A proposal to close two research centers of the Smithsonian Institution is meeting rising opposition from researchers, policy-makers, and congressional representatives.
Often regarded as the U.S. equivalent of a ministry of science and culture, the Smithsonian has 16 museums, the National Zoo, and a half-dozen remote research units, all of which get about two-thirds of their support from the U.S. government. As part of an impending reorganization of research there, Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small last week called for the closing of the National Zoo's Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal Virginia and the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education (ScienceNOW, 10 April).
In response to early rumors of the closing, Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Virginia) met on 5 April with representatives of about two dozen conservation and scientific organizations and mapped out a strategy for convincing Small, the Smithsonian's Board of Regents, and the U.S. Congress that these centers are worth saving. And on 16 April, scientists at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History held a special meeting of their Senate of Scientists. While they stopped short of giving Small a vote of no confidence, many did sign a letter to Small objecting to the closing of the centers and to the "top down" management style that they say Small has imposed.
"I think we've got to all speak out," says Smithsonian ornithologist Storrs Olson.