Candidate's Statement: Sigma Xi is precious to us because it is a force for the best in world science. Our task is to preserve the mission and to make Sigma Xi stronger so that it can push forward on its important work in its two essential directions: 1) celebrating and honoring good science and 2) invigilating scientific integrity. Beyond that, there may be lots more to be done but above all Sigma Xi must do those two things well.
I am a nontraditional candidate, having launched a second career as an international consultant in health/safety/environmental management and sustainability after a more traditionally successful 3-decade academic career in the US and Canada, during which I have served, as a tenured professor, research professor, adjunct, department chair, division director, clinical chief, and center director. I am also a physician, which is a little different for a Sigma Xi Presidential candidate. As a result of my life experience, the positions I have held, the inspiration of my own professional fields, and the influences on my thinking (for example, Polanyi), I tend to see things a little differently.
The Core Mission
Sigma Xi is defined by its mission as the premiere multidisciplinary honors society for research in the STEM disciplines. Our role is to recognize excellence and to encourage its cultivation by new investigators. Part of this mission is to tell the story of how research excellence is achieved and for that American Scientist is indispensable! But another part of the story needs to be told as eloquently as we tell the story of the pursuit of excellence. That story is the indivisibility of science, how "basic research" and "applied" or "mission-oriented research" are not separated by intent or by time to application or by nature of the outcome, because there is but one science.
The only difference between basic and applied science is whether you are following a highway on the map or finding your way in the countryside. If you want to get somewhere fast, then go ahead and use the GPS • in other words, manage science if you must (but please do so with a light hand) • and focus just on the highway. But if you don't want to get lost as soon as you get off the highway, or if think you might want to go somewhere else, then GPS is not enough. You need the rest of the map and you need to be able to read the road names. Curiosity-driven research is what fills in the blanks on the map of knowledge.
We must defend basic science. Judging impact by whether it has a "sustained and powerful influence" (NIH terminology) can be dangerous and undermining to basic science, which, after all, can only be expected to exert its "sustained and powerful influence" through application. It is the application that ultimately gets the credit in the eyes of the public and political decision-makers, but it wouldn't happen without the basic science that came before.
Sigma Xi has also distinguished itself as the essential thought leader in integrity in research: "honesty, respect for evidence, openness and tolerance" (in the words of Bruce Alberts, who just stepped down as Editor of Science). The Sigma Xi ethics guidebook, Honor in Science, is the cornerstone text of modern research integrity. In recent years, the research enterprise has certainly advanced in recognizing standards for integrity and holding investigators accountable, but at the cost of complicating the process. Major granting agencies have taken the lead in training and guidance for monitoring compliance and creating checklist and audit templates, as well as defining exclusion criteria. The next step is devising how to manage integrity in science without suffocating the investigator, perhaps by articulating more unified and comprehensive ethical principles and applying them to "critical points" along the process, creating opportunities for the investigator to demonstrate adherence with little or no additional effort.
Sigma Xi also functions as a "science academy", sharing of scientific ideas among colleagues and sponsoring of wider scientific initiatives, such as science diplomacy, the science and human rights initiative (with AAAS), and public science. I would like to see this academy role expanded into deeper engagement with transformational science education (see below), more visible thematic programming on "Critical Issues in Science", and creative use of social media (perhaps 8- and 30-minute YouTube lectures).
Public Literacy in Science
Outreach beyond those who are science-educated requires some adaptation and ingenuity, and a little playfulness in the mix. That is why I liked Randy Olson's book Don't Be Such a Scientist, even though the title bothered me a lot at first. Being casual does not necessarily mean being loose with the facts but it is true that sometimes the big picture of what is going on gets obscured by relentless accuracy in detail. Our best science communicators are good at telling the public "this is what it might be or might have looked like, with a little imagination."
We need to educate the public that science is not an accumulation of facts but a method by which facts become evidence that tests the validity of ideas. Science is not in competition with other "ways of knowing" because its domain is the material world of facts and prediction, not belief or received authority. Within the domain of objective, material reality it is the reliable path to knowledge for understanding the world as it is, to inform public debate on risk and progress, and to serve as public knowledge for decision-making. Before we can expect others to accept this view, we as scientists must, as we do, commit to dispassionate and ethical exploration, emphasize the fundamental unity of scientific disciplines, and create space such as Sigma Xi in which we can talk to one another and to all people with respect for science about how we know what we know, and what we do.
The "Science Cafes" have been a welcome success but they do draw their audience from the already scientifically literate. They are fun and help us keep in touch with science-minded people in the community. We need to keep the fun in public science education, because pleasure keeps minds open.
For Sigma Xi to do all the things it must, and as much more as it can, it has to be a strong organization that is financially secure. Just now, it is. But science academies are fragile institutions, especially when they are multidisciplinary. They must be nurtured and strengthened in good times in order to have resilience during bad times.
Sigma Xi needs to reflect on its structure and chapter support. Chapters that are "active" represent miniature local science academies on campus, bringing together different points of view for stimulation, analogy (which I believe to the true font of inspiration), and collaboration. But not every institution needs this, at least to the same degree. A major multidisciplinary research-intensive institution might already provide those opportunities in abundance. So chapter activity need not be identical at each institution, although at least two meetings per year and a graduation event is about the minimum expected. One chapter, at an institution with a strong specialization, might pull together the definitive interdisciplinary MOOC through teamwork. Another chapter might choose to engage itself in systematic scientific leadership training for future lab directors, department chairs, team leaders, association executives, and intellectual property managers.
Chapters that are listed on the website as "inactive", on the other hand, usually aren't inactive in a meaningful sense, not really. Faculty still nominate their students, who still view it as an honor, and Sigma Xi still provides a high level of service through direct membership. If a chapter is incorporated at an institution and faculty and student recruitment are still actively pursuing the goals of Sigma Xi, then the Sigma Xi presence is not inactive even if the local chapter structure is not formally active. A chapter should not have to go dormant just because there is no faculty member in a given year prepared to sponsor activities and do the organizing. It takes too long to reactivate a chapter from the status of "inactivity". Perhaps the status of these "inactive" chapters should be redefined as "virtual chapters", with regular group contact with members at the institution and opportunities for interaction by social media.
I joined Sigma Xi in 1994 when the chapter was rejuvenated at the University of Alberta, while I was a professor in the Faculty of Medicine. I attended numerous Sigma Xi chapter dinner meetings and lectures and they were highlights of my time in Edmonton. After having channeled most of my "professional relationship" energies into disciplinary and medical organizations for most of my career, I found it stimulating take part in a broader and more inclusive scientific community, and so I became a Lifetime Member. When I moved to the George Washington University I was proud, as chair, to nominate David Michaels for the McGovern award (he got it). I later became involved in the renewal of the Sigma Xi chapter at GW.
I feel that now is the time in my own career to range more widely and to do more across the vast domain of science. I have channeled most of my energy in my career into medical and public health organizations and have done so quite successfully, becoming President of my medical specialty society in 2006, being recognized with the top award in my field, winning awards for excellence in writing, serving on IOM (NAS counterpart for medicine) and other high-level committees, and editing a historically important journal. Along the way I have learned a lot about good science, junk science (which abounds in my field), science literacy, risk communication, and the "games" played not only by scientists but by politicians, activists, and journalists. I know how to be President of a substantial and complicated organization. I know how to work with a good staff and conscientious colleagues, like Sigma Xi's. I know how to defend an organization when it is under attack from advocates of junk science. I know how to manage big and complicated research enterprises. I would now like to place this accumulated experience at the service of Sigma Xi.
Vision for Sigma Xi
Sigma Xi is a society that adds its power to the "strong force" holding all of us together in one scientific enterprise and one virtual community, regardless of the centrifugal forces of our disciplines, and enabling us to talk to one another and to people from all walks of life. Sigma Xi will continue to add value by supporting, innovating, and leading in the scientific enterprise by: 1) developing robust and practical platforms for communication, sharing, and collaboration among peers (e.g. American Scientist and supporting ResearchGate), 2) encouraging young investigators from their earliest awareness of science (e.g. the Student Research Conference, Grants-in-Aid of Research, and education partnerships), 3) promoting the integrity of science through instruction, role models, and constructive criticism (e.g. by extending the current publication program into a series of case studies), 4) outreach to other scholarly communities (e.g. the humanities and history), 5) professional support and collegiality for scientists and research professionals in different roles and positions (academia, practice, government, retirement, teaching, publishing), 6) connecting members with the global community of science and responsible science diplomacy, 7) making the face of science look like the face of the community, in all its diversity, and 8) being so useful that the website becomes indispensable to its members, consulted regularly and with enthusiasm.
Interview with Tee Guidotti:
Biographical Information: Dr. Tee Guidotti is an international consultant in occupational and environmental health, represented by Medical Advisory Services (a division of National Medical Advisory Services), Rockville, Maryland. He holds the title Vice President for Health/Safety/Environment and Sustainability, reflecting his area of service. He estimates that he currently divides his time roughly evenly among consulting (problem analysis and solving), medicolegal expert services, medical services and communications (writing, editing, speaking). He lives in Washington DC.
Dr. Guidotti is a physician, licensed to practice medicine in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and California, and registered in Ontario. He holds medical specialty credentials in Canada (FRCPC in occupational medicine), the US (board certification in occupational medicine and pulmonary medicine) and the UK (FFOM). He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology. He also holds the Qualified Environmental Practitioner (Air Pollution) credential from the Institute for Professional Environmental Practice (unusual for a physician).
Dr. Guidotti trained in internal medicine, pulmonary medicine, and occupational medicine at Johns Hopkins and earned his MPH (masters of public health) there and trained in research at the National Institutes of Health. He attended medical school at the University of California at San Diego and earned his undergraduate degree in biological sciences at the University of Southern California, where he was admitted to Phi Sigma (biological research honor society).
For three decades, Dr. Guidotti was a tenured Professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at various institutions. He retired in 2009 after ten years from The George Washington University, where he had been Chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health in the School of Public Health and Health Services and Director of the Division of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology of the Department of Medicine, School of Medicine and Health Sciences; he also held cross-appointments in epidemiology, health policy and pulmonary medicine. For 14 years before that, he founded and served as head of the Occupational Health Program at the University of Alberta in the Department of Public Health Sciences, where he created Canada's first Royal College-approved training program in occupational medicine and built a strong academic research team in occupational and environmental health. He began his career and served four years as a professor and founding director of the Division of Occupational and Environmental Health at the then-new Graduate School of Public Health at the San Diego State University, during which he also held an adjunct appointment at the UC San Diego.
Dr. Guidotti has served as President of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and of the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics. He has held offices and board positions in many organizations since. He has also served on IOM committees and served on and chaired other high-level task forces. His very first leadership position in science, however, came in 1966, when he was elected by his fellow high school students to be President of the Los Angeles County Museum Student Association.
Dr. Guidotti has received numerous other honors and awards, mostly in his professional field. Perhaps more importantly, the projects and organizations he has built have themselves received numerous provincial, national or international awards and recognition, and there is a research award named for him at the University of Alberta. In 2013, he received the William S. Knudsen Award for Lifetime Achievement in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the highest award in the field. He was named a Killam Annual Professor at the University of Alberta. He twice received the Jean Spencer Felton Award for Excellence in Scientific Writing in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and has received awards for contributions to occupational health in the state of California, in Canada and in the province of Alberta. He is a Fellow "by distinction" of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine (Royal College of Physicians of London), the Royal Society of Medicine, ACOEM, the American College of Physicians, and the Energy Institute (London; this is very unusual for a physician). He is a Lifetime Member of Sigma Xi, and was elected to Delta Omega (public health honor society) and various medical organizations and academies.
Communication is an important part of Dr. Guidotti's professional activity. He is the Editor in Chief of Archives of Environmental and Occupational Health, the oldest continuously-published journal in the field in North America. He is the author or a principal co-author of over 200 full-length papers, including 60 original research papers, and numerous reviews, book chapters, teaching articles, and discussion papers. He has published about as many short-form pieces, as editorials, columns, and features on professional topics. Dr. Guidotti has edited and coauthored several books in his field. Particularly noteworthy, he wrote The Praeger Handbook of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (2010), a leading comprehensive textbook in the field, in 3 volumes. Currently, Dr. Guidotti is writing a book on the science behind health and sustainability, for Oxford University Press.
Dr Guidotti's main professional interests include: strategic planning on issues of health and sustainability, business continuity and emergency management at the enterprise level, and environmental and economic sustainability. In occupational health, Dr. Guidotti has a special interest in occupational health services management, inhalational toxicology and occupational lung disease, occupational health and hazards of firefighters and other first responders and the oil and gas industry, including the toxicology of hydrogen sulfide and other sulfides. He has special interests in: air quality, especially the oxides of nitrogen and air toxics; ecosystem and human health; risk science, with special interests in community risk perception, "risk anticipation" and trans-cultural risk communication; and child health and the environment.
Dr. Guidotti is a frequent invited lecturer, guest speaker and visiting faculty. In addition to the United States and Canada, he has worked on projects or assignments in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Zambia, Mexico, China, and with UN agencies.
I'm an active basic research scientist. I study the mechanisms of respiratory syncytial virus infection with the ultimate goal of developing a vaccine or an antiviral agent to reduce the large number of infants who are hospitalized, and elderly who die, from this virus each year.
My science is my highest priority. I have not often sought administrative positions. And when I have, it's only because I feel that it is important for the support of my science and my scientific community. This is one of those times.
Sigma Xi is struggling right now to remain relevant and viable. Our membership has been declining for decades. Why? What is the problem? Sigma Xi is doing well with high concept science at the national and international levels but its roots, the local chapters, are not healthy. We need to increase the value of our local chapters to their members. New members need to see the value of participating at the local level before they will join.
While it is true that Sigma Xi is no longer the only professional science organization around, Sigma Xi remains the only organization that includes all science and engineering disciplines and, just as importantly, has a local presence. We make a difference at the local level, to individual scientists and to the scientific community in many colleges, universities and companies.
We need to make it as easy as possible for a new president in any chapter to initiate programs that will support Sigma Xi's twin goals: to help scientists communicate across disciplinary lines and to support student scientists.
I was honored to be inducted into Sigma Xi as I was finishing grad school and I have been an active member for over 30 years, 12 of them as an officer in my local chapters. I value Sigma Xi for what it has enabled me to do: meet faculty members outside my own department particularly when my career has taken me to a new institution; support high school scientists by judging science fair projects and by talking to a class about what my lab has discovered and why I am so excited about what I do; and support new undergrad and graduate scientists through our chapter's own Grants-in-Aid of Research program. And new programs like 'Faculty to Faculty Chalk Talks' and 'Industry Open Houses' with local science-based industries should strengthen and deepen Sigma Xi's importance to our local scientific communities.
Last Fall I organized, hosted and ran our North Central Regional Sigma Xi Meeting, the first such meeting held separately from the national meeting. The theme was 'Revitalizing Sigma Xi.' Our goal was to identify programs that work and to develop new ideas. Our results are posted on the Ohio State Chapter's website. Over the next year North Central Chapters will be testing and improving these ideas, and we invite any other chapters to participate.
We must strengthen our local chapters if Sigma Xi to survive and thrive. New members are attracted and retained primarily by the value they find in their local chapter: the opportunities to do things that they want to do but can't easily on their own: to connect with other scientists and to support the next generation of scientists. At its core, Sigma Xi is 'Scientists Supporting Science' and that holds value for today's scientists and engineers.
B.S., Biology, German Studies
Heidelberg College, Tiffin, Ohio
Ph.D., Immunology and Microbiology/Virology
Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan
DeVlieg Graduate Fellowship
Inducted as an Associate Member of Sigma Xi
Instructor, Molecular Genetics and Microbiology
University of Massachusetts Medical School
NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship
Assistant Professor, Dept. Immunology/Microbiology
Rush Medical College
Promoted to Full Member of Sigma Xi
NIH Research Career Development Award
Associate Professor, Dept. Immunology/Microbiology Rush Medical College
Head, Section of Virology, Dept. Immuno./Microbiology
Rush Medical College
Associate Chairman, Dept. Immunology/Microbiology Rush Medical College
Professor, Dept. Immunology/Microbiology Rush Medical College
Sabbatical, Laboratory of Infectious Diseases NIAID, NIH, Bethesda, MD
Principal Investigator, Center for Vaccines and Immunity,
The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, OH
Professor, Department of Pediatrics
The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Columbus, OH
Member, Graduate College Faculty The Ohio State University
Member, Center for Microbial Interface Biology The Ohio State University
Member, Public Health Preparedness for Infectious Diseases OSU
Ad hoc member of more than 30 scientific review Study Section Panels for the NIH, CDC and FDA
American Heart Association, Immunology and Microbiology Peer Review
Associate Editor, Virology
Editorial Board, Journal of Virology
Ad hoc reviewer for 22 other scientific journals
Founding Member, Steering Committee/Host, Chicago Area Virology Assoc.
Finalist for the "Inventor of the Year" Innovation Award
TechColumbus, Columbus, Ohio
Excellence in Teaching Award, Med II Host Defense 3
The Ohio State University College of Medicine
Member, Scientific Advisory Board PATH (funded by Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation): Respiratory Syncytial Virus Vaccine for the Developing World
Sigma Xi Activities:
Secretary Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center Club
President Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center Chapter
Secretary Rush University Chapter
President Rush University Chapter
Board Member Ohio State Chapter
President-Elect Ohio State Chapter
President Ohio State Chapter
Secretary Ohio State Chapter
As President of the Rush Club, I:
Organized the application for our club to become a chapter and hosted the national Sigma Xi evaluation team (1988)
Initiated a Faculty Get-together once a month with a mixer and a talk by one scientist, describing and discussing his/her interests, scientific problem, approach and discoveries
Grew the Annual Sigma Xi Poster Session at Rush, the only cross-disciplinary forum for interaction among our scientists to over 200 poster presentations/year
Initiated a competition with cash awards for the best student presentations of their research, both oral and poster
Invited and hosted 4 Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturers, including Jack Horner, to present very well attended public lectures
Attended the National Sigma Xi Meeting twice
Judged State Science Fair projects for 15 years
As President of the Ohio State Chapter, I:
Wrote a recruiting letter that describes the Value of Sigma Xi at our local chapter level and at the national level to remind members of the high points when approaching a potential member and to give to the member
Found corporate sponsorship for our local Grants-in-Aid of Research Program for undergrads and graduate students (3 awards each in 2013, selected from a total of 19 applicants)
Organized, hosted and led the first North Central Region meeting of Sigma Xi Chapters, October, 2012
Chose the theme of the Regional Meeting to attack our Society's most pressing problem "Revitalizing Sigma Xi," with the idea that strengthening the Value of local chapters for their members is essential
Posted on our chapter website full descriptions of the programs that we developed, asking chapters in the North Central Region to try these programs and report their experiences so that we can improve our advice
Led our chapter's finances from being routinely in the red at the end of the year to a surplus of $2,000 at the end of the 2012-13 year
Presented a Science Café talk about our virus work; we routinely draw 40 or more people to our Science Café presentations each month
Judged State Science Fair Projects each of the 9 years I have been at Ohio State in our chapter’s program that each year awards more than $1,000 in cash prizes and commemorative plaques to student scientist teams, and to students with evolution-related projects
Initiated a 'Meet a Scientist' program for the high schools in the Columbus area to connect OSU faculty with students for a diverse array of interactions
Hosted two very successful Annual Banquets with a local speaker of national stature (2012) and a Sigma Xi Distinguished Speaker (2013), with over 80 attendees each year; many of the attendees were students whom we were honoring for having won in their scientific category in the undergrad or graduate research forums on campus; I arranged to have their meals underwritten with help from several university offices; and we nominated them for Sigma Xi Associate Membership
Led our chapter to induct 61 members in 2013, approximately half of whom I personally recruited
Participated in the National Sigma Xi Meeting in 2011, and the virtual National Sigma Xi Meeting (2012)