AAAS Names Tim Appenzeller to Succeed Colin Norman as Science News Editor

AAAS has named award-winning science journalist Tim Appenzeller—currently the chief magazine editor for Nature—to serve as news editor for the journal Science. Appenzeller is expected to make the transition to Science by summer 2013.

A former top editor for National Geographic and a long-time Science correspondent, Appenzeller will inherit a role long defined by Science News Editor Colin J. Norman, who has decided to pursue new challenges after 32 highly successful years with the association. Norman is widely credited with building and retaining one of the world’s finest science-reporting teams, with bureaus located in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

“Colin Norman has been a superb news editor whose great skill and high standards have made our journal’s news section a ‘must-read’ for virtually every scientist,” said Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of Science. “We were saddened to learn of Colin’s decision, but we are delighted to welcome Tim Appenzeller to AAAS. His agility as a science journalist, editor, and team-builder will allow him to build on Colin’s legacy, furthering our efforts to report science news with depth, accuracy, and insight.”

Appenzeller’s many achievements have included the 2005 Walter Sullivan Award for Excellence in Science Journalism, which recognized a National Geographic feature on the carbon cycle as it relates to global climate change. In announcing the award, the American Geophysical Union lauded Appenzeller as “a science journalist with great talent for precise thinking and elegant writing.”

Tim Appenzeller

Tim Appenzeller

He was also part of a team recognized by the Society of Environmental Journalists for the best explanatory print reporting in 2008. His work has been selected for inclusion in the highly respected annual compilation, The Best American Science Writing, and he has twice been invited to teach at the prestigious Santa Fe Science Writing Workshop. His other presentations have included invited talks for the Science and Technology for Society Forum in Kyoto, the Aspen Environment Forum, the Emerging Energy Technologies Summit, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

He holds a B.A. degree in English and American literature from Harvard University. At Nature, his areas of responsibility have included oversight of the journal’s non-peer-reviewed sections, both in print and online, including news, features, opinion pieces, and career-related articles. Before joining Nature in 2009, Appenzeller worked as a science writer and editor for Time-Life Books, Scientific American, The Sciences, and U.S. News and World Report. He also spent eight years at Science, from 1991 until 1999, ultimately coordinating the journal’s news and features on both the biological and physical sciences.

Norman applauded Appenzeller’s selection as Science news editor. “It was not an easy decision for me to leave the best colleagues one could have, and a job I have enjoyed and been challenged by every day,” he said. “But I’m very pleased to be turning the news operation over to Tim. He is a terrific editor with excellent people skills. His colleagues have huge respect for him, and he will be bringing many good ideas back to Science. I have no doubt that he will serve Science very well.”

Appenzeller also expressed enthusiasm about joining AAAS. “It will be a privilege to work once again with the Science news team,” he said. “I hope to bring a fresh perspective to challenges such as the continuing shift to online reporting, while at the same time respecting and building on the team’s strong foundations.”

Colin Norman

Colin Norman

Norman, a journalist since 1969, earned his bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies in Science from the U.K.’s University of Manchester. Like Appenzeller, he joined Science following service on the Nature news team. He has written about science policy, energy research and development, biotechnology, and AIDS research. His background also includes work as a senior researcher for the Worldwatch Institute, where he wrote The God That Limps: Science and Technology in the Eighties, and Running on Empty: The Future of the Automobile, co-authored with Lester Brown and Christopher Flavin.

“What is very striking about Colin is the immense respect he has gained from all those who have worked for and with him,” said Science Editor-in-Chief Bruce Alberts. “He is a calm, modest person with the highest integrity and a work ethic that puts most of us to shame. Colin has worked tirelessly to innovate and improve the news section, and it has been my privilege to work with him for the past five years. I am also delighted that AAAS was able to identify such a worthy successor from a pool of truly outstanding applicants.”

Under Norman’s guidance, Science‘s global news team grew to include nearly three dozen staff reporters and regular correspondents whose news articles, distributed extensively online and in print, routinely win top honors. Most recently, for example, contributing correspondent Jon Cohen received the 2012 Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting for his exemplary coverage of biomedical topics, especially the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. The Science news team typically has one or two pieces chosen for publication each year in The Best American Science Writing.

Today, the Science news operation leverages an array of digital technologies to communicate science broadly through the journal’s various news sites such as ScienceNOW and ScienceInsider, which provide real-time updates on breaking science news topics. The journal’s Web-based news pages have drawn up to 1 million unique visitors per month, said Online News Editor David Grimm. The news team’s Facebook page currently has 229,000 followers, and the group’s Twitter site has 23,000 followers.

Norman said he feels optimistic for the future of science journalism, particularly at Science, despite ongoing downsizing across the rest of the industry. He cited the journal’s special issue on global population of 29 July 2011, and related interactive online resources including a special iPad application, as an example of how science journalism can continue to improve in coming years. “The Internet has of course changed journalism forever, and some of those changes have been difficult,” he said. “But the Internet also means we have an almost unlimited potential audience now. Reporters at Science are uniquely fortunate because of their association with the journal’s peer-reviewed research section.”

Appenzeller’s primary challenge, in assuming the Science news editor role, will be to help the operation in its ongoing evolution from a print to a digital focus, Norman said. “There is no better person than Tim to meet that challenge,” Norman said. “I look forward to watching the news team’s ongoing progress under his leadership.”