Building Community

Building Community

Every year, AAAS hosts the world’s largest general science meeting. Researchers, policymakers, journalists and families come together to learn about science, from basic concepts creatively presented at the meeting’s well-attended Family Science Days to the most sophisticated, latest advances taking place in the full range of scientific fields. AAAS also works to foster international scientific collaboration, leveraging the progress in both scientific advancement and international relations that such collaboration can yield.

2020 AAAS Annual Meeting

The 186th AAAS Annual Meeting, held in February, centered on the theme Envisioning Tomorrow’s Earth, an idea that was developed by AAAS President Steven Chu. The meeting was held in Seattle, Washington, just before the pandemic took hold. Participants shared research breakthroughs, presented thoughtful discussions of science-related societal issues, and brought scientists together from many different disciplines and from all around the world. Sessions represented a hugely broad selection of science topics — from a plenary address on the capabilities of quantum computing to a news briefing on new research demonstrating that touch in babies creates a foundation for empathy as those babies mature to an update on the continuing search for extraterrestrial life.

In an editorial commenting on the meeting’s theme published in the Jan. 31 issue of Science, AAAS CEO Sudip Parikh noted that we are living in a pivotal moment. “Rarely have the opportunities for progress been as exciting yet the challenges so existential,” Parikh wrote. “We must rise to the challenges of our time to ensure that the next generation has the opportunity to rise to theirs.”

The 2020 AAAS Annual Meeting was sponsored by Arizona State University, Bristol Myers Squibb, Chicago Quantum Exchange, the European Union, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, the NIH National Human Genome Research Institute, Seattle Children’s, Subaru, This Study Shows: A Wiley Podcast, UK Research and Innovation, the University of Florida, and the University of Washington (which served as the Host University for the meeting).

Abana Jacobs touched many at AAAS with the passion and exuberance she directed toward improving STEM education and science literacy. Sadly, she died in November.

“She was this bright, beaming person with so much energy and enthusiasm,” said Sarah Ingraffea, an award manager at AAAS who worked closely with Jacobs. “She was one of those people [who] made everyone happy and made everyone feel included.”

A marketing executive at Subaru of America, Jacobs organized science education partnerships, such as the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books, between the car company and AAAS. The prize is awarded to celebrate exceptional science writing and illustration.

She also participated in AAAS Family Science Days, with a booth offering a reading lounge, meet-and-greets between authors and students, and hands-on science experiments.

In 2015, Jacobs led the Subaru Loves Learning initiative, which in 2019 alone provided 550 schools with 91,000 books that had been selected through the AAAS/Subaru Prize.

AAAS Family Science Days

Postdoctoral fellow and former college basketball player John Drazan captivated a crowd of children with a question.

“I’m 6′7″, and so is LeBron James, so why do I stink [at basketball]?”

Drazan, who works in the University of Pennsylvania’s Human Motion Lab, began to answer his own question: “The beautiful thing about math and science is that we can actually break down human performance to a level where we can figure out how people’s muscles work, how their nerves work and then understand athletic performance.”

Just one of the dozens of presenters at AAAS Family Science Days, Drazan joined 22 universities, science museums, laboratories and other local exhibitors to open the Seattle science gathering to the public and especially to K through 12 students.

AAAS and the Royal Society of London Examine Science Diplomacy After COVID-19

Leading scientists, science advisers, policymakers and diplomats from the United States and the United Kingdom met virtually in October to discuss the changed international landscape resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moderated by Parikh and Richard Catlow, foreign secretary and vice president of the Royal Society, the meeting measured the impact of the pandemic on international scientific collaboration, science diplomacy and international relations in general. The event celebrated the 10-year anniversary of a landmark Royal Society/AAAS report on science diplomacy, which initiated a foundational analysis of the mutual influence that often exists between science and international relations.

Focusing on the role of science in international relations in the wake of the pandemic, the participants in the virtual meeting aimed to identify ways in which scientific institutions can contribute to improved international cooperation, to assess the impact of COVID-19 on science as a source of “soft power” in international relations between the United States and the United Kingdom and other nations, and to consider important policy questions related to international scientific cooperation that have come out in the international pandemic response.