Friday, October 20, 2006

Who is John Reed?

The 29 men and women who direct the California stem cell agency labor largely in public anonymity. While they oversee the expenditure of $6 billion in public funds, what makes them tick is really not known by the folks whose interests they represent.

Now comes a piece by Terri Somers of the San Diego Union-Tribune concerning John Reed, one of the members of CIRM's Oversight Committee and chief executive of the Burnham Institute in La Jolla, Ca.

So who is Reed? An accomplished scientist and triathlete who rises at 3 a.m. and who "exudes the wholesome earnestness of a patriarch in a 1950s black and white sitcom." He also sings rock at company soirees.

Somers, however, devotes most of her piece to Reed's professional accomplishments. An excerpt:
"Since delving into apoptosis, Reed has written more than 550 peer-reviewed scientific articles and 50 book chapters. He has the distinction of having published more papers on programmed cell death during the past decade than any other scientist worldwide, according to the Institute for Scientific Information. He was also recognized by the Institute for Scientific Information as the world's most cited scientist in all areas of research from 1997 to 1999."
We confess to a fondness for profiles about people such as Reed -- people who actually do the job, provide the leadership and set the tone of enterprises. But good profiles are rare in the media. It is difficult to create a three-dimensional portrait of an individual in the amount of time provided by most newspapers or media outlets. Not all reporters have the skills to crawl inside, so to speak, another person's personality. Perhaps the most difficult part of reporting a profile is to find persons who know the subject of the profile well and who are willing to comment critically and publicly about him or her. After all, none of us are perfect, and to be complete a profile should reflect at least some of that imperfection.

That said, we would like to see more profiles, regardless of their limitations.

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