CEO Alan I. Leshner Heads AAAS Delegation to China
CEO Alan I. Leshner and two other high-ranking AAAS officials departed Friday 17 June for a six-day visit to the People's Republic of China, marking his first visit to the country as the association's top executive.
During the course of the visit, the AAAS delegation will meet with leaders in the country's science, technology and education fields. Leshner, who also serves as executive publisher of the journal Science, will deliver two speeches, focused on the relationship between science and society and the best ways to engage the public in science and its use.
"AAAS's goals are to advance science and serve society throughout the world," Leshner said before the trip. "We see great opportunities to foster collaboration with our Chinese colleagues and develop new joint projects in science education, public engagement and sustainable development."
He will be joined on the trip by Shere Abbott, AAAS chief international officer, and by Shirley Malcom, director of Education and Human Resources. The China Association for Science and Technology (CAST)AAAS's Chinese counterpartis hosting the delegation.
The visit comes at a time of growing scientific and technological strength in China, but also a time when the country is grappling with environmental, health and safety issues that arise from growth and modernization.
After departing from the United States on Friday, the AAAS delegation will arrive in Beijing on Saturday. On Sunday, Leshner, Abbott and Malcom are scheduled to meet with former Deputy Minister of Education and current CAST officer Wei Yu.
Later in the week, they are expected to meet with officials from the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology and the China Association for Science and Technology. The delegation also is scheduled to meet with officials from the National Natural Science Foundation of China; the Ministry of Education; the Chinese Academy of Engineering; and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
On Wednesday 22 June, Leshner will be the first among the invited speakers to give an address when a symposium of the International Network on Public Communication of Science and Technology opens in Beijing.
The network seeks to promote new ideas, methods, intellectual and practical questions and perspectives in S&T education and communication. The chair of the symposium is Cheng Donghong, CAST secretary general. Cheng was a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow in the United States in 1998-99, and was a visiting scholar at AAAS in the summer of 1999.
Later Wednesday, Leshner will talk at the Chinese Academy of Sciences on "Environment for Science, Society and Public Policy."
AAAS's relationship with the science, technology and education communities in China has resulted in much collaboration. Under an exchange agreement with CAST forged in 1978, AAAS ran cooperative programs on critical environmental matters, including desertification, water management and sustainable agriculture. It also arranged delegation visits with U.S. experts concerned with quality control in machine-building and public understanding of science and conducted joint symposia at the AAAS annual meeting on such topics as cancer epidemiology, arid lands research and technology transfer.
More recent interactions have concerned science education, with AAAS hosting Cheng Donghong and sharing materials on science education. The last AAAS board delegation to China was nearly 20 years ago, though many officers have made individual visits. This trip marks Leshner's first official visit to China since his appointment as AAAS CEO in December 2001.
The current trip "shows our interest in significant re-engagement with our Chinese counterpart organizations on common challenges of our S&T communities," said Abbott. "Our meetings will focus on communicating with the public about science and technology, improving science education and engaging science in sustainable development."
Malcom has worked with Chinese colleagues on numerous occasions, including her time as chair of the International Council for Science's Committee on Capacity Building in Science.
"We worked to bring hands-on, inquiry-based science for the primary grades to China, and we want to explore how we can continue to expand beyond our interest in the primary grades to the middle grades and high school," Malcom said. "In addressing the challenges of providing quality science education to all, China and the United States have many things in common. We're all looking for promising practices that help us do a better job."
Edward W. Lempinen
17 June 2005