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PNAS names new editor-in-chief

Berkeley biologist Randy Schekman aims to include more cross-disciplinary science and longer papers

By | October 17, 2006

Following a review of more than 60 nominees, the National Academy of Sciences has appointed Randy Schekman, a UC Berkeley biologist and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, as the new editor-in-chief of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Schekman, whose term runs through 2010, said he already has a list of goals and ideas for PNAS. To begin with, he wants to see a broader range of science and more integrative science represented, he told The Scientist. He pointed to the creation of a section in the journal for sustainability science, an initiative undertaken by his predecessor, Nicholas Cozzarelli, as an example of the kind of thing he'd like to see more of. "It covers environmental issues such as atmospheric science and carbon dioxide... an area that ranges from biology to physics," Schekman said. "Cross-disciplinary initiatives like that are important and [need to be] featured more... to represent all science and not just life sciences." Allowing research to be explored in greater depth in the journal is another goal. PNAS papers tend to be on the short side, Schekman noted. That allows more papers to be published, but "sometimes it takes longer than six pages to fully develop a story," he said. Schekman hopes to begin including longer feature articles, more commentaries, and more debates. He said he would like to see PNAS regain the place it once had as "the journal of record" before it encountered increasing competition from commercial journals. "Unlike Science and Nature, it is managed by the premiere scientists in the community, so we have a very prominent forum," he told The Scientist. "PNAS should be as honorable and selective as the National Academy of Sciences." Schekman received his Ph.D. in biochemistry at Stanford University and conducted postdoctoral research at UC San Diego. In his lab at UC Berkeley, he studies the assembly of membranes and the transportation of proteins in eukaryotes, with an end goal of connecting membrane traffic and disease. His honors include the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research, as well as the Eli Lilly Award in microbiology, the Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award in basic biomedical science, and the Gairdner International Award. No stranger to editorial undertakings, Schekman has served as a senior editor of The Journal of Cell Biology (JCB), a senior editor of Molecular Biology of the Cell, and the chief editor of the Annual Review of Cell and Developmental Biology. He has been a member of the PNAS editorial board since 2001. "Randy will take an excellent journal, help it have higher scientific standards, and make it even better," said Ira Mellman, the editor-in-chief of JCB. "He has an amazingly high degree of scientific excellence in his own work and... exceptional scientific insight and judgment." This will allow him to distinguish between "good science" and "hot and sexy" science of possibly dubious quality, Mellman said. William Wickner, a biochemist at Dartmouth who has known Schekman for 35 years and worked with him as a research collaborator, agrees that he is a top-notch choice. "Randy is very passionate for science, cares deeply, and understands how it will fit into our society," Wickner said. "His knowledge base in understanding the broad sweep of science is superb. People will respect him." Schekman recalled that PNAS exerted a pull on him even before he began his professional life. "I looked at bound volumes at the library and dreamed about what it was like to be a scientist," he said. Former editor-in-chief Cozzarelli died in March of complications of treatment of Burkitt's lymphoma. During his time at PNAS, he did away with the system under which the journal only accepted submissions through members of the Academy, creating a second track to allow scientists to submit manuscripts directly. He also dramatically expanded the editorial board and increased publication of papers in the non-biological sciences. Cathy Tran ctran@the-scientist.com Links within this article: National Academy of Sciences http://www.nas.edu/ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) http://www.pnas.org/ PNAS sustainability science section http://www.pnas.org/misc/sustainability.shtml Schekman Lab http://mcb.berkeley.edu/labs/schekman/ D. Bruce, "The 2002 Lasker Awards," The Scientist, Sept. 23, 2002 http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/20710/ I. Mellman, "Where Next for Cancer Immunotherapy?" The Scientist, Jan. 1, 2006 http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/18859/ William Wickner http://www.dartmouth.edu/~wickner/people/bill.html A. Harding, "Nicholas R. Cozzarelli dies," The Scientist, April 11, 2006 http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/23328/
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