New leadership for Science

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Science  17 Jun 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6292, pp. 1371
DOI: 10.1126/science.aag3342

Next month, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) welcomes a new editor-in-chief for the Science family of journals, Jeremy M. Berg, as Marcia McNutt steps aside to assume her role as president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. This passing of the baton is always an exciting time for AAAS, because it presents an opportunity to refresh views on Science's trajectory in the increasingly complex landscape of science's place in society. In this regard, Science and the other Science family journals will be in good hands with Jeremy Berg.


“…the job of the editor-in-chief may seem easy. That is far from the truth.”

A scientist of great breadth and accomplishment in structural chemistry and biochemistry, science education, and science policy, Berg brings creative ideas and good judgment about scientific publishing. Currently the Associate Senior Vice Chancellor for Science Strategy and Planning at the University of Pittsburgh, he has been, among other things, chair of the Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry at Johns Hopkins University and director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. This distinguished background, along with his passion for data-driven analysis of science policy, dedication to increasing the diversity of perspectives among scientists, and enthusiasm about leading the Science family of journals, makes Berg well suited for the job.

Berg joins a line of distinguished editors. Since its beginning 168 years ago, AAAS has had a mission to foster communication among scientists and with the public. At the turn of the 20th century, AAAS addressed this mission by taking over a struggling journal called Science, founded two decades earlier by Thomas Edison and kept alive by Alexander Graham Bell. The journal grew and thrived over the decades, with each editor-in-chief bringing something different to Science. To mention a few, Philip Abelson (1962–1984) broadened the publication's scope, modernized its peer-review process, and created the News section as we know it today; Daniel Koshland Jr. (1985–1995) solidified Science's stature internationally in the emerging fields of cell and molecular biology and expanded commentaries; Floyd Bloom (1995–2000) ushered Science into the digital age; Donald Kennedy (2000–2008) gave the science of sustainability new prominence; and Bruce Alberts (2008–2013) brought emphasis to science education and oversaw the first expansion of research journals, with Science Signaling and Science Translational Medicine. Marcia McNutt not only launched the first online, open-access family member, Science Advances, but also the forthcoming digital journals Science Immunology and Science Robotics. And she has led the charge in directing international attention to higher standards in peer review and reproducibility in all science journals.

With such a history of success, it's understandable how the job of the editor-in-chief may seem easy. That is far from the truth. Over the time that AAAS has published Science, these leaders have had to set policy on a variety of matters, ranging from the fair balance of scientific disciplines covered in Research and in News; to government restrictions on data; to the content and accuracy of articles and even advertising; to the efficiency, thoroughness, and fairness of refereeing and editing; to issues of prior publication and conflicts of interest. We are fortunate that Science's editors-in-chief have been remarkably wise in making such decisions and in advancing the scientific enterprise.

With so much ferment in the world of scientific publishing today, there will surely be more important decisions ahead. Editor-in-chief Berg (along with AAAS's new publisher, Bill Moran) takes leadership of a family of journals that is healthy and influential at a time when there is both a need and an opportunity to make changes to better serve science and society in the modern day. AAAS is fortunate to have such leadership in its publishing.

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