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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

More tumult at natural sciences museum

Posted by on Tue, Jan 7, 2014 at 4:15 PM

There have been more seismic shifts at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. Brian Rosborough, founder of Earthwatch, one of the earliest environmental groups, has resigned as the head of the museum’s 24-member Citizen Science Council, the INDY confirmed Tuesday.

Five other council members also reportedly resigned, although the INDY is not listing their names until they can be confirmed.

The Citizen Science Council is charged with providing science advisers for the museum. It meets twice a year and invites outside speakers to discuss scientific trends.

Rosborough, who lives in Concord, Mass., told the INDY by phone that after two years, it became difficult for him to lead the council from afar. In addition, Rosborough said, when Emlyn Koster became museum director, “he had his own ideas, as is his right.”
However, in an email to council members and museum leadership obtained by the INDY, Rosborough’s tone was more direct, noting his decision was made “with some regret”: “With the interest of the Museum of Natural Sciences in mind, I am relinquishing my responsibilities as council chair … I think it best as the director and I have divergent views on the independence and support of the council, making this the easiest path forward.”

Mark Johnson, external affairs director for the museum, did not return calls seeking comment on Rosborough’s or the other council members’ resignations.

In the email, Rosborough alluded to Koster’s desire to control the council, which thus far had worked independently. “As is his right, the director prefers that the Citizen Science Council should follow state rules with all appointments and agendas filtered by him and managed by his office.

“I believe that the independence of the Council is its strongest contribution to the museum it’s staff and stakeholders, and especially the director who deserves and will need diverse and independent oversight to properly discharge his responsibilities.”

N.C. State University Dean of Sciences Dan Solomon, who is on the nominating committee, could not be reached for comment. A new chairman is expected to be named at the next council meeting, March 27.

Rosborough was recruited by former museum director Betsy Bennett and recommended by Meg Lowman, a leading scientist and former director of the Nature Research Center. “I had a splendid first year,” Rosborough told the INDY.

However, after Koster became museum director in January 2013, he reassigned Lowman from the Nature Research Center to a lesser position, senior scientist and director of academic partnerships and global initiatives. She left the museum in November to become the Chief of Science and Sustainability at the California Academy of Sciences. Many of the other council members who reportedly resigned were colleagues and friends of Lowman. 

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