AAAS Joins Innovation Campaign
The AAAS letter—from national business, higher education, scientific, patient, and other organizations—pointed out that the representatives of both political parties have “highlighted the need to address the innovation deficit,” which was described as the “widening gap” between actual science funding levels and the level needed to ensure that the United States continues to be an innovation leader.
The letter also said that passing continuing resolutions has “suspended and impaired ongoing research projects, and caused uncertainty to our nation’s scientific and innovation enterprise” during a time when other nations are ramping up their research funding. (See www.innovationdeficit.org.)
Graduate Students Dive into Advocacy
The first Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering (CASE) workshop came about after federal budget sequestration measures went into effect in 2013, cutting critical research funding, which graduate students protested strongly. Seeing the energy of the students, who formed such groups as MIT’s Stand With Science initiative, AAAS joined with other institutions to create CASE.
“It’s my duty as a constituent to inform the people I vote for about the issues that are important to me,” said Laura Shum, a first-year student at the University of Rochester Medical Center and one of 63 participants in the inaugural workshop.
The workshop drew Capitol Hill staffers and offered lessons in communicating with Congress. “It’s always good to have students come speak to Congress because they represent the future,” said workshop co-organizer Abby Benson, assistant vice president of research and federal relations at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Golden Goose Awards: Medicine, Economics, Physics
Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tennessee) and a coalition of organizations including AAAS launched the awards in 2012 to support federally funded basic scientific research—especially research that might have sounded unusual—as the backbone of American innovation, economic growth, health, global competitiveness, and national security.
The winners included Saul Schanberg, Tiffany Martini Field, Cynthia Kuhn, and Gary Evoniuk, who conducted research showing that massage improves the health outcomes of children born prematurely; Robert Wilson, Paul Milgrom, and R. Preston McAfee, whose research on game theory and auctions encouraged the Federal Communications Commission to auction wireless spectrum licenses, enabling the telecommunications boom; and Larry Smarr, for his research on the dynamics of black holes, which later led to the creation of Mosaic, a predecessor of modern web browsers, including Internet Explorer and Firefox.
Neuroscience and Society Series
Four open-to-the-public events were held in 2014, and featured top experts in their fields, who shared their latest insights. Another event, a well-attended Capitol Hill briefing, focused on possible advances in the treatment of autism, which could involve drugs that would target the neurochemical messengers that are released at the brain’s synapses.
Engaging Scientists and Engineers in Policy
Entitled “Making Science Matter,” the session looked at a wide range of ways to prepare scientists and engineers for interactions with policymakers. Speakers at the session recommended local-level involvement for scientists such as running for the school board, as well as increased communication training, particularly at the graduate-student level but also for career scientists, and participation in a coalition called ESEP (Engaging Scientists and Engineers in Policy). The new group has been compiling fellowship and internship opportunities, and convening scientists and engineers to emphasize the value of their involvement in policy.
SCIENCE, POLICY, AND SOCIETY
The AAAS Center of Science, Policy, and Society Programs (CSPSP) brings scientific expertise to the world
of public policy through a prestigious annual forum and a fellowships program that places scientists and
engineers in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of federal government. CSPSP also supports
programs that provide technical expertise on human rights issues, encourage dialogue between
science and religion, and promote ethical research practices.
2014 AAAS S&T Policy Forum
Rawlings’ illustration was a plea for federal research and development funding, which has dropped by $24 billion since 2011, according to 2014 AAAS figures.
The annual forum, organized by CSPSP, draws more than 400 elected officials, government and business leaders, researchers, foreign embassy staff, and educators. Keynote speaker John P. Holdren, science advisor to President Barack Obama, reiterated White House support for science and technology, pointing to a climate assessment released in 2014 that details the likely impacts of climate change in different regions of the country and in different sectors of the economy.
White House counselor John Podesta discussed a report that spells out the scientific value of big data but calls for enhanced privacy protection for consumers.
Education leaders at the forum addressed strengthening the ties between science and art; presented active, engaged-learning approaches to STEM education; and reaffirmed the importance of supporting historically black colleges, which help to ensure diversity in science and technology by graduating an exceptionally high percentage of students in those fields.
Geospatial Technologies Project
Among the damaged sites is the ancient city of Aleppo, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, dating to the 2nd millennium B.C. The satellite images indicated that the Great Mosque of Aleppo, the Suq al-Madina, the Grand Serail of Aleppo, and other buildings of priceless historical value were destroyed.
Another AAAS satellite-image analysis focused on the Jaffna Peninsula in Sri Lanka. About 2,000 displaced citizens wish to return to their homes on the peninsula now that a long civil war has ended. Their petition for return awaits consideration by a Sri Lankan high court. Although the government and military say that parts of the region are being released from military control for public purpose, satellite images show new construction but few new public facilities such as hospitals, and there is evidence of new military-run tourist facilities in the area.
Science & Technology Policy Fellowships
Other events offered by the AAAS S&T Policy Fellowships program included a symposium on the need for neuroscientists to share the huge amounts of data they generate so that others might glean additional insights. In addition, a lecture by former fellow and AAAS Board member Rosina Bierbaum—a member of President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and the lead author of the U.S. National Climate Assessment—advocated simultaneously addressing climate change and sustainable development for the 1 billion people who live in poverty, without energy or clean water.
The fellowships program received two significant honors. The National Science Board awarded its Public Service Award to the program for building connections between science and policy for more than 40 years. Also in 2014, the first international, regional initiative modeled after the AAAS program was launched by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)—the ASEAN-U.S. Science and Technology Fellowships (for more information, see the International section).
Science, Religion, and Perceptions
“Understanding the interests and concerns of a largely religious public regarding science is key to effective engagement,” wrote Jennifer Wiseman and Paul Arveson, director and senior program associate with the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion. The AAAS program subsequently sponsored community-based workshops around the country that brought together local scientists and religious leaders.
Promoting Ethical Research
Extensive efforts by the Chinese Ministry of Education are underway to ensure scientific integrity within a research system that is not only expanding exponentially in terms of funding and publications, but that rewards scientists who publish despite heavy workloads and compliance responsibilities. Ethics training, however, targets students at university or in graduate school, not earlier, and experts at the meeting said other approaches are also needed.
“Strengthening academic integrity education for graduate students should be the responsibility of the whole society,” said Diange Yang, Deputy Dean Responsible for Research Work and International Cooperation at Tsinghua University. “It should be done from childhood.”
The program also convened two seminars for federal and state judges on the implications of advances in neuroscience for the legal system, and four public meetings.
ELISS Scholars Tackle Societal Problems
Starting with team building, the students chose three issues of concern: mental health stigma, food choices and diet-related diseases, and the use of open space for sustainable design. “Problems, from how to eat more healthily, to climate change require people to work together across disciplines, sectors, and geographies,” said Melanie Roberts, a founder of the ELISS program and its director. “Traditional graduate education doesn’t give students many opportunities to put their work in a larger context.”