News from the National Academy of Sciences

NAS Establishes New James Prize in Science and Technology Integration

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has received a $2,000,000 gift to establish the James Prize in Science and Technology Integration. The prize was made possible through a generous donation from Robert “Bob” James.
This prize will recognize outstanding contributions made by researchers who are able to adopt or adapt information or techniques from outside their own fields, and thus integrate knowledge from two or more disciplines in order to solve a major contemporary challenge not addressable from a single disciplinary perspective.
Most prizes recognize scientists for their work in one field, and those who work across domains can be overlooked. James believes "adapting ideas from other areas can inspire creative ways to solve problems, better, quicker, and cheaper.” Even at the age of 12, Bob was exhibiting this skill himself. In February of 1949, Pathfinder published a story on him describing his ability to create “sturdy, custom-made furniture” from a “pile of junk.” Bob said he used his knowledge in engineering and science to transform discarded objects into new usable furniture pieces. Looking back at this article, Bob comments, “this is the very essence of the James Prize.”
“One of the objectives of the new NAS strategic plan is to promote integration across all disciplines of science. We are pleased that Bob James has established this prize to help us advance this goal,” comments NAS President, Marcia McNutt.
Mr. James, a former Chairman & CEO of McCann Erickson Worldwide, was introduced to the National Academies in 1993 when he received an invitation to join the Presidents’ Circle (PC). Bob was a member of the PC for 16 years, for four of which he served as its chair.
The James Prize in Science and Technology Integration reflects the mission of the National Academy of Sciences. Bob hopes his gift will inspire others to make gifts that will allow the Academy to continue its leadership in science for the nation and the world. The inaugural James Prize will be awarded in 2021 at the NAS Annual Meeting.
Mr. James holds an A.B. from Colgate and an M.B.A. from Columbia University. His many pro bono contributions have included serving on the boards of the South Street Seaport Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, Operation Sail, and the National Captioning Institute. He is a former chairman and trustee of the National Air and Space Museum, a trustee and member of the executive committee of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and a trustee of the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and the World Ship Trust. He supports the institutions from which he graduated, having served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Fordham Preparatory School, on the National Service Council of Colgate University, and on the Alumni Council of the Columbia University Graduate School of Business.
The James’ family’s love of science is exemplified by Bob’s two grandchildren, Bryan and Molly James, who are both pursuing PhDs in science, at the University of Florida and the University of Connecticut, respectively. Bob is retired and lives in Fort Lauderdale, FL, with his wife, Anne.

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