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President-Elect of AAAS Issues Call
For Leadership, Scientific Responsibility
On April 10, Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic University (RPI) and president-elect of AAAS, challenged AAAS to lead public policy debate with a bold vision.
"The scientific community needs a leader to work across all sectors. With its diversity of disciplines, AAAS is the perfect vehicle to offer authoritative judgments and guide the marketplace of ideas," Jackson stated during the 2003 William D. Carey Lecture at the 28th Annual AAAS Colloquium on Science and Technology Policy in Washington, DC.
Importance of Public Discourse
According to Jackson, members of the science community must take a broader view of what it means to be a scientist and to do science. Scientists and engineers need to be prepared to explore the implications of their research and weigh in on the public debate.
AAAS can serve as an international "voice of reason," she said. "Laboratories will develop the technology solutions and AAAS will insert those solutions into the public."
Jackson believes societal implications should be integrated with the planning and management of research. Questions scientists need to ask, and ask often, are: Is science safe? Will the benefits outweigh the risks? Can this be regulated? These questions need to be answered, especially in developing research projects using government grants.
Scientists also need to anticipate the consequences of research. "The science community must make a stronger play for policy issues and advocate the role of the scientific community," Jackson said. "There is little doubt that science benefits humankind."
Five percent of the civilian workforce is comprised of scientists and engineers. These individuals help support a strong economy with the highest standard of living and make a profound economic impact. Scientific and technologic advances provide food, shelter, clothing, education, health and improve quality of life. The alternative would be to see these improvements halt because of ignorance and fear.
Science and National Security
Quoting Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, Jackson emphasized that in the post-September 11 environment, terrorism has added an entirely new dimension to science and technology.
"We need more scientists in the pipeline. Policy debates need reliable information and the reasoned voiced of the scientific community," Jackson said.
Science and engineering are essential to national security and must provide the input to protect our nation. Jackson says it will be up to the science community to stand up and solve problems, knowing that science solutions don't always mesh well with policymakers.
"We are a nation at war. We must prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction on the innocent. And yet, the flip side is that we're fighting the enemy with advanced weapons and technology," Jackson said.
Jackson has been president of RPI since 1 July 1999. Prior to arriving at RPI, she served as chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) from 1995 to 1999. Jackson is the first African-American woman to receive a doctorate from M.I.T. in any subject and one of two African-American women to receive a doctorate in physics in the U.S.
The William D. Carey Lecture was established in 1989 to honor Bill Carey upon his retirement as the executive officer of AAAS. The selected lecturers are individuals who exemplify Carey's leadership in articulating public policy issues engendered by the application of science and technology. Previous recipients of the prestigious Carey Lecture include John H. Gibbons, former director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Neal Lane, chief science advisor to President Clinton and a former director of the National Science Foundation (NSF); and M.R.C. Greenwood, Chancellor of the University of California, Santa Cruz.
16 April 2003