I am pleased to announce the appointment of Tracey DePellegrin as the new Executive Director of the GSA. Tracey has been the Executive Editor of our two journals, GENETICS and G3. Those of you who have not been president of the GSA—a population that included me until this year—may well be asking, “What does an executive director of a scientific society do?” But even if you don’t know the job description, I seriously doubt that any of you who have interacted with the GSA journals—as an author, reviewer or editor—is asking, “Why Tracey?”
The answer to the first question, about the job of our Executive Director, is simple: The Executive Director does a lot. She is the chief administrative officer of the Society, responsible for programs and policies that include the journals, conferences, communications, trainee professional development, education and advocacy. The Executive Director manages our staff, oversees our financial operations and develops new programs and initiatives in conjunction with the GSA Board of Directors. In short, unlike the volunteer academic leadership of the Society who wash up on the GSA shore with the trade winds of each election cycle, the Executive Director is a full-time professional providing the fixed marina where the yearly academic flotsam and jetsam come to rest.
The answer to the second question—why the Board of Directors chose Tracey—is also simple: She is the ideal person to lead the GSA during a time when scientific societies face a difficult and complex transition. Access to a journal like GENETICS, long a major reason to join a society, is free to most academic users. And the traditional loyalties of our profession that made it standard to join the society that best represented one’s science no longer hold much sway with many young geneticists. We need to have an executive director with enthusiasm and energy, good people skills, diplomacy, a substantial track record of successful management and mentoring, and the ability to navigate the ever-changing challenges faced by our members and communities. Tracey brings all these traits, along with a deep knowledge of and commitment to our Society, having been on our journal staff since 2003.
Tracey has an outstanding track record leading our editorial office and journal teams. She strengthened journal finances and managed GENETICS’ transition to be online only. She helped the editors expand the content of GENETICS, implementing new article types such as the model organism “Book” series, Commentaries and Toolbox Reviews. She implemented innovative features like the linking of genetic terms in papers to the model organism databases. Tracey spearheaded the launch of our open-access journal G3 in 2011, and ushered its growth to ~40 papers every month. And she launched a new website for GENETICS in its 100th anniversary year. Both journals have gained in visibility and have developed a well-earned reputation for fairness, for speed, and for tackling thorny editorial and publication issues. She oversaw the launch of our Genes to Genomes blog (which you’re reading now), and initiated the use of social media to highlight articles in our journals. She began a science writing internship program, which has hired grad students and mentored them in writing skills (one of their posts is the most viewed post ever on the blog). She’s made it a priority to ensure that authors, editors, and reviewers experience a highly-responsive, cohesive editorial office where concerns are addressed as rapidly as possible. A measure of Tracey’s stature within her own community is her appointment as Editor-in-Chief of Science Editor, the journal for the Council of Science Editors.
Tracey and the Society’s journal team are based in Pittsburgh, and will continue there with this change in Tracey’s title. In consequence, the GSA will continue to have operations both in Bethesda and in Pittsburgh, but its center of gravity will move a bit west. While this reduces some of our presence in the D.C.-based scientific power structure of the NIH, the NSF, Congressional staffers and our many other sister societies, it lets us stay nimble and seize opportunities that can arise when issues can be approached with more of an outsider’s perspective. Those of you who have lived in or visited Pittsburgh know that the city is attractive and vibrant, with two major universities and strong biomedical research (even if some of us who live in Seattle are a little less excited about its football team).
The GSA is 85 years old, but should you be getting out the cane and walker for us? Not happening. Some of our best ideas lie ahead of us, and I’m glad that Tracey has signed on to help develop and implement them. Please join me in welcoming Tracey to this leadership position.