News: News Archives
New CEO Focuses on Expanding AAAS Leadership Role
As Alan I. Leshner takes up the reins as AAAS's new Chief Executive Officer, he says he will place a strong focus on expanding the association's leadership role and communicating the benefits of science to the public and to policymakers.
Alan I. Leshner
AAAS Chief Executive Officer
"There are a whole array of issues that we can address, and being critical is not enough," says Leshner, a psychologist and neuroscientist. "AAAS can move very rapidly because it has tremendous convening power and can generate advice very quickly to move in the direction of a solution. I would like to see policy advice that suggests solutions and recognizes the political reality of a given situation."
Before he became director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 1994, Leshner had been with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), where he had spent six years, serving for two years as acting director of the agency. He has also held senior positions at the National Science Foundation (NSF), where through various positions, he focused on research and science education across the full array of science and technology fields. He began his career as a professor of psychology at Bucknell University.
To address the tremendous diversity of scientific disciplines and thought represented by the AAAS membership, Leshner says, "I expect to increase the involvement in these leadership efforts of the large infrastructure of committees and sections associated with AAAS, and I plan to use them and our staff to help AAAS continue to be fully representative of all aspects of science and technology."
Leshner officially assumed the duties of AAAS Chief Executive Officer on 3 December 2001. Asked what drew him to the Association, he cites its "long and distinguished history that automatically gives it a certain presence in the world arena."
"AAAS is in strong shape from every perspective. In addition to an ever-stronger Science magazine, it has a large array of very important programs that have tremendous impact in terms of education and human resources, science policy and human rights, and in the international arena. It has shown itself to be more than a membership organization. It is positioned to play a tremendous leadership role in the scientific community worldwide. My job is to build on its existing strengths and to expand its leadership role in science both nationally and internationally."
Although many members of the public may not grasp the details of complex scientific principles, says Leshner, it is possible to help everyone appreciate how science can benefit society. He sees AAAS as ideally positioned to accomplish this goal.
"What the individual scientist does and why may not be of great interest to the public and to the broader scientific community," says Leshner. "What is important is to demonstrate that the individual scientist is contributing to a great body of knowledge that is of tremendous benefit to society."
-- Coimbra Sirica