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President’s Request Would Boost Smithsonian’s Budget by 11 Percent – Natural Science Collections Alliance

President’s Request Would Boost Smithsonian’s Budget by 11 Percent

Federal support for the Smithsonian Institution would grow by 11 percent in fiscal year (FY) 2023 to $1.2 billion.  This increase includes the congressionally mandated pay raise, funds to revitalize  physical infrastructure, and support for two new museums.  Smithsonian is also funded by private donations and a trust fund.

The Facilities Capital account would receive $265 million (+26 percent), including $23 million to continue the major renovation project at the National Air and Space Museum; $20.4 million for the National Zoo’s ongoing revitalization work; $5.9 million for the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center; $8.4 million for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute; $8 million for the Suitland Collections Center; $8.7 million for revitalization of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; and $55 million for ongoing renovations at the Smithsonian Institution Building or the Castle.  Funds are also included for the continued planning and design for the two new congressionally-mandated museums: the National Museum of the American Latino (NMAL) and the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum (SAWHM).

Funding for the preservation of collections would increase by 10 percent to $83.5 million.  The request includes an increase of $1.9 million* for collections support to rebuild curatorial and collections management staffing and support collections research at the Smithsonian Institution.  The request for collections staffing reflects the federal support needed “to begin recovering from the base erosion of curatorial and collections management staff in several of the Smithsonian’s most popular museums and galleries.”  According to the proposal, these additional staff are needed to assist museums with research and public collections inquiries, expanding loan and digitization capacities to meet the growing demand for physical and digital access to collections, and conserving at-risk collections, among other things.

Interdisciplinary research programs at the Smithsonian Institution are slated to receive an increase of $10 million*.  Of that increase, $5 million would be targeted to biodiversity research, including increased support for climate change coordination and monitoring (+$1 million*), research data management efforts (+$1 million*), and the Global Earth Observatory (GEO) networks (+$3 million*): Forest GEO (+$1.5 million*) and MarineGEO (+$1.5 million*).  The mission of the GEO networks is to accelerate understanding of the diversity and functioning of forest and marine ecosystems to predict their futures and sustain their vital roles in supporting life on Earth.  The remaining $5 million in new interdisciplinary research funding would be set aside to respond to unique research opportunities (for e.g., research on One Health, biodiversity genomics, endangered and invasive species, and climate change impacts) and to recruit and retain a diverse STEM workforce.

Funding increases are proposed for most ongoing activities at Smithsonian, including public programs for dissemination of information (+$3 million*), exhibitions (+$4.6 million*), and educational outreach (+$2 million*). 

The National Museum for Natural History (NMNH) would receive $15.3 million under the Facilities Capital account to continue major revitalization work.  Under the Salaries and Expenses account, the NMNH would receive $55.2 million (+3.4 percent), with the increase targeted to salary-related costs for existing staff, as well as new funding for collections support.

The NMNH requests three new permanent science and collections staff and $567,000 in new funding to advance the digitization of biological, cultural, and geological collections and collections data and make them more accessible for research.  Specifically, the new positions will lead mass-digitization efforts for “difficult-to-digitize, fluid-preserved invertebrate animals and pinned insects”; transform analog data from across NMNH collections; perform data cleaning and standardization work; and build data science tools to enable big data initiatives and to provide educational resources for schools.  Notably, digitization of collections data that contributes to understanding climate and environmental changes would be prioritized.

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), which works towards understanding the biological and cultural diversity in the tropics, would receive a slight boost of 3.4 percent to $16.2 million.  The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) conducts research on land and water ecosystems in the coastal zone and would receive $4.9 million (+3.7 percent).  SERC will continue to collaborate with the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) and serve as a key partner in the development of the MarineGEO initiative, which tracks changes in near-shore marine ecosystems. 

(*compared to FY 2021, as details of program level funding within Smithsonian for FY 2022 are not yet available)

President’s Request Would Boost Smithsonian’s Budget by 11 Percent
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