Atmospheric scientist Ralph Cicerone is in line to succeed Bruce Alberts as the next president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS).
NAS announced today that Cicerone, currently chancellor of the University of California (UC), Irvine, has been nominated for a 6-year term beginning 1 July 2005. Members will vote in December and a write-in candidate, although theoretically possible, has never appeared on the ballot.
"It is an enormous honor to be nominated for the presidency of the academy," says Cicerone, 61. "When they asked, I said yes, period." Although he says he'll miss higher education, Cicerone confesses that "as I get older, I get more enthusiastic about science and its capacity to change our view of the world."
Trained as an electrical engineer, Cicerone spent a decade at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, and came to UC Irvine in 1989, where he helped shape its top-ranked Earth System Science program. He was named chancellor in 1998. "We'll miss him, but it's a great catch for the academy," says departmental colleague and 1995 Nobelist Sherwood Rowland.
A NAS member since 1990, Cicerone has conducted pioneering studies of ozone depletion and the effects of other greenhouse gases on the planet. He chaired a 2001 study by the National Research Council on climate change science and has served on dozens of NRC committees.
Observers applaud his familiarity with both the academy and the U.S. science policymaking apparatus. "I have known and worked with Ralph for many years, and he has been an energetic and thoughtful leader for many of our academy's efforts, as well as for the larger science community," says Alberts, a biochemist from UC San Francisco, who is completing his second 6-year term. The NAS presidency has traditionally rotated between the physical and life sciences.