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About Sigma Xi » News » A Letter From President Atkinson

August 11, 2014

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Heather Thorstensen
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From the President: Our Efforts to Revitalize Sigma Xi

As my term as president of Sigma Xi begins, it is evident that the Society is entering a new phase of its distinguished history, but one that encompasses serious challenges including its relevance to both its current members and to scientists in general. Research scholars have long been served well by Sigma Xi's focus on promoting the highest quality scientific research in each new generation and on strongly supporting the integrity of the scientific methods practiced by all researchers. As credible understanding of science and technology becomes increasingly critical in a broad range of societal decisions, Sigma Xi is beginning to examine how its mission can be more relevant to those who are concerned not only about how research is conducted, but also about how the results of that research are used in societal decisions.

Sigma Xi has an opportunity to revitalize its mission so that it is relevant to the broadening interests of all scientists. For example, can Sigma Xi help ensure that the credible scientific understanding emerging from the quality research it has long promoted is consistently incorporated into societal decisions? The 18-month collaboration between Sigma Xi and the Institute on Science for Global Policy (ISGP) showcases an innovative approach addressing this issue. The ISGP debates will be demonstrated November 8, 2014, at the Annual Meeting. This will provide an opportunity for Sigma Xi members to evaluate how the approach pioneered by the ISGP might benefit a revitalized Sigma Xi mission, especially for those research scientists focused on how their research is used in policy decisions.

These overarching questions concerning Sigma Xi's mission must be considered simultaneously with efforts to identify new leadership (i.e., executive director, chapter leadership, and members for the Board of Directors). In this period of rapid change, it is critical that the Society's leadership provide the innovation and energy needed to successfully meet immediate managerial needs. The leadership also needs to identify and institute modifications required to solve the Society's fundamental organizational challenges. Such changes are critical to ensuring the long and robust future of Sigma Xi as an institution noted for serving the interests of its research-oriented members and, as importantly, exploring new ways to use the remarkable achievements of scientific research to effectively meet the complex challenges facing societies, writ large.

While I have repeatedly stated my personal commitment to help lead this renaissance within Sigma Xi, my efforts can be successful only to the extent that they reflect commitments and activities from throughout the Society. While it is important that Sigma Xi remain positioned to fulfill its traditional roles in supporting research and ethical scientific practices, it is yet to be determined if it can help ensure that quality scientific research is fundamental to sound societal decisions. As president of Sigma Xi, I enthusiastically invite you to join both types of efforts in whatever ways you find appropriate.

President Atkinson's Signature

George H. Atkinson

This letter was originally published in the September-October issue of Sigma Xi Today.

Photo: Sigma Xi President George Atkinson, on right, with Bobby Fong, president of Ursinus College, during the ISGP Academic Partnership conference in April 2014.

More About Sigma Xi: Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society is the international honor society of science and engineering. One of the oldest and largest scientific organizations in the world, Sigma Xi has a distinguished history of service to science and society for more than a century. Scientists and engineers, whose research spans the disciplines of science and technology, comprise the membership of the Society. Sigma Xi chapters can be found at colleges and universities, government laboratories, and industry research centers around the world. More than 200 Noble Prize winners have been members. The Society is based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. www.sigmaxi.org. On Twitter: @SigmaXiSociety.

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