Holt to Lead American Association for the Advancement of Science


United States Congressman Rush D. Holt, who will retire from the U.S. House of Representatives at the end of his eighth term, has been selected to lead the world’s largest general scientific organization, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as chief executive officer and executive publisher of the Science family of journals.

He will succeed Alan I. Leshner, who announced in the spring that he would be stepping down as the CEO of the organization.

Holt, a research physicist and former teacher, will be formally named as the 18th chief executive of the 166-year-old non-profit during the association’s 2015 annual meeting this February in San Jose, Ca.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science seeks to advance science, engineering, and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people. The association fulfills that mandate through global science diplomacy, programs to expand and diversify the science and technology workforce,  analysis intended to guide U.S. science policy, and science-education reform activities.

As examples, one current association project seeks to help all Americans become more literate in science, mathematics, and technology, while another program provides policymakers with assessments of federal research and development funding trends. Annual family science days encourage thousands of young people to take part in hands-on science activities, and to learn about cool jobs in science. The association’s mass media science and engineering fellowships program has been placing scientists and engineers in newsrooms for the past 40 years.

Leshner has served as the association’s CEO and executive publisher since December 2001. In April he announced his plan to retire after 13 years of service.

“Rush Holt will be a great leader and a powerful spokesman for science both nationally and internationally,” said Phillip A. Sharp, chair of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Board of Directors. “His career as a scientist, educator, and public servant, uniquely prepares him to take the reins from another great leader.”

Holt, 66, has represented Central New Jersey’s 12th District since 1999. He earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Carleton College in Minnesota, and he completed his master’s and doctoral degrees at New York University. In 1982-83, while he was teaching physics and public policy at Swarthmore College, Holt was selected by the American Physical Society to receive a highly competitive American Association for the Advancement of Science fellowship. The 42-year-old program, which places outstanding scientists and engineers in executive, legislative, and Congressional branch assignments for one or two years, now includes nearly 3,000 alumni working worldwide in the policy, academic, industry, and non-profit organizations. Holt said his American Association for the Advancement of Science fellowship was life changing, and served as a springboard for his role in Congress.

“The American Association for the Advancement of Science, as one of the world’s most respected non-profit, non-partisan organizations and publisher of the leading Science family of journals, helps to promote scientific progress and to improve human welfare,” Holt said. “I look forward to supporting the association’s mission to advance science, engineering, and innovation throughout the world, for the benefit of all people.”

Over the course of his career, Holt has held positions as a teacher and as an arms control expert at the U.S. State Department. From 1989 until 1998, he served as Assistant Director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, the largest research facility of Princeton University. As a result of his alternative-energy research, he was issued a patent for an improved solar-pond technology for harnessing energy from sunlight in 1981.

Holt’s science- and education-related roles in Congress have included service with the Committee on Education and the Workforce; the Committee on Natural Resources; and the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century. He serves as co-chair of the Research and Development Caucus, and he sits on other caucuses related to children’s environmental health, renewable energy, sustainable development, Alzheimer’s and diabetes disease research, biomedical research more broadly, the Internet, community colleges, and more. He is a recipient of the Champion of Science Award from the non-profit Science Coalition, a group of more than 50 leading public and private research universities.

“Rush Holt has long been a champion of a broad spectrum of scientific research areas, and of education,” said American Association for the Advancement of Science Board Member Laura H. Greeneshe. “He very effectively communicates with the public and policy makers, and he brings exciting new ideas to the table. Those abilities will help the association to achieve an even greater role in supporting international scientific collaborations and advances.”

Oversight of a far-reaching transformation initiative and the 2015 launch of a new open-access journal will be among Holt’s first responsibilities in his new job.

“Rush Holt is an ideal choice to lead AAAS and Science into the future,” Leshner said. “His expertise, experience, and commitment to science, and to public service are sure to greatly enhance the association’s impact in all domains.”