometer, the current national standard for monitoring solar radiation and for systematic research and observations on spectrally resolved ultraviolet radiation. Establishment of the ability of riparian zones to remove nitrates from groundwater moving from agricultural fields to streams and estuaries through long-term studies of an entire watershed. Conduct of the only long-term experimental CO2 enrichment of an estuarine marsh to study the effects of rising atmospheric CO2 on wetlands. This is the world’s longest running field experiment on the effects of CO2 enrichment on entire plant communities. Maintenance of extensive geographic databases on the topography, land-use composition and patterns, streams and rivers, and shorelines of the Rhode River watershed. Maintenance of long-term monitoring data (10-32 years) on numerous physical, chemical, and biological properties of the Rhode River, a subestuary of the Chesapeake Bay, to test hypotheses about the effects of land use in the watershed on the river, estuary, and bay. Although it is common for marine laboratories like SERC and its counterparts around the bay to maintain local time series on basic marine properties (such as meteorology, salinity, temperature, and chlorophyll), the scope, depth, and range of SERC’s emphasis on investigation of long-period, low-frequency processes are unique.
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Other Activities Like its peer institutions and counterparts, SERC engages in a variety of educational and outreach activities. Although SERC is not a degree-granting institution, it hosts undergraduate and graduate students from other institutions who work on the SERC campus and in collaboration with SERC principal investigators. The most important of SERC’s educational activities is its fellowship program, which provides support for graduate students and postdoctoral and senior fellows. The SERC program supports 11 fellows. Like that of STRI, SERC’s contribution to science education therefore rivals or surpasses fellowship support provided by many educational institutions of comparable size. SERC also has an extensive K-12 education program, which brings 10,000 elementary school students and their teachers to the campus each year for an environmental education program.
Representative terms from entire chapter: