News Archive

Tee Guidotti Reflects on His Year as Sigma Xi President

June 13, 2017

Tee GuidottiThe last 12 months have been tumultuous for American science. Rising distrust and skepticism have undermined acceptance of science as a way of understanding the world. Science has been losing its role as a body of common and accepted knowledge that informs public discourse and decisions in an open society. Doubts abound and a preference for passion over evidence seems to have taken hold. 

The United States is the country at the forefront of modern scientific research and is so economically dependent on innovation that research and technology play the same role as natural resources elsewhere. Yet, the social contract that supported scientific research as a pillar of both national security and economic progress suddenly seemed up for re-negotiation. On critical issues, science was shoved to the margins of public policy. Key positions went unfilled. The levels of support proposed for science in the proposed federal 2018 budget plummeted and even funds allocated in the current year for some agencies with a scientific mission were withheld. Data sources were terminated and public information sources were closed. 

The bright spot in the year in science was the unprecedented March for Science on April 22, when an estimated 1 million people around the world, mostly non-scientists, demonstrated peacefully but assertively to show their support for the scientific enterprise, objective reality, and evidence-based public policy. Sigma Xi was there. Still, our Society, and many of us as individuals, faced a quandary: Should we stay aloof or should we advocate? After much soul-searching, we concluded that this was an existential moment. A Society devoted to excellence in scientific research could not remain silent when the research enterprise itself was threatened.

Sigma Xi members who follow the Society closely know perfectly well that the last few years have been difficult for Sigma Xi. However, your Society has executed one of the most impressive turn-arounds that I have ever witnessed in a professional society. I am humbled and grateful for the dedication of our elected leadership, staff, and friends of Sigma Xi for their dedication in redirecting, protecting, and restoring Sigma Xi. I salute them all, calling out for special mention those with whom I worked most closely over the last year: Past President Mark Peeples, our CEO and Executive Director John Nemeth, Corporate Administrator Jasmine Shah, and Director of Science Communications and Publications Jamie Vernon. 

It is up to future leaders and an informed membership to keep it on that path. Sigma Xi will now pass through an orderly but profound transition of leadership. Stuart Cooper will take over my role as president on July 1. Jamie Vernon, from whom much is expected, will take over from John as executive director and CEO. We have a highly engaged Board of Directors that is vigilant and well briefed. Our chapters are strengthening. The signs are good. 

For science to thrive, the scientific enterprise must be valued, celebrated, and protected. Sigma Xi explains the value of science, celebrates excellence in research, and acts when it must in defense of good science. Support Sigma Xi, because it is just that important to science. 

Tee Guidotti, 
Sigma Xi President

Tee Guidotti has served as Sigma Xi president since July 1, 2016. He will complete his term on June 30, 2017, at which point he remains on the Board of Directors for a year as the immediate past-president. He previously served as president-elect. The Society thanks Dr. Guidotti for his service.