WASHINGTON, July 6, 2015—The Council of the National Academy of Sciences has approved the nomination of Marcia K. McNutt, editor-in-chief of the Science family of journals, for election as president of the Academy, to succeed Ralph J. Cicerone when his second term as NAS president ends on July 1, 2016.
A geophysicist, McNutt earned her bachelor’s degree in physics at Colorado College and her Ph.D. in earth sciences at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego. Her research concentration is in marine geophysics, where she has used a variety of remote sensing techniques from ships and space to probe the dynamics of the mantle and overlying plates far from plate boundaries on geologic time scales. She is the author or co-author of more than 100 peer reviewed articles and has made important contributions to the understanding of the rheology and strength of the lithosphere. She has demonstrated that a deep-seated, large-scale mantle thermal anomaly has been very persistent. It is not only producing midplate volcanoes in the island chains above its location deep beneath the central Pacific, but also produced older volcanic chains now submerged in the northwest Pacific that erupted as the Pacific plate drifted over the central Pacific over the last 100 million years.
McNutt began her faculty career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she became the Griswold Professor of Geophysics and served as director of the Joint Program in Oceanography & Applied Ocean Science & Engineering sponsored by MIT and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. She later served as president and chief executive officer of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and as professor of geophysics at Stanford University. From 2009 to 2013 she was the director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), one of the federal government’s major science agencies. While at the USGS, she helped lead the response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, for which she was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal by the U.S. Coast Guard. She also oversaw completion of the ground station for Landsat 8, which was launched in February 2013 and continues Landsat’s 40-year record of satellite imaging of natural and human-induced changes on the global landscape. McNutt became the 19th editor-in-chief of Science in 2013. As editor-in-chief she led the effort to establish Science Advances, an open access, online-only offspring of Science. The world’s largest society of earth scientists, the American Geophysical Union (AGU), awarded her the Macelwane Medal in 1988 for research accomplishments by a young scientist and the Maurice Ewing Medal in 2007 for her significant contributions to deep-sea exploration.
McNutt is a fellow of AGU, the Geological Society of America, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Geological Society of America, and the International Association of Geodesy. She served as president of AGU from 2000 to 2002. Her honors include election to the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
McNutt was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2005, and has served on more than 30 committees and boards of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Most recently, she chaired an expert panel that evaluated options for slowing or offsetting global climate change. She is currently a member of the advisory committee for the Division on Earth and Life Studies and the Forum on Open Science.
A nominating committee chaired by Barbara A. Schaal, Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences and the Mary-Dell Chilton Distinguished Professor in the department of biology at Washington University in St. Louis, selected McNutt after a six-month search. Under the Academy's bylaws, the Nominating Committee puts forward candidates for the presidency for the Council's discussion and approval. Although the NAS bylaws permit additional nominations from the membership, this mechanism has never been used. In the absence of another nomination, McNutt’s name will be presented to the full membership for formal ratification on December 15. That ballot will also contain the names of candidates for the Academy's treasurer and for four positions on the Council. Balloting is to be completed on January 31.
The National Academy of Sciences was established in 1863 by an Act of Congress, signed by President Lincoln, as a private, nongovernmental institution to advise the nation on issues related to science and technology. Members and foreign associates of the Academy are elected by their peers for outstanding contributions to research. The membership includes approximately 2,300 members and 450 foreign associates, of whom more than 190 have won Nobel Prizes. The National Academy of Sciences works with the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine to provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conduct other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions. The Academies also encourage education and research, recognize outstanding contributions to knowledge, and increase public understanding in matters of science, engineering and medicine.