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Friday, September 04, 2015

Future Of The JREF

After attending this summer's Amazing Meeting, I mentioned that this was probably the last annual event presented by the James Randi Educational Foundation. Now comes this announcement:
Since James Randi's retirement earlier this year, the Board has considered how to continue the Foundation without his direct involvement.

The Board has decided that it will convert the foundation into a grant making foundation.

Starting in 2016, we will be making grants to non-profit groups that we believe are promoting activities that encourage critical thinking and a fact-based world view. We expect to make a small number of grants each year totaling approximately $100,000 per year. We will NOT accept suggestions, applications or proposals for these grants. We hope they will come as a pleasant surprise to the recipients, just as Randi's MacArthur foundation grant was a pleasant surprise to him.

As we will only be making grants in the future, we think it appropriate to stop accepting memberships and donations. Any donations received before December 31, 2015 will be tax deductible.

We plan on continuing the Million Dollar Challenge as a means for educating the public about paranormal claims.

Over the years, we have spent a great deal of time dealing with claims ranging from yet another dowsing claim to some VERY eccentric and untestable claims. The overwhelming majority refuse to fill out the application or even state a claim that can be tested. Some of them show up in person and demand to be tested while they wait. We can no longer justify the resources to interact with these people.

Effective immediately, JREF will no longer accept applications directly from people claiming to have a paranormal power. We will however offer our Challenge to anyone who has passed a preliminary test that meets with our approval. We will provide example protocols early next year. Of course, any established psychic may always contact JREF to be tested directly (preferably with an independent, third party TV crew.)

It's been a great nineteen years and we thank you for your interest and support.
Although I expected it, I'm saddened by this news. My wife and I have been staunch supporters of Randi's work since before the JREF even existed, and I was happy to be one of the speakers at the tribute to Randi this summer at TAM. He has always been a unique blend of brilliance, magic, and investigative curiosity, but the fact remains that, at age 87, Randi can't be the global face of skepticism anymore, and there's no one who can replace him or even step into his shoes.

I'm glad that the JREF will continue in some way, but this undoubtedly marks the end of an era. I hope that its impact will continue to spread through the growing skeptic community around the world that it has inspired and educated for the last two decades.