Douglas Braaten, Executive Director of Scientific Publications at the New York Academy of Sciences, recently filled us in on the latest developments at the Academy, including the launch of a new book series and what the Academy is doing to foster STEM innovation as it enters its third century.
Q. Can you tell us about your background and your current role?
A. I have been a scientific editor for ten years, six at the Academy and before that, at Nature Publishing Group. My research background is in cell biology, virology and immunology––starting way back in 1982 as a work–study student at Washington University in St. Louis. I spent 23 years doing research as a technician, graduate student, and postdoc; when it was time to either go out to start a lab on my own or do something else, I was fortunate to find a great editing position at Nature Immunology. My current role at the Academy includes being editor-in-chief of Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, as well as executive director of Academy science publications.
Q. What is the mission of the NYAS? Can you provide a (very) brief history?
A. Beginning as a relatively small organization in 1817 that focused on natural history (e.g., ferns, flora, and fauna), the New York Academy of Sciences currently has more than 20,000 members in 100 countries around the world working at the frontiers of discovery and promoting vital links between science and society. The Academy's core mission, advanced through our many programs, is to advance scientific knowledge, positively impact the major global challenges of society with science-based solutions, and increase the number of scientifically informed individuals in society at large.
Q. The NYAS is well-known for Annals, continually published since 1823. Why did you decide to launch a new book series?
A. For many years, in the late 19th through mid-20th centuries, the Academy had an established book program that produced several important publications, even though the output was somewhat irregular. This was at a time when the Academy served as its own publisher. Not only were occasional books published by the Academy but also the venerable Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. The Academy ceased to function as an independent publisher in 2005 when it signed a contract with Wiley to publish Annals. Given this history then, it was not so much whether the Academy would begin a book series again, but when. The long-standing, close relationship between the Academy and Wiley was particularly conducive to developing a series that would enable the two institutions to bring together distinct talents, from the Academy’s 20,000 diverse members and multiple programs, to Wiley’s worldwide brand recognition and production, marketing, and distribution capabilities.
Q. What types of topics will the new series cover? How will they differ from Annals?
A. The series really will be open to all topics in science—broadly construed––in keeping with the multidisciplinary nature of the Academy. Our core audience––those who come to events, read Annals, and visit our website, is in the biological sciences, ranging from everything from anatomy to zoology. But the Academy also is deeply committed to science education and areas in the physical sciences, including Green technology, ecology and conservation biology, and even mathematics. What will make a proposal of particular interest is that it is on a topic that will be of interest to many of our members, as well as those who may not be members, but are involved in our many programs. The topics covered in Annals are narrower that what we hope to cover in at least some of the book projects for the series—especially when it comes to topics and content that could be used for educational purposes. Those interested in submitting a book proposal or who have questions can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. What’s next for the Academy?
A. The new Academy program called the Global STEM Alliance is an international initiative of more than 90 partners and 50 countries—a collaboration of governments, corporations, educational institutions, and nongovernmental organizations—working together to assure the next the generation of STEM innovators. Our many conference and discussion groups cover topics in all areas of science and bring to the Academy several thousand participants each year. The Academy’s Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science is dedicated to advancing nutrition science research and knowledge, mobilizing communities, and applying this work in the field. All of these programs are ongoing, growing, and key to the Academy’s continuing success and worldwide influence. In 2017 the Academy will celebrate its 200th anniversary, launch a significant capital campaign project, and kick off its third century of inspiring scientific progress.