News: AAAS News & Notes
30 January 2009
Edited by Edward W. Lempinen
Agre: A New Era of Science Outreach at Home and Abroad
In the middle years of his career, long before he had won the Nobel Prize for solving a central mystery of cell biology, Peter Agre figured that it would be natural to make a career shift at about the time he turned 50. He would spend more time outside the lab, and he would devote more energy to public service.
Since following through on that plan, Agre has helped found Scientists and Engineers for America, which promotes researchers' involvement in politics and public policy. He briefly—and very publicly—considered running for the U.S. Senate. He served as an adviser to a presidential candidate. He even did a late-night TV turn on The Colbert Report.
Agre is planning to expand his role as an ambassador for science when he becomes president of AAAS in February. Because climate change and the financial crisis open the door to an era of innovation and transformation, he sees an opportune moment for researchers to reach out to schoolchildren and their teachers, local and national policymakers, and S&T colleagues overseas.
"Scientists have been so worried about getting funded that they probably have not invested as much as they should in terms of public awareness," Agre said in a recent interview. "But it seems to me that every tenured faculty in America owes something, and my idea would be tithing 10% of your time for the public good.... I think being part of the public debate is very important—and that's where we're overdue."
It's impossible to understand Agre's work without understanding his youth in Minnesota. His father, a chemist, brought his children to the lab on weekends and set up simple experiments for them. Agre, with his brother Jim, became an Eagle Scout. He did get a D in chemistry during his senior year of high school—an anomaly he attributes to the distractions and rebellion of late adolescence.
Now 60, his medical experience and research give him enormous credibility in the policy world, and that's enhanced by his easy-going, self-effacing manner. In 1970, he graduated from Augsburg College in Minneapolis with a degree in chemistry. Four years later, he received his M.D. from Johns Hopkins; it was there, he says, that he became committed to biomedical research. After clinical training at Case Western University Hospitals in Cleveland and postgraduate medical training at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he returned to Hopkins.
In 2003, Agre won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his team's 1991 discovery of aquaporins—channels that allow water molecules to pass through cell membranes, a process essential to life. (He shared the prize with Roderick MacKinnon of Rockefeller University.)
Heartland values still echo in his outlook. Public service is crucial, he says. Science must respect people's religious beliefs, even when they question scientific findings. He has deep admiration for teachers—and he insists they deserve better salaries.
Science teachers "are the ones who make science interesting," he said. "I remember in my Nobel banquet speech reciting a line that I realized really resonated with the audience: 'Early in the life of every scientist, a child's first interest in science was sparked by a teacher.'"
Agre was a science adviser to the campaign of Barack Obama, and the new president's respect for science "gives me great confidence," he said. "Until this economic recession or fear of depression is remedied, there may not be increased budgets... But if the government is listening, great things can happen."
Agre will become AAAS president on 17 February, at the end of the AAAS Annual Meeting in Chicago. He succeeds Harvard climate and ocean researcher James J. McCarthy, who will become chair of the AAAS Board of Directors. Already, Agre has had an extensive interview with the New York Times.
Though he is a strong public advocate for science, he's not ready to quit the lab. After a stint as vice chancellor for science and technology at Duke University Medical Center, he returned to Hopkins last year to head its Malaria Research Institute.
"Science is about new adventures," Agre said. "I still have a few years ahead of me, and I don't want to just rest on the past."
Obama Taps Past AAAS Leaders for Key S&T Posts
U.S. President Barack Obama has chosen 2006 AAAS President John P. Holdren to serve as his top science adviser and has selected three other distinguished researchers with ties to AAAS for key positions in his administration.
Holdren, a climate and energy scholar at Harvard and director of the Woods Hole Research Center, has been appointed assistant to the president for science and technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Oregon State University marine ecologist Jane Lubchenco has been appointed administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmo-spheric Administration. Lubchenco served as AAAS president in 1997 and received the 2005 AAAS Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology.
Eric Lander and Harold Varmus, both AAAS Fellows, will join Holdren on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Lander, who received the 2004 AAAS Public Understanding award, is a principal leader of the Human Genome Project and founding director of the Broad Institute. Varmus is president and CEO of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and a former director of the National Institutes of Health.
Call for Nomination of 2009 AAAS Fellows
AAAS Fellows who are current members of the association are invited to nominate members for election as Fellows. A Fellow is defined as a member "whose efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications are scientifically or socially distinguished." A nomination must be sponsored by three AAAS Fellows, two of whom must have no affiliation with the nominee's institution.
Nominations undergo review by the steering groups of the association's sections (the chair, chair-elect, retiring chair, secretary, and four members-at-large of each section). Each steering group reviews only those nominations designated for its section. Names of Fellow nominees who are approved by the steering groups are presented to the AAAS Council for election.
Nominations with complete documentation must be received by 11 May 2009. Nominations received after that date will be held for the following year. The nomination form and a list of current AAAS Fellows can be found at www.aaas.org/aboutaaas/fellows. To request a hard copy of the nomination form, please contact the AAAS Executive Office, 1200 New York Avenue N.W., Washington, DC 20005, USA; at 202-326-6635; or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Results of the 2008 Election of AAAS Officers
Following are the results of the 2008 election. Terms begin on 17 February 2009.
President-Elect: Alice S. Huang
Board of Directors: Julia M. Phillips, David S. Sabatini
Committee on Nominations: Steven Chu, Susan Hackwood, Sallie Keller-McNulty, Jack Dixon
Section on Agriculture, Food, and Renewable Resources
Chair-Elect: Brian A. Larkins
Member-at-Large: Barbara Valent
Electorate Nominating Committee: Ann M. Hirsch, Mark E. Sorrells
Council Delegate: Daniel J. Cosgrove
Section on Anthropology
Chair-Elect: Clark Spencer-Larsen
Member-at-Large: Carol V. Ward
Electorate Nominating Committee: Anne C. Stone, Dolores R. Piperno
Section on Astronomy
Chair-Elect: Alan P. Boss
Member-at-Large: Donald Campbell
Electorate Nominating Committee: Michael Werner, Giovanni G. Fazio
Section on Atmospheric and Hydrospheric Sciences
Chair-Elect: Alan Robock
Member-at-Large: Kevin E. Trenberth
Electorate Nominating Committee: Margaret (Peggy) LeMone, Jim Coakley
Section on Biological Sciences
Chair-Elect: Trudy Mackay
Member-at-Large: Margaret Werner-Washburne
Electorate Nominating Committee: Joan W. Bennett, Eric Ursell Selker
Section on Chemistry
Chair-Elect: Charles P. Casey
Member-at-Large: Ronald W. Woodard
Electorate Nominating Committee: Brian M. Stoltz, Jonathan A. Ellman
Section on Dentistry and Oral Health Sciences
Chair-Elect: Margarita Zeichner-David
Member-at-Large: Ira B. Lamster
Electorate Nominating Committee: Laurie K. McCauley, Frank A. Scannapieco
Section on Education
Chair-Elect: Joseph Krajcik
Member-at-Large: Jay B. Labov
Electorate Nominating Committee: Suzanne O'Connell, Mary Monroe Atwater
Section on Engineering
Chair-Elect: Duncan T. Moore
Member-at-Large: Christine M. Maziar
Electorate Nominating Committee: Kristen Fichthorn, Pradeep K. Khosla
Council Delegate: Gail H. Marcus, James L. Merz
Section on General Interest in Science and Engineering
Chair-Elect: Kathryn D. Sullivan
Member-at-Large: Sharon M. Friedman
Electorate Nominating Committee: Gloria J. Takahashi, Robert J. Griffin
Section on Geology and Geography
Chair-Elect: Malcolm Hughes
Member-at-Large: Jean Lynch-Stieglitz
Electorate Nominating Committee: Timothy Gordon Fisher, Elizabeth A. Canuel
Section on History and Philosophy of Science
Chair-Elect: Richard Creath
Member-at-Large: Heather E. Douglas
Electorate Nominating Committee: Nancy J. Nersessian, Alain Touwaide
Council Delegate: Virginia Trimble
Section on Industrial Science and Technology
Chair-Elect: Jennie C. Hunter-Cevera
Member-at-Large: Harry S. Hertz
Electorate Nominating Committee: Qinghuang Lin, Robert Boily
Council Delegate: Steven W. Popper
Section on Information, Computing, and Communication
Chair-Elect: Bart Selman
Member-at-Large: Julia Gelfand
Electorate Nominating Committee: Christine L. Borgman, Bonnie C. Carol
Section on Linguistics and Language Science
Chair-Elect: David W. Lightfoot
Member-at-Large: Suzanne Flynn
Electorate Nominating Committee: Elizabeth C. Traugott, Douglas H. Whalen
Section on Mathematics
Chair-Elect: Kenneth C. Millett
Member-at-Large: Tony F. Chan
Electorate Nominating Committee: Douglas N. Arnold, Robert M. Fossum
Section on Medical Sciences
Chair-Elect: Judy Lieberman
Member-at-Large: Robert Doms
Electorate Nominating Committee: Beverly Davidson, Wendy C. Brown
Council Delegate: Jennifer M. Puck, James H. Hughes, Etty (Tika) Benveniste, Reed E. Pyeritz, Terence S. Dermody
Section on Neuroscience
Chair-Elect: Michael T. Shipley
Member-at-Large: Gail Mandel
Electorate Nominating Committee: Michael S. Wolfe, Erik D. Herzog
Section on Pharmaceutical Sciences
Chair-Elect: Gary M. Pollack
Member-at-Large: William T. Beck
Electorate Nominating Committee: Craig K. Svensson, Per Artursson
Section on Physics
Chair-Elect: Charles W. Clark
Member-at-Large: Alexander L. Fetter
Electorate Nominating Committee: Elizabeth H. Simmons, Ali Yazdani
Section on Psychology
Chair-Elect: Stephen J. Suomi
Member-at-Large: Jenny Saffran
Electorate Nominating Committee: Denise Park, David Shapiro
Council Delegate: John Gabrieli
Section on Social, Economic, and Political Sciences
Chair-Elect: Eugene A. Rosa
Member-at-Large: Wendy Baldwin
Electorate Nominating Committee: Robert F. Rich, Anil B. Deolalikar
Council Delegate: Nicholas Christakis
Section on Societal Impacts of Science and Engineering
Chair-Elect: Bruce V. Lewenstein
Member-at-Large: Melanie Leitner
Electorate Nominating Committee: Robert M. Simon, Michael L. Telson
Section on Statistics
Chair-Elect: Joel B. Greenhouse
Member-at-Large: Kenneth W. Wachter
Electorate Nominating Committee: Nancy Reid, Mary A. Foulkes