Warning that American education and research have fallen behind, the new head of the Smithsonian Institution has launched an ambitious effort to digitize its 137 million artifacts and use social-networking tools to reach a new generation of learners.

"Technology and new modes of communication based on the World Wide Web are dramatically altering the way people access, interact with, and communicate knowledge," said G. Wayne Clough, who formally became the 12th secretary of the Smithsonian Institution on Jan. 26 but has been on the job for about six months.

At the same time, "International test scores show American children falling further behind


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