Our colleagues at the National Center for Science Education have welcomed their brand new Executive Director Ann Reid, who began her new job yesterday (January 6, 2014). A molecular biologist, Reid is the successor to outgoing executive director Eugenie C. Scott, who held the post for an astonishing 27 years. On her retirement, Scott became the Chair of NCSE’s Advisory Council.
With its mission to defend the teaching of evolution and climate science, the NCSE is among the most essential organizations to operate within the general sphere of scientific skepticism. It is also a shining example of the power of constrained focus. I happen to know, for example, that Genie is a fellow “Bigfoot skeptic”: she is not only the Chair of the venerable Bay Area Skeptics, but also a physical anthropologist with a specific interest in pseudoscience related to her field—which is to say, Bigfoot and the Yeti (video). Nonetheless, the NCSE has never tried to tackle a broad portfolio of paranormal and pseudoscientific topics. Instead, they picked a tightly focused mandate, and made themselves a credible, reliable national voice on that topic in particular. Very often, simplicity is strength.
Much of that strength came from Genie. Her professionalism and kindness make her a personal hero of mine, and of many, and also my friend; at the same time, those same qualities also made her a lion in defense of science education. As I’ve written previously,
When the NCSE’s Eugenie Scott goes on, year after year, making her mild points in that gentle, warm-hearted voice, I don’t see a doormat. I see a relentless, immense, ferocious patience — a steely refusal to cut a corner, or lose sight of the stakes, or falter in her task.
Big tasks deserve clarity of focus; important tasks demand it. Scott remains “on speed-dial” as an advisor for the NCSE, but her task now falls to Ann Reid. Scott expressed her confidence in her successor in a press release:
“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.”
I hope you will join me in welcoming Ann Reid to her leading role in this crucial organization. She has a tough act to follow, but I look forward to learning how she makes this stage her own.