The six research centers, taken together, embody an important component of SI’s research program and constitute a mechanism whereby SI carries out its charter to “increase and diffuse knowledge.” The Committee considered the work of each SI unit, its role and status in the scientific enterprise, and whether the terms uniqueness and special contribution should be applied to each research center. In arriving at its findings and conclusions, the Committee drew on information received from the central offices of the Smithsonian and the research centers themselves, data-gathering interviews with SI staff and representatives of the research centers, the expertise and relevant knowledge of the Committee members themselves, and informal contact with members of the wider scientific community.
A: The research performed by the National Museum of Natural History, the National Zoological Park, and the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education is inextricable from their missions and is appropriately characterized by the terms unique and special contributions.
The terms of the creation of NMNH make it the nation’s repository for extensive collections of gems, minerals, meteorites, plants, animals, fossils, and other natural history specimens. NMNH has a responsibility to conduct collection-based research to derive knowledge and meaning from the collections not only for the sake of scientific advances, but also to enhance the management and public display of the materials. Without collection-based research, NMNH could become simply a warehouse of artifacts and stale information that would quickly fall out of step with advances in the sciences and ultimately fail as a source of public education and attraction. In addition, NMNH has a unique and critical role in the national natural history museum community with collections vastly larger and wider in scope than those of any comparable US institution. The breadth of its research mission and the extent of its service to the museum research community are correspondingly critical.
Similarly, research by NZP is essential to its mission, allowing enhanced management and display of its live animal collections and the development of improved conservation practices for wild animal populations. Research is also an expectation under the terms of the zoo’s certification by AZA and other agreements that the zoo has entered into. Although large research programs are not a requirement for AZA accreditation, zoos are expected to have a long-term commitment to conservation and research in proportion to the size and significance of their