The Directorate for Science and Policy Programs conducts activities in the realms of science, government, and society, and is an authoritative source of information on research and development in the federal budget. The directorate seeks to further the work of scientists, improve the effectiveness of science in the promotion of human welfare, and foster scientific freedom and responsibility.
POLICY ISSUES SURROUNDING SCIENTIFIC ADVANCES
Breakthroughs in genetic research designed to treat human diseases at a molecular level could someday lead to genetic changes that would be transmitted to future generations. A AAAS report released in 2000 urges restraint, however, arguing that inheritable genetic changes cannot presently be carried out safely and responsibly on human beings, and that pressing moral concerns have yet to be addressed. The report, Human Inheritable Genetic Modifications: Assessing Scientific, Ethical, Religious, and Policy Issues, recommends the immediate creation of an independent body to oversee research into human inheritable genetic modification, as well as extensive public discourse about the scientific and moral issues raised by such research.
In another effort, AAAS hosted a congressional briefing to discuss the potential applications for stem cell research and the ethical considerations involved, as the debate continues on whether to use federal funding to support this promising line of research. The briefing highlighted the results of a AAAS report that endorses federal funding for research involving all types of human stem cellsincluding embryonic stem cells that have already been isolated in laboratoriesbut recommends that the derivation of human stem cells should not at present receive federal funding because of pubic anxiety surrounding it.
As the country prepared for the election of a new president, AAAS, in collaboration with the Washington Science Policy Alliance, held two seminars on science policy, which attracted large crowds. In the first, representatives of presidential candidates Al Gore and George Bush discussed the candidates plans and policies for science and technology. Robert Walker, former congressman from Pennsylvania and chair of the House Science Committee, spoke for the Bush campaign and David Beier, chief domestic policy advisor to the vice president, spoke for the Gore campaign. The second seminar was held during the battle over vote counting in Florida, with political pundits Norm Ornstein and Skip Stiles.
Oceans for the New Millennium
This conference, held on Capitol Hill, looked at the impact of scientific findings on a broad range of issues considered by policymakers, including food supply, energy, and health. The keynote speakers included Robert Ballard, president of the Institute for Exploration; Jean-Michel Cousteau, oceanographer and explorer, and Sylvia Earle, marine biologist. The conference represented an effort to foster more awareness of scientific findings and assist the House Oceans Caucus in developing a policy agenda on such ocean issues as national security, biology, pollution, and governance.
Short Course on Racial and Ethnic Minorities as Research Subjects
This course sought to improve the skills of researchers in addressing ethical concerns that arise when members of racial and ethnic minority populations participate in the research, and to assist participants in designing materials and strategies for training in the ethics of conducting research involving minority populations. The first three sessions were held in the Washington, D.C. area, while the final session convened at Tuskegee University.
The Role and Activities of Scientific Societies in Promoting Research Integrity
This conference examined the role of the scientific societies in influencing
the ethical climate for research. It looked at how scientific societies
could promote research integrity, how these policies and practices could
be implemented, and how their effectiveness could be determined. It also
discussed the results of a survey of scientific societies and their activities
in promoting research integrity.
In collaboration with the University of Kansas, AAAS presented a Teach-In to discuss the Kansas State Board of Educations decision to limit the teaching of evolution in Kansas schools. The conference, aimed at the general public and K12 teachers, discussed the historical sciences of cosmology, geology, and evolutionary biology. AAAS also scheduled conferences to visit with religious leaders in Kansas to facilitate continued dialogue on the issue.
R&D Budget and Policy Program
The AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program provides detailed analyses of R&D funding in the federal government through publications, meetings, and a Web site (www.aaas.org/R&D). In 2000, AAAS held the 25th Annual Colloquium on Science and Technology Policy, entitled Science and Technology at the Millennium: Retrospect and Prospect. Speakers included Dr. Neal Lane, assistant to the president for science and technology, Bill Richardson, secretary of energy, and Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House.
In 2000, AAAS expanded its fellowship program, bringing to ten the number of science policy fellowships that AAAS offers, providing opportunities to work in Congress and the National Science Foundation, and positions in global stewardship, defense, diplomacy, risk policy, environment, technology policy-and now the Department of Justice and National Institutes of Health. About 100 scientists and engineers were placed in legislative and executive branch offices through the AAAS programs. The programs provide each fellow with a unique public policy learning experience; bring technical backgrounds and external perspectives to decision-making in the U.S. government, and demonstrate the value of science and technology in solving important societal problems.
Research Competitiveness Program
This program provides assistance to research institution in planning, reviewing, and evaluating programs in research, development, and innovation. Established in 1996 by a grant from the National Science Foundations Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, the program expanded in 1999 to provide assistance to universities nationwide. In 2000, the program conducted more than 31 projects nationwide.