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What's Next?

My service as president of Sigma Xi will soon end as I become Immediate Past President. In this last opportunity, I want to review some themes of the past two years. I expect these will continue to be important over the next several years, although succeeding presidents will certainly want to lead us into new areas, and time will bring new activities from Sigma Xi's chapters and regions.

We have had many discussions of the governance of the Society. In the last Assembly there seemed to be considerable sentiment in favor of changes in the Board of Directors, and in international organization, and therefore in our regional organization. The Executive Committee has now placed some suggestions for changes before the board. It is my hope that this will result in proposed changes to the bylaws (and perhaps the constitution) coming before the Society. The intent is to make the governance system more representative of various segments of the Society, and more representative of the chapters, regions and membership-at-large.

At the same time, led by the energetic activities of the chapters in Michigan, groups of chapters are undertaking a science advocacy role. Entering into a dialogue with state and national legislators, they provide educational opportunities for lawmakers on the nature of research and development, and of the scientific and technological enterprise generally. The dialogue emphasizes the importance of science and technology to the economic and social success of the community, and therefore to the work of the legislature.

There have been ongoing discussions of possible active roles for the Society and its members in ensuring continued education on ethical issues in science, and in helping to resolve scientific ethics cases, questions and issues. I hope that Sigma Xi will find an actively helpful role to play in this ongoing public issue.

The Society is now operating the Media Resource Service, which connects journalists with scientists who are experts on the scientific aspects of developing news stories. In general, the Society, through its chapters and headquarters, could play an increasingly important role in promoting the public understanding of science, and in scientific education at all levels. The chapters have a special opportunity at the local and regional levels.

There continue to be public attacks, and attacks on many campuses, on the very nature and practice of science. These attacks are not only on the possibility of science, and on systems for insuring its integrity; by their nature they are also attacks on the possibility of any reasonably certain human knowledge. They are thus more serious than just attacks on science; they are attacks on the bases of a common civilization. As part of our role in enhancing public understanding of science, Sigma Xi should play an educational role in these debates at the campus, local, regional, national and international levels.

It has been an honor to have served as your president. I would like to thank the members, the officers and board, all the staff, and especially Executive Director Peter Blair, for their enthusiasm and support, and for the education they have given me into Sigma Xi, its values and its many important roles in our community.

Robert A. Frosch
President, Sigma Xi

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