Mike the Mad Biologist

Clough: Good News for the Smithsonian

The NY Times has a good article about G. Wayne Clough, the new chancellor of the Smithsonian. Clough is definitely a breath of fresh air after former chancellor Lawrence Small who never met an extravagance he wouldn’t make the Smithsonian pay for. First, Clough is setting an example of good conduct:

The Smithsonian’s museum directors must now have their travel approved by an undersecretary of the institution, Dr. Clough said. Every new executive must undergo a thorough background check, and ethics is a regular topic of discussion among the Smithsonian’s management.

Dr. Clough’s own travel must now be approved by the Smithsonian’s chief financial officer. Dr. Clough has also resigned from his salaried positions on three corporate boards. From 2000 to 2006 his predecessor, Mr. Small, spent 64 business days serving on corporate boards that paid him a total of $5.7 million.

Mr. Small’s salary was $916,000 in 2007, but the Smithsonian is paying Dr. Clough $490,000. He pays his own rent on a town house near the fish market in southeast Washington; Mr. Small used a Smithsonian housing allowance for his town house in an affluent neighborhood in northwest Washington. Dr. Clough’s home is about a quarter-mile from the Smithsonian museums, so he can walk to work; Mr. Small used a chauffeur.

I also like his approach to the Smithsonian’s educational mission:

He said he also hoped to improve coordination. The Smithsonian has about a dozen educational centers, for example, he said, “but no pan-institutional concept” for education.

Keep in mind, this is the awful sort of thing that happens when a pointy-head elitist educator takes over from someone who tries to run the Smithsonian like a business (apparently, the business was Merrill Lynch…).

One complaint I’ve heard from a couple Smithsonian researchers is that it’s very difficult for them to apply for extramural funding. Good news on that front, too:

He said he also hoped to compete for federal money beyond the direct annual appropriation. If the Smithsonian set out to develop a school science and technology curriculum, for example, Dr. Clough said, “we might go to the Department of Education and get that funded, as opposed to sitting back and hoping that money comes to us.”

Hopefully, Clough will work out. The Smithsonian is a national treasure; we deserve better than the previous leadership.

Comments

  1. #1 Julie Stahlhut
    September 18, 2008

    At the same time, he said, he recognized the perils of giving contributors too much of a say in how their money is spent, a challenge with which the Smithsonian is already familiar.

    I’ve always wondered what machinations led to the funding of the Insect Zoo by a pesticide company.