The Smithsonian, ORNL partner to advance science, education

Smithsonian Wayne Clough, Thom Mason, and Jeff Nichols

Pictured above during a Thursday signing ceremony at the Smithsonian Institution’s Castle Commons are, from left, Wayne Clough, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution; ORNL Director Thom Mason; and ORNL associate lab director for computing and computational sciences Jeff Nichols. (Photo by John Gibbons/Smithsonian)


The Smithsonian Institution and Oak Ridge National Laboratory have announced a new partnership to support collaborative research programs and science education efforts. This is the first partnership between Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Smithsonian, which was formalized during the signing of a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, on Thursday, June 12.

The Smithsonian and Oak Ridge National Laboratory both examine many of the world’s most complex and time-sensitive scientific problems and support many research programs that complement and reinforce each other. They also support science education to impact students and teachers from elementary school through post-doctoral studies. The MOU, signed by Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough and ORNL Director Thom Mason, creates a framework for future collaboration between the two organizations that leverages the strengths of each.

“The Smithsonian is proud to partner with another organization that realizes that basic research is vital to the future of the nation, and that knowledge about the natural world is inherently valuable to society,” Clough said. “This agreement will help us each maximize our strengths and achieve our common goals across a broad spectrum of scientific endeavor.”

The Smithsonian and ORNL will focus future collaborations under the MOU on areas they strongly share, such as climate change, human-environment interactions, genomics, computational sciences, bioinformatics, data analytics, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education.

“ORNL and the Smithsonian Institution share a commitment to discovery science, interdisciplinary research, improving the public’s understanding of science, and educating the next generation of scientists and engineers,” Mason said. “Combining the extraordinary resources of the Smithsonian with ORNL’s distinctive capabilities creates new opportunity in all of these areas.”

The Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum and research complex, consisting of 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park, and nine research facilities. There are more than 500 Smithsonian staff scientists, augmented by an equal number of fellows and hundreds of international collaborators, who conduct research in field stations and laboratories on all seven continents and serve as national and international experts in a wide scope of disciplines.

ORNL is the largest science and energy national laboratory in the U.S. Department of Energy system. ORNL’s scientific programs focus on materials, neutron science, energy, high-performance computing, systems biology, and national security.

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit


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