AAAS Launches Strategic Transformation for the 21st Century

AAAS has embarked on a far-reaching effort to make the robust organization even stronger, by enhancing its engagement with its members and enabling the Science family of journals to provide leadership in science communication in the dynamic, multimedia landscape of the future.

"From every perspective, AAAS is in great shape, but every organization needs to periodically evaluate its role going forward. For the last 2 years, the AAAS Board of Directors has been engaged in a long-term strategic planning process, the goal of which is to position AAAS to remain strong for many years to come," said Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of Science.

The initiative arose from an understanding that the AAAS of the future must reflect the seismic shifts under way in how science functions and interfaces with society.

"Communication among scientists is changing rapidly, and Science and other communication venues of tomorrow will be quite different. Similarly, members will engage with AAAS in new ways. It is wonderful that AAAS is moving into this new world from a position of excellence and financial strength," said Phillip Sharp, chair of the AAAS Board of Directors and Institute Professor at the Koch Institute of Integrative Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

AAAS has surveyed current and prospective members, as well as customers of its many programs, to learn how the association can best serve them. While the core mission and goals of AAAS will stay the same, the surveys pointed in two new directions: moving away from print-centric publishing to serving as a multimedia communication organization, and better engaging with and providing a wider array of useful services to members and to the broader society interested in science.

AAAS has already initiated internal reorganizations to expand its digital capabilities under the direction of Robert Covey, in the newly created position of digital media officer. Covey will work in concert with Science's editor-in-chief Marcia McNutt and others to develop a vibrant, multiplatform experience for the Science family of journals, including a refreshment of their design. In addition, AAAS will launch a new, online platform through which anyone in the scientific community can gather to engage on any topic of interest, regardless of discipline, affiliation, or geography.

Science policy and advocacy is another area in which the organization will strengthen and expand engagement with its membership. "The feedback we've gotten from members is that they want AAAS to take a more visible role in speaking up for science, both on the Hill and in the public commons," said Joanne Carney, director of the Office of Government Relations. In a survey that produced 3300 responses, over 80% of respondents felt that it was very important for AAAS to advocate more for science, technology, mathematics, and engineering in the policy arena.

AAAS has long had a strong science advocacy presence, but will expand it significantly. Its latest efforts have included protecting the integrity of science from distortion and misuse, championing adequate federal funding for research and development, presenting the science that underpins a range of policy issues such as climate change, and addressing the importance of teaching evolution. AAAS will develop approaches that allow members to take part in these efforts, focusing on federal policy with secondary efforts at the state level.

Career advice and support also came in as a top priority for members. Under the new initiative, AAAS/Science will work to become a "one-stop shop" for all nondisciplinary career development.

At least 50 different career-related projects are currently active across the association, including offerings from Science, Science Careers, MemberCentral, Education and Human Resources, the Center for Public Engagement With Science and Technology, and other programs, but they will be enhanced and integrated, with a focus on member needs and scaling for wider use, said Bill Moran, director of global collaboration and custom publishing and leader of a taskforce on these new program approaches. While many of the current services are particularly useful to postdoctoral researchers in search of permanent positions, AAAS also will become a resource for members at all stages of their careers, providing support "from before their first job all the way to their last job," Moran said.

Input is welcome and can be sent to aleshner@aaas.org.