News: AAAS News & Notes
24 December 2004
Edited by Edward W. Lempinen
Omenn Sees "Grand Challenges and Great Opportunities"
When Gilbert S. Omenn becomes president of AAAS in February, he will bring a commitment to opening new dialogues and creating new relationships across American society. He hopes scientists and engineers will find more ways to communicate their values and the benefits produced by their work on many of society's pressing problems.
"In this highly polarized world, we need to engage people who are mistrustful of new technologies and openly address the questions they raise," Omenn said in a recent interview. "We need to engage people who do not use, understand, teach, or even accept the scientific ways of thinking, observing, and experimenting that we value highly. We should be willing to hear and consider the criticisms and different ways of thinking.
"The mission, programs, and membership of the AAAS are well suited to encourage and assist such broad interactions."
AAAS has chosen "Grand Challenges and Great Opportunities" as the theme for the 2006 annual meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, and Omenn said in a recent interview that the theme would characterize his year as president of the world's largest general science organization. Even in a time of political and social divisions, he said, science and technology must boldly define problems and potential solutions for decades ahead.
"Strength and progress in national security, health, environmental stewardship, energy, agriculture, and space depend upon a vibrant scientific and engineering community," Omenn said. "In turn, we want the public to feel that they can challenge us. We have to explain what we do in ways that can be understood by people who work in nonscientific fields. We need to make the society want to invest in science, engineering, and education. We also need to explain what we do to scientists and engineers outside our own fields."
In the year ahead, Omenn said he will encourage every program and division of AAAS to think in terms of "Grand Challenges and Great Opportunities." He cited AAAS's Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology (www.aaas.org/programs/centers/pe/) and the Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion (www.aaas.org/spp/dser/) as promising programs for building broader relationships. "There are a great many people who embrace both science and religion," he said.
Omenn, 63, said he also will highlight science and math education; health and environmental risks; international programs; and communicating the mutual dependence of political leaders and scientific and engineering communities in meeting the needs of the United States and the world.
Omenn's research interests include genetics, cancer proteomics, risk analysis, and health policy. He currently serves as a professor of internal medicine, human genetics, and public health at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Previously, Omenn was CEO of the University of Michigan Health System, and earlier was dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Washington, Seattle. He served as associate director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and then of the Office of Management and Budget under U.S. President Jimmy Carter. In 1973-74, during the administration of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, he was a White House Fellow at the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission; this year, he received the prestigious John W. Gardner Legacy of Leadership Award from the White House Fellows Association.
Omenn will succeed the current president, Shirley Ann Jackson, at the close of the 2005 annual meeting on 21 February. Jackson will become chair of the AAAS board.
John P. Holdren has been elected to succeed Omenn as president-elect. Holdren is a professor of environmental policy and environmental science at Harvard University and chair of the Committee on International Security and Arms Control at the National Academy of Sciences. He will become director of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts in June 2005.
Science and Policy
A Gritty Crash Course in the Ways of Washington
With climate change and stem cell research near the top of the national agenda, and with science and technology (S&T) playing a crucial role against terrorism, a new AAAS seminar proved to be a hot ticket this fall.
The first-ever AAAS Leadership Seminar in Science and Technology was full soon after enrollment opened, and participants came away from the week-long event in Washington, D.C., with rave reviews for the forumand with a sober view of how federal S&T policy is made.
Some of those enrolled were federal staffers and foreign embassy officials; many others were executives and administrators in business, higher education, and nongovernmental organizations who work far from the capital. All came to the seminar with a deep curiosity about S&T policy and the impact of the November elections.
"We didn't concentrate on telling them what the next four years are going to be like," said Al Teich, AAAS director of Science and Policy Programs. "People mainly wanted to learn about how the whole system worked."
The seminar was a concentrated version of the renowned 2 1/2-week orientation given every fall to AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellows. From 15 to 19 November, the 28 participants got a crash course from top U.S. science policy experts.
Among the featured speakers were Kathie L. Olsen, associate director for science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and George Atkinson, science adviser to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Encouraged by the response, AAAS staff will soon decide whether to make this an ongoing program (see www.aaas.org/programs/science_policy/leadership/). The seminar received support from the William T. Golden Endowment Fund for Program Innovation.
Results of the 2004 Election of AAAS Officers
Following are the results of the 2004 election. Terms begin on 22 February 2005.
Section on Agriculture, Food, and Renewable Resources
Section on Anthropology
Section on Astronomy
Section on Atmospheric and Hydrospheric Sciences
Section on Biological Sciences
Section on Chemistry
Section on Dentistry and Oral Health Sciences
Section on Education
Section on Engineering
Section on General Interest in Science and Engineering
Section on Geology and Geography
Section on History and Philosophy of Science
Section on Industrial Science and Technology
Section on Information, Computing, and Communication
Section on Linguistics and Language Science
Section on Mathematics
Section on Medical Sciences
Section on Neuroscience
Section on Pharmaceutical Sciences
Section on Physics
Section on Psychology
Section on Social, Economic, and Political Sciences
Section on Societal Impacts of Science and Engineering
Section on Statistics
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