Smithsonian Goes Wiki

It's difficult to imagine how any organization could undertake a mission as broad as "unlocking the mysteries of the universe." But that's what the Smithsonian Institution's strategic plan calls for, so the world's largest museum network has turned to the public for help. In 2009, the Smithsonian launched a public-facing wiki, a collaborative online document open to anyone who wishes to comment, edit or create.

The next step in expanding the institution's digital presence is the debut of a prototype Smithsonian Commons in January. The searchable Web resource places its vast collection at the public's fingertips. By incorporating smart phone GPS technology, social media and bookmarking capabilities, the site tailors the learning process to individual needs.

The wiki embodies what the institution is all about: collaborative problem-solving and knowledge creation, says Michael Edson, Smithsonian's director of Web and new media strategy. The platform is cheap and malleable and gives smart people outside the institution an opportunity to contribute.

Edson and his team take contributions from staff and students seriously. Last spring, nearly 300 Smithsonian employees participated in a workshop series to discuss the strategy's challenges, and the wiki was updated alongside the conversation. The Voice Your Vision YouTube contest during the summer solicited ideas from the public for improving the Smithsonian's offerings. But one of the project's greatest upshots is the imperative to talk and then take action. After all, says Edson, "promises made in public are not easily forgotten."

-Emily Long

Last Resort

Feel the need for a little R&R but can't afford St. Bart's? There's always Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. Air Force officials hope you'll one day consider a soon-to-be-built resort on Santa Rosa Island in the Gulf of Mexico. Service leaders are negotiating a long-term lease with Emerald Breeze Resort Group LLC to develop a first-rate, beachfront resort on 17 unused acres.

The Air Force is executing the deal under what's known as enhanced-use lease authority, enacted by Congress in 2001, which allows officials to lease government property to private contractors when such leases can benefit the military services. Typically, military officials have negotiated EULs to build less glamorous but vital infrastructure such as power plants, office space or wastewater treatment facilities.

One of the service's best-known EULs is the 140-acre solar farm at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, where installation officials negotiated a 20-year-lease with SunPower Corp. to build the largest solar array in the Americas on a brownfield. Not only did the Air Force save the cost of rehabilitating unused landfill, it cut a deal that will save facility managers $1 million a year on electricity.

While the economic benefits of the Emerald Breeze Resort might seem less clear, Air Force officials said the project would generate jobs and breathe new life into an unused beachfront parcel.

"When this project is complete, I think everyone involved will be very proud to have been a part of it," says Kathleen Ferguson, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations.

-Katherine McIntire Peters

Team Fed Tryouts

Federal recruits could be in for more prep work before interviewing with Uncle Sam.

Agencies might have better luck selecting the best candidates if they included a simulation of the work in the application process, according to a report from the Merit Systems Protection Board. Job simulations-which can include everything from asking candidates to explain how they would handle a specific situation to exercises in which they must answer customer calls-allow hiring managers to determine whether an applicant has the right stuff.

Developing tests to see how prospective employees respond to a given work environment or perform a particular task can be expensive. But, the report said, "Agencies need to weigh the fact that it may be more costly in the long run to make poor hiring decisions than to spend the money to make good ones." Fewer than half of all agencies are using job simulations, the report found.

-Alyssa Rosenberg

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.