2006 AAAS Annual Meeting to Explore Grand Challenges, Great Opportunities
The 2006 AAAS Annual Meeting will convene on 16 February in St. Louis, Mo., beginning five days of fascinating symposia, lectures and special events that span across disciplines, all under the theme of “Grand Challenges, Great Opportunities.”
Thousands of top scientists and science policy experts, along with educators, students, families and journalists are expected to attend the meeting. They will be able to choose from some 200 events, ranging from a two-day nanotechnology seminar to the popular Family Science Days, and from a special two-day examination of the challenges faced by mathematicians to a seminar on virtual worlds and the video game industry.
Other symposia will focus on some of the most pressing science and technology issues of our time, including climate change, the threat of bio-terrorism, the ethics of neuroscience, the effect of environmental toxins on child health and the need to educate young scientists and engineers. In addition, every day will feature three topical lectures. The Annual Meeting also will include a special “AAAS Evolution Event for St. Louis-Area Teachers,” which will expand the dialogue on teaching evolution in U.S. public schools.
To reflect its setting in St. Louis, the Annual Meeting will have a strong local theme, with presentations on Mississippi River flooding, Midwestern earthquakes, sustainable agriculture in the Midwest, and the engineering and cultural significance of arches.
[Click here for registration and a complete look at the tentative slate of events.]
Gilbert S. Omenn
“The program is designed to challenge us as scientists, engineers, teachers, and citizens to frame important scientific and societal problems in ways that create opportunities to apply the best in science and technology for broad benefit,” AAAS President Gilbert S. Omenn said in a recent letter to members.
“We can mobilize individual disciplines and cross-disciplinary work on major national and global goals. We can boldly define problems and potential solutions for the decades ahead, thereby inspiring the scientific and engineering community and attracting young people to this mission.”
AAAS held its first annual gathering in Philadelphia in 1848. Today, the meeting is an international science and technology extravaganza, with a range and impact that generate extensive news coverage and influence science conference organizers around the world.
Here are some highlights from the tentative 2006 Annual Meeting schedule:
Thursday 16 February
A special two-day seminar opens on social implications of the rapidly advancing field of nanotechnology. The seminar will explore the effects of airborne particulate matter on cardiovascular and respiratory health; uses of nanotechnology to diagnose and treat oral diseases; melding nanotechnology and biology to understand, engineer and reconstruct organic compounds; and mimicking the structural and functional behavior of natural counterparts in bio-engineered materials.
Omenn, professor of internal medicine, human genetics and public health at the University of Michigan and one of the nation’s most prominent authorities on health and science, will deliver his Presidential Lecture Thursday evening. A reception will follow the lecture.
Friday 17 February
The meeting’s symposia get underway in earnest. In the Astronomy and Physics track, a panel will look at the latest research on black holes. In the Behavior and Society track, a panel will look at the impact of social deprivation on infants and young children. And in the Biological Frontiers track, experts will discuss the prospects and potential demographic consequences of emerging anti-aging therapies.
Among Friday’s topical lectures, F. Jamil Ragep, professor of the history of science at the University of Oklahoma, will address “What Can the History of Islamic Science Teach Us About Science?”
Pamela Matson, the Chester Naramore Dean of the School of Earth Sciences at Stanford University, will deliver Friday evening’s plenary lecture, “Science and the Sustainability Transition.”
Saturday 18 February
A two-day series of presentations, “Beyond Pi: Grand Challenges in the Mathematical Sciences,” in the tradition of David Hilbert’s inspirational lecture in 1900 on the most important puzzles in Mathematics, will explore the challenges faced by mathematicians from both within and outside their field. The special seminar starts with "Million-Dollar Mathematics"a review of the surprise offer by the Clay Mathematics Institute of $1 million for solution of each of seven major unsolved mathematics problems. Other topics include how insects fly; the math behind the tsunami phenomenon; and what constitutes a fully certified mathematical proof.
Meanwhile, in the Earth, Atmosphere and Oceans symposia track, scientists will tackle human impact on the environment in two panels, “What’s Happening to All the World’s Ice?” and “Marine Mammals on the Front Line.” In the Equity in Science and Technology track, panelists are slated to discuss evidence on the extent to which women are succeeding in science. In the Information Technology and Computing track, philosophers, ethicists and others will discuss how to preserve human autonomy while enabling full utilization of pervasive computing in home-based health care, which increasingly may be used to control environments for people with illness and disabilities.
On Saturday afternoon, Ursula Goodenough, a professor of biology at Washington University in St. Louis, will deliver a topical lecture, “The History of Nature: Why Aren't We Teaching It in Our Schools?” Goodenough has written and lectured extensively on the relationship between science and religion and is a past president of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science.
In the evening, 2003 Nobel Laureate Peter Agre, vice chancellor for science and technology at the Duke University Medical Center, will deliver a plenary lecture, “Aquaporin Water Channels: From Atomic Structure to Clinical Medicine.” Agre is passionate about attracting young people to scientific careers.
Sunday 19 February
A day-long session on the video-game industry, “Physics and Economics of Virtual Worlds” will explore a cultural phenomenon that generates $10 billion a year in revenues. It is a highly competitive arena that advances through stunning innovation in the development of ever more powerful computer game engines, in the incorporation of ever more realistic physics into game representations, and in the creation of virtual societies containing hundreds of thousands of inhabitants.
James S. Jackson, professor and director of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, will deliver a topical lecture titled “Exploring the Intersections of Race, Ethnicity, and Physical and Mental Health Disparities.”
In the Human Origins and Culture track, researchers will be discussing new evidence and new views on the first human entry into the Americas. In the Next Generation Pathways track, two panels will consider scientists and engineers of the future: One will consider the congressionally mandated National Science Foundation Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering, while the other assesses the impact of promising educational interventions to support young scientists. In the Public Understanding of Science track, a panel will consider how to craft communication strategies on new and sometimes controversial advances so that the message is sensitive to both the way citizens process information and the way media messages about science are constructed.
Monday 20 February
The Annual Meeting closes with a day-long Forum for School Science. Forum 2006 will demonstrate ways in which the community can help all students achieve in science and mathematics. Presenters will examine how classroom teachers and researchers can successfully collaborate to gain better understanding of teaching and student learning. Topics for discussion include research on classroom teaching and practices, questions that can form the basis for studies of teaching and how students learn, and how to foster supportive research environments.
Meanwhile, in the Science Policy track, experts in “human tracking” technology will explore a grand social experiment, begun with little public debate. What benefits could it bring to health care and commerce? What threats could it pose to privacy and personal freedom? In the Sustainability and Resource Management track, a panel will focus on alternative approaches to maintaining the health and productivity of threatened ocean fisheries. And in the Public Health and Medicine track, panelists will explore the West Nile virus, Marburg virus, avian flu and the increasing and possibly imminent risk associated with the spread of novel animal viruses into human populations.
Edward W. Lempinen
31 October 2005