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Science Must Lead the Way

A letter to our global community from Academy President and CEO Nicholas Dirks.

Published December 15, 2020

By Nicholas B. Dirks

Science Must Lead the Way

Dear Colleagues, Members, and Friends of the Academy,

In spring 2020, as the COVID-19 lock down began, I assumed my new role as President and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences. Having recently stepped down as the 10th Chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, I was thrilled to join the Academy, but I will confess that it has been an interesting challenge to take on this role under these circumstances.

Like so many other individuals and institutions in these trying times, I am proud to say that the Academy team has adapted and, despite the obstacles, prevailed. Now, nearly nine months later, the Academy has become, in my mind, even more relevant than ever.  Let me share with you some of our successes and introduce myself to you through the short video above.

In March, we promptly pivoted to an entirely digital delivery of conferences, webinars, and panels. We covered not only scientific issues related to the pandemic, but also how the most pressing current events erupting in our nation, and across the world, impact our universities, laboratories, businesses, cities, and everyday lives. In the past nine months alone, we have hosted over 83 webinars on expansive and in depth topics ranging from vaccine hesitancy to STEM teacher training seminars reaching over 44,300 viewers.

In fact, we expanded our STEM education offerings to help fill the vast need for exciting digital programming for students who have had their schooling severely disrupted. We also launched the Combatting COVID-19 Innovation Challenge for youth across the globe. Over 2,500 innovators from 74 different countries participated, including the highly talented 13-17 year-old students in our Junior Academy. Working virtually, collaboratively, and with help from mentors, these future stars of science were empowered to be part of the solution, developing technology-based solutions to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Today, as public faith in science has become so highly politicized, the Academy and what it stands for are essential. Since 1817, the Academy has been committed to advancing science, technology, and the public good worldwide, and to facilitating an open, democratic network of thinkers, doers, and makers. We support work founded in scientific facts, methods, and expertise, and look for science-based solutions to address global concerns, ranging from the pandemic, to climate change, education, and nutrition.

The Academy’s President's Council includes 36 Nobel Laureates, as well as CEOs, philanthropists, and leaders of national science funding agencies.  Our global reach includes more than 20,000 Members in 100 countries.  And with a highly dedicated staff of scientists, researchers, and educators, the Academy is powerfully positioned for growth that will help to advance science in the next decade and beyond.

Science Must Lead the Way
Science Must Lead the Way

My vision for the Academy is to leverage the strength of its extraordinary network to launch dynamic new programs that will reinforce the role of science in every facet of our lives.  Already our team is working on re-igniting science-based policy-making to address real-world issues; planning a professional fellows’ program to leverage the great minds and talents in our networks; establishing new scientific prizes and research support to extend our global impact; as well as delivering more real-time opportunities for underserved populations to acquire crucial the STEM skills required in today’s evolving job market.

I am honored to be part of this dynamic network of “scientists without borders” committed to science for the public good—a mission that the Academy pledges to pursue with vigor and resolve. I hope very much that you will continue with us on our journey, and I look forward to getting to know you and sharing some of my thoughts about the vast potential of our highly respected scientific organization.

Thank you for being part of our global community. My best wishes for a very happy holiday season and a peaceful new year.

Best regards,

Nicholas B. Dirks
President & CEO

New York Academy of Sciences