Richard Leonard is a corporate turnaround artist. And the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Arlington, Virginia, is betting on him to turn around its troubled National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON).
Leonard is the new CEO of NEON, a $433 million facility being built at dozens of sites around the United States. He’s spent his career with the Battelle Memorial Institute, the Columbus-based nonprofit organization that was selected this spring to finish construction and operate the observatory after NSF fired the original contractor.
The 52-year-old chemical engineer has never worked on an NSF-funded project, and has no ties to the ecological community that will use NEON over the next 3 decades to collect and analyze vast amounts of data on climate change, land use, and biodiversity from 20 distinct biomes. But he has managed numerous defense-related programs for Battelle, which operates six national laboratories for the U.S. Department of Energy.
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