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Holden Thorp Named Editor-in-Chief of the Science Family of Journals

Holden Thorp, a chemist and former provost at Washington University in St. Louis
Thorp’s interdisciplinary research experience provides excellent background for steering the integrative Science family journals. | Steve Exum

Holden Thorp, a chemist and former provost at Washington University in St. Louis, has been named the next editor-in-chief of the Science family of journals by the Board of Directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). 

Thorp, currently the Rita Levi-Montalcini Distinguished University Professor at Washington University, will become the 21st editor-in-chief of Science since the journal’s inception in 1880 when his term begins on October 28, 2019.

“I’m excited and awed to be the next editor-in-chief of the Science family of journals,” said Thorp. “This is a critically important time, when we have such pressing challenges in the world, to demonstrate the wonder of science and to advocate for the ideals of evidence, reproducibility and scientific reasoning.” 

“I am truly delighted we have been able to recruit Holden Thorp as the new editor-in-chief of the Science family of journals,” said Alan Leshner, interim chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of Science. “He is a distinguished scientist and administrator with a remarkable breadth of expertise.”

Thorp will succeed Jeremy Berg, who joined AAAS in July 2016.

Margaret Hamburg, chair of the AAAS Board of Directors and the search committee that selected Thorp, commended Berg for his steady leadership during a time of expansion and change at the Science journals. “As Jeremy Berg prepares to return to academic life, I want to express gratitude for his many contributions, both to Science and to AAAS more broadly,” said Hamburg, who is also the foreign secretary of the National Academy of Medicine. “As editor-in-chief, Jeremy was at the helm during a time of critical growth and transformation for the family of Science journals, providing essential leadership and championing the integrity and high scientific standards for which Science is renowned.” 

Hamburg also praised Thorp. “Holden is a terrific choice for the new editor-in-chief. Among many impressive attributes, he will bring a keen intellect, a passion for science, strong communication skills and broad experience as a top-flight research scientist, academic leader, administrator of scientific organizations and entrepreneur,” she said. “Widely recognized for inspiring and wise leadership, he is also known for his ability to work across scientific disciplines, his open, collaborative work style and his integrity and objectivity. At a time when both the landscapes of science and scientific publishing are changing rapidly, Holden combines the necessary scientific strength and breadth with a deep expertise and commitment to advancing science and science communication.” 

Berg further emphasized how Thorp’s deeply interdisciplinary research experience provides excellent background for working with the integrative journals at the Science family. “Holden is a remarkably accomplished scientific and academic leader,” said Berg, noting how Thorp rose rapidly through the ranks at his alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, from outstanding chemistry faculty member to dean of the School of Arts and Sciences to chancellor, then becoming provost of another leading research university, Washington University in St. Louis. “This trajectory reflects Holden’s interest in and aptitude for leadership and the respect he has earned from his colleagues and others. His roles in these positions have provided him with a huge amount of leadership and administrative experience that will serve him and AAAS well as he takes the helm of the Science family of journals.” 

Thorp currently holds faculty appointments in both chemistry and medicine, and served as Washington University’s provost from 2013 until concluding his term in July. During his tenure as provost, he led the university’s academic enterprise through a period of growth in several key areas, including efforts to increase socioeconomic diversity and changes to the undergraduate admissions process, which led to an academically stronger and more diverse student body. He also was instrumental in furthering the university’s prominence as an institution that drives innovation and entrepreneurship, particularly in the St. Louis region. 

“While we all will certainly miss Holden’s regular presence here at Washington University, we are thrilled for him to have been selected for this distinguished position,” said Chancellor Andrew D. Martin. “Not only is it a terrific honor for him, it also is a wonderful choice for the scientific community, which will no doubt benefit greatly from his leadership and expertise. I wish him all the best.” 

Founded in 1880 by journalist John Michels and with seed money from Thomas A. Edison, Science has been the official journal of the nonprofit AAAS since 1900. Encompassing all fields of science and engineering, through peer-reviewed research articles as well as award-winning news reports, breakthroughs debuting in Science have ranged from wireless telegraphy and new chemical elements, to the sequencing of the human genome.

“I am delighted that AAAS has chosen Holden Thorp as editor-in-chief of the Science family of journals,” said Barbara A. Schaal, dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences and the Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor of Biology at Washington University in St. Louis, and a former president of AAAS. “As editor-in-chief, he will be one of the most significant voices in the global conversation about research and scientific discovery. Championing the value of science has never been more important, and I look forward to following along as he takes on this vital work.”

Prior to joining Washington University, Thorp spent three decades at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he served as its 10th chancellor from 2008 through 2013. A native of the state, he started at the University of North Carolina as an undergraduate student and earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry with highest honors in 1986. He earned a doctorate in chemistry in 1989 at the California Institute of Technology and completed postdoctoral work at Yale University. He holds an honorary doctor of laws degree from North Carolina Wesleyan College and is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. 

Over the years, Thorp’s research focus has spanned a wide range, from physical inorganic chemistry in his earliest days to efforts in drug development in later years.

Thorp is also an avid musician, playing both bass guitar and jazz piano, including at Washington University student theater and musical performances. “Music theory and science are very similar in that you have a set of rules, and within those rules, you make music and also think about where you can push the rules—and revise them,” Thorp said. “The history of the evolution of music and the evolution of science are very similar in that way.”

The journal Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed, general science journal in the world. The Science family of journals includes Science, Science Translational Medicine, Science Signaling, Science Robotics, Science Immunology, and the open-access journal, Science Advances.

As editors-in-chief before him, Thorp will be focused on efforts to increase the reproducibility of scientific research and to ensure that researchers around the world who have transformational pieces of science know that the Science family of journals is a potential home.

Thorp will oversee both the journal’s staff of Ph.D.-level editors and Science’s award-winning team of science journalists. Science’s editors and news reporters work in Washington, D.C., Cambridge, U.K., and other locations worldwide, from China and Japan to Europe and Africa.

Science has had 20 editors-in-chief to date, including Jeremy Berg (2016-2019), Marcia McNutt (2013-2016), Bruce Alberts (2008-2013), Donald Kennedy (2000-2008), Floyd E. Bloom (1995-2000), Daniel E. Koshland Jr. (1985-1995), and Philip Hauge Abelson (1962-1984).

 

Author

Meagan Phelan

Science Press Package Executive Director

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