2015 Annual Meeting
Held for the first time in San Jose, California, the 12-16 February meeting drew more than 9,800 attendees, including researchers, journalists, and students. AAAS’s Family Science Days, two days of free hands-on activities and demonstrations for children and adults, attracted more than 5,000 people.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology geneticist and then AAAS President Gerald Fink described during his presidential address how human chromosomes were initially miscounted when researchers first viewed their fuzzy outlines under a microscope. Improved imaging revealed their actual number as well as the small defects that can lead to disease. Later, geneticists learned that only 2% of genes are actively used to make proteins, while the function of the other 98% remains a mystery, he said.
“That new vision is exciting because it reveals an unknown world that stimulates our curiosity and spawns new fields,” Fink said. “But it’s also threatening because a new picture can destroy our past understanding of our universe, a universe we thought we understood only yesterday.”
50 Years of Communicating About Climate Change
In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson’s science advisors issued a report saying that the accumulation of atmospheric carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels would “almost certainly cause significant changes” to the environment. By 1990, “We really knew enough scientifically to justify the kinds of actions that we’re only now talking about today 25 years later,” said John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology.
Following the symposium, supported by the American Meteorological Society and the Linden Trust for Conservation, AAAS organized a briefing for legislators in the U.S. Capitol Senate Visitors Center, in conjunction with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). AAAS also provided live video of the symposium, which celebrated the launch of the Alan I. Leshner Leadership Institute. The first 15 Leshner fellows are all climate scientists and communicators.
AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards
Independent panels of science journalists selected the two best examples of science reporting for a general audience in eight categories. Winning stories were published or broadcast by The New York Times, Baltimore Sun, PBS NewsHour, Le Monde, Nature, Minnesota Public Radio, and other media outlets. The prizes, $5,000 for a gold award, and $3,500 for a silver award, were given out at the 2016 AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.
Communication Tools for Scientists & Engineers
Staff in the Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology organized 33 workshops and 17 invited talks, which were held at universities and government agencies, and at business and professional meetings. Workshop leaders taught participants to use different communication tools to engage a variety of audiences, including the public, reporters, and policymakers. They then had opportunities to refine their messages and build confidence through small-group discussions and practice.
The Center also organized two communication seminars during the 2015 Annual Meeting that drew about 300 attendees. During “Scientists Communicating Challenging Issues,” presenters offered social science research about why some scientific issues, like climate change, are prone to controversy, and how scientists can navigate those tensions. A second workshop, entitled “Public Engagement for Scientists: Realities, Risks, and Rewards,” also drew on research to explore the methods and possible results of public outreach.
The Communicating Science program has reached more than 6,700 scientists and engineers since it was founded in 2008.
EurekAlert! Reaches Out Worldwide
EurekAlert! also offered its first international training for public information officers, in collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The training, held in Chengdu, China, helped communicators practice linking their news to issues of interest to international reporters and audiences.
The EurekAlert! service provides free access to news about research in science, health, medicine, and technology to about 12,000 journalists worldwide.
AAAS Colloquium Series Takes Off
Trellis: Increasing Research Collaborations
AAAS will also begin training community managers—people who can help facilitate collaborations between researchers within and outside their fields using platforms such as Trellis. Using a $773,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the AAAS Community Engagement Program will begin a one-year pilot program to train as many as 18 fellows in 2017.