Bridging Science and Society
The relevance of science, technology, and engineering as well as scientific literacy to the well-being of society is more profound than ever. The theme of the 2010 AAAS Annual Meeting — "Bridging Science and Society"—calls on every scientist and engineer to make their work both beneficial and understandable, and on society to discover again the excitement and hope that research and its findings offer.
Today, dazzling possibilities resulting from scientific and technological advances are occurring at a time when many people lack an understanding of science. "In science the details are hopelessly complex, but the principles are elegant and simple," the late microbiologist Daniel Nathans said after receiving the National Medal of Science in 1999. Nathans, who received the Nobel Prize in 1978 as co-discover of restriction enzymes, long urged scientists to place importance on communicating the value and limitations of science and research, and trusting in the good sense of an informed public and its leadership.
Today is also a time of global crisis. It demands a reassessment of every dimension of knowledge and progress to find sustainable pathways and promote viable solutions for
- invigorating the economy,
- protecting the environment,
- rebuilding infrastructure,
- renewing the fundamentals of education,
- affirming human rights as well as improving the human condition worldwide, and
- redefining medicine and public health locally and globally.
At the same time, support and efforts must continue both in the quest for knowledge about the universe, the Earth's systems, and the many facets of the biological and the behavioral sciences, and in the development of new tools, techniques, and collaborations. In addition, work still remains to help reconcile science with religious values.
To improve the future for all and protect our planet, young minds also must be drawn into science and technology, and equipped with 21st century skills. Efforts must involve not only finding what works in the classroom but also opening laboratories, hospitals, and factories to students so they can experience the day-to-day worlds of possibility, discovery, and application.
This call to action resonates around the world. In the United States, for example, President Barack Obama articulated the mandate in his inaugural address. "We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost," he said. "We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do."