To Ted Sherburne: farewell and many thanks.
These have proved eventful years, for science and for Science Service. The moon landings, the theory of plate tectonics, the biotechnology revolution, the introduction of submicrometer miniaturization to computer chips, and remarkable work in genetics, immunology, neuroscience, botany, high-energy physics, lasers, chemistry, materials science and a host of other disciplines have all occurred since Ted began his tenure here.
Under his direction, SCIENCE NEWS has reported extensively on these developments and has surged from a circulation of 90,000 to nearly 230,000 subscribers. The prestigious Science Talent Search (STS), which Science Service administers for the Westinghouse Electric Corp., has garnered even greater luster and fame, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year (SN:2/23/91, p.120). And the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), which for 42 years has brought together the winners from many local high school science fairs, counted 748 participating students from 46 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and seven foreign countries last May in Orlando, Fla.
I'm a relative newcomer to the organization, having arrived only 3-1/2 years ago. I'd heard some lore of Ted's early days, and with his departure imminent, I asked him what he regarded as his greatest accomplishment at Science Service.
"The organization's survival," he replied without hesitation. "During my first five or six years, we didn't know if we were going to make it."
Ted assumed the leadership of Science Service in 1966, moving over from director of public understanding of science at the american Association for the Advancement of Science. He found that our nonprofit educational foundation -- established in 1921 by E.w. Scripps of the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain -- had fallen on troubled times. Some weeks the chances of meeting the payroll appeared unlikely, at best.
Ted led a team that reorganized departments, cut costs, improved efforts to attract new subscribers and retain old ones, and obtained a small but vital grant in the early 1970s from the National Science Foundation that kept SCIENCE NEWS alive until it could sustain itself on subscriptions.
The late 1970s and early 1980s brought what Ted calls the "sci boom period" -- the proliferation of nonscientist-oriented science magazines. These new magazines, big in budgets, pages and publicity, posed a challenge of another sort: Should SCIENCE NEWS go for the glitter and try to mimic the formats, the big circulations (which cost big dollars to obtain and hold) and the expensive graphics of the newcomers?
Many friends of SCIENCE NEWS urged exactly that, arguing that the magazine must match the competition to reamin competitive. But Ted felt we would meet the competition best by retaining the format that had proved so pupular with readers. And as some fine but money-losing science magazines folded one by one, Ted proved correct.
"It was a real exercise in self-discipline not to get carried away and imitate everyone else," Ted says.
Ted truly loves books, and he draws great satisfaction from the spectacular success of Science News Books, the buying service that he brought into existence. He likes to emphasize the program's service aspect. Through our weekly book listings and advertisements and our twice-yearly catalogs, Ted says, SCIENCE NEWS alerts people to many volumes they might otherwise never learn about and it provides a convenient way for readers to order books, particularly those difficult to obtain from commercial booksellers.
Apparently our readers agree. I've had several tell me they order regularly from us and gladly pay the extra postage and handling fee. Why? Some don't live close to a store that carries a lot of science books; others hate the hassle of ordering from a local bookstore, if indeed the store will even order for them.
Books and education occupy much of Ted's time. As he reminisces about his years at Science Service, Ted likes to emphasize a specific educational challenge of the STS and the ISEF: Both require students to conduct real research. "The quanlity of the research these students do has increased enormously over the years; it is much more sophisticated," he says.
And, he argues, this long-time emphasis on research has contributed to an important trend in secondary school science education. "There is an increasing recognition that research is a motivator for precollege students and a better predictor of adult scientific ability than standardized tests and exams," Ted says. "Even in the last year, there has been a lot more talk about the value of hands-on science, and I think it's going to get more recognition in the future."
Ted plans now to devote his energy to writing ("maybe an analysis of the sci boom period; no one has ever explained why all these magazines suddenly came into being and where their audiences went"), consulting and pursuing his passion for bird watching.
"The two great frustrations I've had at Science Service," he says, "are that the Science Talent Search always took place on my wedding anniversary, so I could never really celebrate with my wife, and that the ISEF always took place at the peak of the warbler migration north."
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|Title Annotation:||retirement of Science News's publisher, E.G. Sherburne, Jr.|
|Date:||Sep 28, 1991|
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