What is going on at the James Randi Educational Foundation?

And now for something completely different…

Due to the holiday and suddenly being informed that my revised manuscript for a certain journal (more on that later) is needed NOW, I don’t have time for much of a post. However, a certain bit of bombshell landed over the weekend that should keep those of you interested in the skeptics’ movement (as I am) discussing until I finish “fixing” a final version of my manuscript. It came in the form of an announcement that appeared on the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) website:

In order to achieve cost-savings and greater efficiency, the Los Angeles office of the JREF has closed effective September 1, 2014. All operations have been moved to Falls Church, Virginia.

DJ Grothe is no longer with the JREF. James Randi has taken over as acting President.

This restructuring is part of an enhanced educational agenda aimed at inspiring an investigative spirit in a new generation of critical thinkers by engaging children and their parents, as well as educators and the general public, in how to think about the many extraordinary claims we hear every day.

Contact the JREF at:
James Randi Educational Foundation
2941 Fairview Park Drive, Suite 105
Falls Church, VA 22042
JREF@Randi.Org

Because of the involvement of the Clark Kent side of my persona with JREF in putting together the Science-Based Medicine conference at The Amazing Meeting every year for the last six years, you might think I know something about this. You’d be wrong. I’m just as much in the dark as most of you. In particular, the abruptness of the press release, being published on the afternoon of a holiday, as well as its cryptic vagueness suggest that the parting between DJ and JREF was not amicable. Either that, or the PR at JREF is not very good, which may be the case given how the announcement on Facebook was handled. Usually corporate press releases about the departure of a major figure in the organization, such as the president, regardless of the nature of the split, have a few kind words for the outgoing president and a generic bit about “best wishes in his new endeavors.” Even if there is no successor in place (which is not infrequent), there’s usually at least a blurb about how a search for a permanent successor is under way. I also have no idea what this new “enhanced educational agenda” is about, either.

One potential reason for the shakeup could be this:

In fairness, others have pointed out that 2011 was an unusually good year for JREF, but, even so, no board is going to be too happy with a president who presides over a 31% decline in revenue in a single year (2012-2013), regardless of the reason, and if the trend was continuing in the first half of 2014 that might well have sealed it.

In any case, I hope JREF’s board can choose a president who can quickly restore confidence in the organization. As for SBM, we hope I at least hope we don’t lose TAM as an outlet to promote skepticism and critical thinking in medicine.