Nine Knight Science Journalism Fellows began a nine-month stay at MIT this month. In addition to Fellows announced last spring, Kazuki Yoshikawa, deputy science editor of the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Japan's largest business newspaper, has joined the 1997-98 group.
The Fellows form the 15th group of visiting science journalists at MIT since the mid-career program began in 1983, and bring the total appointed to 154. They were introduced Tuesday to President Charles M. Vest and the MIT community at a reception in the Bush Room, sponsored annually by Technology Review and the MIT News Office.
The arrival of the Fellows coincided with the announcement that Victor K. McElheny plans to retire as director of the Knight Fellowships next June 30. He will continue to be associated with MIT, focusing on the history of technology. A committee to search for a successor has been formed, headed by Professor Philip S. Khoury, dean of the School of Humanities and Social Science. Applications for the post are being accepted until November.
The fellowships are an activity of the Program in Science, Technology, and Society. They are intended to involve scientists and engineers more deeply in the career-development of science journalists, to widen the array of sources for experienced, committed science journalists, and to contribute to continued raising of the standards of science journalism.
In 15 years as director, Mr. McElheny designed and led the program, which includes some 55 Fellows' seminars with faculty members each year. He was involved in raising money to get the program going and to ensure its continuance. The first operating funds, totaling $1.5 million, came from the Alfred P. Sloan and Andrew W. Mellon Foundations.
In 1987, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation of Miami committed $3.25 million for seven years' operation. In 1989, the Knight Foundation issued a $5 million, five-year challenge, which MIT matched with an additional $2.5 million. Thereby, the Fellowships became endowed at the end of 1994.
Fellows are selected with the help of MIT faculty and leading science journalists. They have come from more than half the states and from 15 foreign countries on six continents. Former Fellows have won several AAAS science journalism awards in both print and broadcasting.
In 1993-94, Mr. McElheny took a leave from MIT to begin writing a biography of Edwin H. Land, founder of Polaroid Corp., with support from the Sloan Foundation technology series. The book will be published in 1998 by Addison-Wesley. In 1993-94, David Ansley, now science editor of Consumer Reports magazine, served as Acting Director.
Mr. McElheny currently serves as an advisor to Technology Review and to the summer science writing program at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, MA. In 1996, he was named Rivett Lecturer by the Australian science agency, CSIRO, and gave the opening address of the Fourth International Conference on Public Communication of Science in Melbourne.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 17, 1997.