I admit it is hard to imagine a National Center for Science Education without Genie Scott; the NCSE was Genie, and Genie was the NCSE.
But I think I know what Genie would say if she heard me say that. The NCSE will be fine without her, Ann Reid is going to do great, etc. etc. And, I'm sure that is all true, owing both to Ann Reid being an excellent choice of Executive Director, and because Genie and the other staff at NCSE have done an excellent job.
Here's part of the announcement of the change in leadership, which happened yesterday:
Ann Reid is joining NCSE as Executive Director, starting January 2, 2014. She will replace Eugenie C. Scott, who has led NCSE in fighting the good fight for science education for 27 years.
As a molecular biologist at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, she co-led the team that sequenced the 1918 flu virus—an effort that was hailed as "a watershed event for influenza researchers worldwide." She then served as a Senior Program Officer at the National Research Council's Board on Life Sciences for five years and then, most recently, as director of the American Academy of Microbiology. In both roles she oversaw major efforts aimed at communicating science to the public. And as its director, Reid oversaw all of the operations of the American Academy of Microbiology, from coordinating scientific research and publishing technical reports to communicating with the public and organizing dozens of scientific meetings.
"Ann is the consummate cat herder," says Margaret McFall-Ngai, Professor of Medical Microbiology and Immunology at University of Wisconsin. "She's thoughtful, creative, and handles people with respect and finesse. But she's no pushover. She knows how to take charge, aided by her broad historic understanding of the issues and the science."
As a researcher and communicator, Reid has authored scores of peer-reviewed research papers, National Research Council reports, and FAQ documents, ranging from "Origin and Evolution of the 1918 'Spanish' Influenza Virus Hemagglutinin Gene" to the popular brochure If the Yeast Ain't Happy, Ain't Nobody Happy: The Microbiology of Beer.
"Ann is a spectacular biologist," says Indy Burke, Director of the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming. "She's been at the forefront of scientific synthesis and communication about the most important issues facing the life sciences today—especially life sciences education and the ecological impacts of climate change."
Reid came to microbiology via a circuitous route, first earning degrees in environmental science and advanced international studies. After several years as a policy analyst, she took a research technician job at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "That's when I fell in love with science," says Reid. "Working there, I finally came to appreciate the power, the beauty, and the joy of science. That's a big reason why I think that science education is so important—so students can share that experience while they're learning."
Reid joins NCSE at a time when the integrity of science education is constantly under attack. In 2013 alone, legislation was introduced in seven states that would allow teachers to misrepresent "controversial" topics, including evolution and/or climate change. "It is crucial, now more than ever, for students to understand evolution and climate science," Reid commented. "I am excited at the prospect of helping NCSE to continue its important work in ensuring that these topics are taught properly—accurately, thoroughly, and without ideological interference."
And Genie Scott expressed her confidence in Reid's ability to do so. "Her stint as a research scientist grounds her in what science is and what scientists do. Her work at the National Research Council connected her with the top scientists in the country. And her experience as the director of a non-profit organization provides her with invaluable knowhow," she said, adding, "I have no doubt that attacks on science education will continue. But with Reid at the helm, I have no doubt that NCSE will continue to be at the forefront of the defense."