As part of its 2010-2015 strategic plan, The Smithsonian has identified four Grand Challenges, which will be the overarching priorities that will guide the Institution’s work over the next decade:
Unlocking the Mysteries of the Universe
- Better understand the early epoch of inflation of the universe, the nature and role of dark matter in the evolution of the universe, and the properties of the dark energy that is speeding up the expansion of the universe.
- Comprehend extreme explosive phenomena in the universe, with foci on gamma-ray bursts and the birth of neutron stars and black holes in supernovae, whose huge explosions create the basic elements from which life is formed.
- Discover how galaxies form, cluster, and interact; how supermassive black holes grow, and how galaxies evolve with cosmic time.
- Understand how stellar processes change clouds of gas and dust into stars and planets, including the Earth, and how life emerged here and perhaps elsewhere.
- Explore how diverse peoples throughout history have interpreted the cosmos and its role in their lives.
- Understand the formation, geological diversity, and dynamics of the Earth, the Moon, and other rocky bodies in our solar system.
Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet
- Improve understanding of and access to the biology and natural history of species – information that is lacking for the vast majority of species on the planet.
- Increase knowledge of the evolutionary and ecological history of species and ecosystems, and the processes responsible for population declines and extinction.
- Develop concepts, theories, tools, and models that contribute directly to halting biodiversity loss, managing species and their habitats, restoring ecosystems, and mitigating threats to the environment.
- Understand how species interactions, climate change, habitat fragmentation, diseases, environmental contaminants, and invasions of exotic species affect the survival of species and the functioning of ecosystems.
- Improve knowledge of the relationships between cultures and biological diversity over time in order to better sustain both.
Valuing World Cultures
- Add to knowledge of migrations, diasporas, and interactions of cultural groups.
- Study historic and contemporary cultural and artistic heritage, with particular emphasis on the arts of Asia and Africa, the heritage of the Americas, indigenous knowledge and expressive systems, and modern and contemporary art and design.
- Shed light on the interconnections among world cultures.
- Augment knowledge about the processes leading to the loss of cultural diversity – tangible and intangible heritage.
Understanding the American Experience
- Use material culture and documentary collections to research and interpret national milestones and achievements; American life and national identity, cultural expression, the environment and changing landscape, and achievements in science and technology; political and military struggles; economic, scientific, technological, and cultural innovations; and artists and leaders that have defined the United States and the character of its people.
- Interpretation of the diverse communities of the United States, particularly African American, Latino, Asian Pacific American, and Native American, as well as the cultural interrelationships among these communities.
- Conduct research on contemporary American life and creativity.
- Conduct research on historical migrations and diasporas to and within America and on the contemporary movements of people, art, artifacts, and cultural expressions that connect various world cultures to the American experience.
- Use biography and stories of individuals such as leaders, inventors, artists, and cultural exemplars to help understand the evolving nature of the American character.