Scientists and engineers, most of whom live in Europe, North America, and parts of Asia, have increasingly been asked to consider what role they can play in addressing the plight of millions of the world's poorest residents. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one billion people lack access to clean water, and two billion people have inadequate sanitation. Almost 1.5 billion people, mostly in cities in the developing world, breathe air below the standards that WHO deems acceptable.
The citizens of poor countries need preparation for the changes that will accompany technological advances. AAAS activities focus on improving indigenous science and technology capacity, in the belief that such capacity is essential to maintaining progress toward sustainable development. At the same time, AAAS fosters communication and collaboration across all national borders.
The Center for Science, Technology and Sustainability is part of AAAS's International Activities, which support three strategic goals, serving to promote:
- International scientific cooperation;
- Capacity-building and workforce enhancements; and
- Sustainable development.
Evaluating International Institutions
In an effort to help improve the connection between international earth science research and policy applications, AAAS recently completed a review of the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI). A committee of leading experts assessed the impact of IAI research and capacity-building activities, and recommended ways that the Institute might make its science more accessible to decision-makers throughout the Western Hemisphere. This activity was funded by the NSF.
Integration of the science and technological aspects of sustainable development denotes an emerging new scientific field. Science and technology for sustainability seeks to enable the knowledge and actions that allow human society to meet its present needs without compromising future needs. A virtual Forum on research, institutions, and events associated with the emerging field of sustainability science is supported by AAAS and executed in partnership with the international Initiative on Science and Technology for Sustainability.
AAAS is also leading a review of university-based sustainability science programs, aimed at stimulating dialogue on how programs might develop and interact, not only in the U.S., but globally. In addition to compiling empirical data on these programs, AAAS also hosted a roundtable discussion at the 2007 AAAS Annual Meeting.
Working in conjunction with our affiliate organizations and the AAAS Center for Careers in Science and Technology, AAAS has also begun to help define career paths for young scientists and engineers who are interested in contributing to sustainable development.
Tools for International Cooperation
Previous AAAS international activities explored the human and information networks necessary for sustainable development. Inherent in such work is the difficulty of navigating the wide range of spatial and information scales involved, often leading to poor understanding of which organizations are active in which areas. To explore methods for improving international and interdisciplinary connections, AAAS developed a map based networking tool for the Plata River Basin. This effort was funded by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration .