Jeremy Berg, a biochemist and administrator at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) in Pennsylvania, will become the next editor-in-chief of Science magazine on 1 July. A former director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) who has a longstanding interest in science policy, Berg will succeed Marcia McNutt, who is stepping down to become president of the National Academy of Sciences.
The board of AAAS, which publishes Science, announced Berg’s appointment today. AAAS immediate past-president, Gerald Fink, who led the search committee, praised Berg as a “terrific choice.” Berg’s “broad scientific perspective and passionate advocacy for basic research, combined with his interest in scientific policy, makes him a superb spokesperson for the scientific community,” said Fink, a geneticist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.
Berg says his wide-ranging interests drew him to the editor-in-chief position, which also includes oversight of the other journals in the Science family. “I’m very passionate about science communications broadly defined, from scientific results through policy, and to the scientific community but also the public. When this position became available, it struck me as ideal,” he says.
Trained as a chemist, Berg, 58, began his career at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, studying how zinc-containing proteins bind to DNA or RNA and regulate gene activity. From 2003 to 2011 he directed the $2 billion NIGMS, which is the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH’s) basic research institute. There he broke new ground by using a blog to share data on grant funding decisions and to probe questions such as the optimal lab size, finding that midsize labs are the most productive, in terms of publications, per funding dollar. When NIH decided to create a new drug development center by dissolving a popular institute, Berg was the lone member of an advisory board to vote against the move, because he felt the decision had been made without adequate input from the scientific community.
At Pitt, Berg has served as associate senior vice chancellor for science strategy and planning in the health sciences and director of the Institute for Personalized Medicine. He has continued to pursue computational research on protein structure and has kept up his analyses of NIH grants issues—such as whether women and minorities win grants for high-risk research at the same rate that they apply for them—publishing his findings on a blog, Datahound. He is a leader of Rescuing Biomedical Research, an effort to find ways to help the community adjust to flat funding levels. He also co-authored a recent article in Science encouraging biologists to share their work as preprints before it is published in a journal.
Berg is co-author of two popular biochemistry textbooks. As president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology for 2 years, he oversaw the society’s publications efforts. Berg expects to continue McNutt’s effort at Science to promote reproducibility in science—a problem that is “far from settled,” he says.
He will commute to Washington, D.C., from Pittsburgh, where he will remain on the Pitt faculty in an advisory role. His wife, Wendie Berg, is a breast imaging researcher at Pitt.