Equity and excellence in science

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Science  01 Nov 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6465, pp. 551
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaz9585

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The long strange trip to where I am today—the new Editor-in-Chief of the Science family of journals—began in the theater. My mom started the community theater in my hometown and my experiences there taught me many things, but two stand out. First, I was a bad actor. My mom humored me for a while giving me parts, but she let out a huge sigh of relief when I decided I could contribute more with a wrench or a bass guitar in my hand than on the stage.

Moving off the stage got me focused on the sound, lights, and music of the theater. That's how I learned the second thing: that it was fun to tinker with things and learn the laws of disciplines like music, especially how creativity happens within those laws.

Science was a logical progression of being creative within laws. My research interests have gone from physical inorganic chemistry to drug development, with lots of stops in between. All of those stops were shaped and informed by the research, news, and commentaries of Science, so it is with profound gratitude and sense of responsibility that I assume the role.

When I first started reading Science's editorials, they were written by Dan Koshland. He and all of the individuals who have served as Editor-in-Chief have brought great distinction to the position, and it is both daunting and inspiring to follow them. My immediate predecessors Jeremy Berg and Marcia McNutt independently described the role using the phrase “kid in a candy store” when talking about what it is like to see all the great research that flows through the journal.

Nonetheless, it's a very serious job. The quality and reproducibility of the science must remain at the highest possible level. Authors deserve to have their work reviewed objectively and as expeditiously as possible. And reviewers deserve recognition of the extraordinary service that they provide.

With the cynicism and outright attacks encountered by journalism around the world, the news section of Science remains one of the few places where in-depth reporting about science occurs. There is a proper firewall between my office and the news staff that protects its ability to report on things without interference, but I am here to defend and advocate for the great work that they do at a time when it has never been more needed or challenging.

Although opinion surveys globally still show scientists as some of the most respected folks in society, the political assault on science in the United States and around the world shows no signs of slowing down. The full-throated defense of science, especially around the international emergency of climate change, must come from all quarters: Evidence, inductive reasoning, and dispassionate analysis can't be celebrated enough.

As Editor-in-Chief, Jeremy has done a fantastic job. Through his expert data analysis, he has opened our eyes to important trends in what and who succeeds in getting published in the journal. I'm deeply grateful for his leadership and fully embrace the goals that he has set out.

As for my own goals, I hope to continue the great work of my predecessors while taking a deep interest in the development and nurturing of the scientific workforce around the world. After 11 years as a university leader at the University of North Carolina and Washington University, I have seen time and again how much needs to be done to achieve equity and excellence in science.

Succeeding at all this requires a robust partnership with our readers. We want manuscripts, reviews, news tips and, most of all, feedback. I will respond to messages, show up to give talks, engage on social media, and do everything possible to promote the wonder and importance of science and the Science journals.

Thank you for all you do for the pursuit of truth and the sustenance of this treasured institution.

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