The Role of AAAS in U.S. Science Policy: The First 150 Years
Amy Crumpton and Albert H. Teich
For 150 years, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has played a role in the relationship between science and policy in the United States. While the character of AAAS's role has varied with time and circumstance, the history of the Association and its activities provides an intriguing reference point from which to assess the dynamic between the scientific community and public policymakers. This chapter traces AAAS's involvement in science and policy over the years and examines some historical precedents that set the stage for the S&T Policy Colloquium in the 1970s.
An Introduction to Represent the Whole
AAAS was formed on September 20, 1848, by members of the Association of American Geologists and Naturalists who formally dissolved their society and resolved it into the new Association. This event, which took place in the library of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, marked an important turning point in the formation of the American scientific community. AAAS's founders sought to establish a cohesive organization that would "aid in bringing together and combining the labours of individuals who are widely scattered, into an institution that will represent the whole." In order to promote communication among its members, the Association made national meetings that rotated among various cities a priority. AAAS's early meetings were major events for the cities in which they were held. Members were lionized by the newspapers, treated to reduced fares on the railroad lines, and feted by local dignitaries. Often, meetings helped to reinforce well-established local scientific organizations and create or inaugurate new institutions (Kohlstedt 1976).
In his AAAS presidential address in 1851, Alexander Dallas Bache, great grandson of Benjamin Franklin and head of the U.S. Coast Survey, declared that, "Science without organization is without power." For Bache and other Association founders, organizing scientists and their expertise created a powerful tool with which to shape public policy. There was recognition by AAAS leaders, as historian Sally Gregory Kohlstedt explains, "that the AAAS provided an excellent supporting agency to reassure legislators that certain projects were approved by men of science" (Kohlstedt 1976; 122). Many of the Association's leaders were closely connected to state and federal government agencies. Kohlstedt notes that scientists in Washington quickly recognized the usefulness of AAAS for voicing authoritative opinions that might have the power to persuade hesitant politicians.
For his part, Bache was instrumental in setting up a AAAS committee in 1849 to evaluate the U.S. Coast Survey. The committee made reports whenever Bache perceived any threat from Congress to cut the annual appropriation for the Survey. The committee issued several reports during its existence between 1849 to 1860 and Bache used the committee reports to validate and document the Survey's work. Bache's tactical use of the Association was quite successful. Maria Mitchell, who in 1850 became the first woman to join AAAS, observed, "The leaders play it pretty well. My friend, Professor Bache, makes the annual meetings the opportunity for working sundry little wheels, pulleys and levers; the result of all which is that he gets his enormous appropriations of $400,000 out of the Congress every winter" (Wright 1949).
Joseph Henry, another leading scientist of that era and AAAS president in 1849, also saw opportunity in having the ear of the scientific community. Henry persuaded AAAS members to support his plans for the Smithsonian Institution, of which he had been appointed first Secretary in 1846, and to popularize the idea of it as a research institute (Kohlstedt 1976; 123). In advocating the Association's policy efforts in support of science, Henry commented, "If the scientific men of the country will only be properly united they can do much for the advance of their pursuits through assistance from CongressPoliticians as a class are timid except when they are sure of an object which they know is worthy and in advocating of which they are sure of being sustained by authority" (AAAS Proceedings 1888, 120).
In addition to committee initiatives, individual members also brought issues before AAAS that entailed pleas for policy intervention from state and federal government. Forest conservation was one such important early issue. Naturalist Chester Dewey, speaking before a AAAS general assembly in 1856, proposed a resolution to save the giant fir trees of California from extinction. In response, Joseph Henry made a report on forests and their economic uses one of his early projects as Secretary of the Smithsonian. Botanist Asa Gray underscored scientific interest in the preservation of unique U.S. forests by devoting his 1872 AAAS presidential address to "The Sequoia and Its History." At the 1873 AAAS meeting, Franklin R. Hough, superintendent of the 1870 U.S. Census, presented a paper on "The Duty of Governments in the Preservation of Forests." The following year AAAS established the Committee on the Preservation of the Forests. Through the committee, AAAS provided critical support for a rider on a bill for the Department of Agriculture that earmarked $2,000 to investigate the rate of forest consumption as well as establish methods for renewal. Thus, AAAS supported creation of the Forest Division, today's Forest Service, as well as state forest policy initiatives in New York, California, and Georgia (Dupree 1957, 239).
In 1863, Congress established the National Academy of Sciences to "investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art" whenever called upon by the government or any of its departments. Bache had recommended that the federal government create such a body "to guide public action in reference to scientific matters." Zoologist Louis Agassiz, who succeeded Bache as AAAS president, outlined the structure and organization of the Academy in 1858, intending it to be a more elite institution than AAAS. Several of AAAS's leaders, including Bache, Agassiz, Joseph Henry, and mathematician Benjamin Peirce, were instrumental in forming the Academy and devoted their energies to its success.
As the relationship between science and government grew after the Civil War and during Reconstruction, stresses began to appear. In 1884, Congress appointed a bipartisan commission was appointed to investigate the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Signal Service, and the Hydrographic Office. Led by Senator William B. Allison of Iowa, the Allison Commission was charged with scrutinizing these agencies (which were powerful federal funding agencies for science at the time) and their significant government patronage ($3 million in annual appropriations). Discussions of reorganization and charges of ineptitude and corruption set the scene.
At its 1885 meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan, AAAS members renewed their long-standing support for the U.S. Coast Survey and issued a resolution asserting that "the value of the scientific work performed in the various departments can best be judged by scientific men" (Proceedings 1886, 546). The Association's voice was part of a larger collective effort among scientists that succeeded in resisting huge funding cuts and wholesale changes.
After 2 years, the Allison Commission took no action and all corruption charges were dismissed. The only reform to come from the incident was that Congress mandated that each bureau's printing charges be listed separately and passed through the Appropriations Committee, an important change given that the federal government had been the largest publisher of scientific monographs for over 40 years. While the minimal changes basically reaffirmed the scope and purposes of government science David Guston argues that the Commission's attention to the administration of science was an early example of how Congress flexed its constitutional authority to scrutinize the scientific community (Guston 1994).
During the 19th century, AAAS held the scientific center and walked a line between facilitating scientific work and providing public access to scientific results, a position that dissatisfied proponents of both popularization and elite science. By the end of the 19th century, AAAS was forced to share the stage not only with the National Academy of Sciences, but also with a growing number of specialized disciplinary societies, many of which had begun as sections under AAAS. "The great mother organization of American associations," as anthropologist Frederic Ward Putnam (AAAS permanent secretary from 1872 to 1897) often called AAAS, found herself forced to change with the times.
Into the 20th Century
To adapt to the changing environment, AAAS leaders sought to reinvigorate annual meetings by proposing that all national scientific societies meet concurrently with AAAS during a Convocation Week. That week was set for the end of December and into the first few days of January to better accommodate academic schedules. The first such meeting was held in Washington, D.C., in December 1902. Almost 1,000 people attended and 24 affiliated societies held concurrent meetings. President Theodore Roosevelt received AAAS members at the White House and Nature, long-time rival of the AAAS journal Science, called it the "most successful meeting ever."
In 1906, AAAS reacted to growing policy concerns over public health by organizing expert resources within its membership and creating a "Committee of One Hundred" on national health. The Committee, which historian Michael Sokal describes as taking "the form of a Progressive-Era pressure group'' (Sokal; Kohlstedt, and Lewenstein forthcoming), passed resolutions calling for the federal government to devote at least as much care to the health of humans as it did to farm animals and campaigned for the creation of a National Department of Health. Although its objectives were widely supported, infighting among Cabinet Secretaries and organized opposition from the Anti-Vivisection League and the Christian Science Church killed the proposal and the committee by 1912 (Dupree 1957; 269).
Despite the failure of this initiative, AAAS continued to cast about for a role in public policy through activities that required no staff and limited claim on the time and efforts of members. In 1913, AAAS created another "Committee of One Hundred," this time on scientific research, to promote research broadly in all scientific fields. Although the idea was deemed a good one, a number of AAAS leaders recognized that the committee's amorphous structure and vague mission made it difficult to develop a practical working plan. Subcommittees on research funds, research in educational institutions, industrial research, selection and preparation of research students, and honors for noteworthy researchers were created. However, lack of direction and coordination diminished the committee's effectiveness. One committee member, Willis R. Whitney, director of research for the General Electric Company, complained in frustration after a meeting that "twelve year old children can do more constructive work in an hour than a committee of one hundred scientists could do in a year" (Sokal, Kohlstedt, and Lewenstein forthcoming).
From its conception, the Committee of One Hundred on Scientific Research seemed fated to lock horns with the ambitions of the National Academy of Sciences to organize scientific resources in the interest of national preparedness for war and defense. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson accepted NAS' proposal to organize a National Research Council (NRC) to prepare the United States for intervention in the war in Europe. NRC duplicated and ultimately usurped AAAS's floundering committee, in large part due to strong leadership by astronomer George Ellery Hale, director of the Carnegie Institution's Solar Observatory on Mount Wilson, and a falling out between Hale and AAAS leaders (Sokal, Kohlstedt, and Lewenstein forthcoming). The chief legacy of the AAAS committee became best remembered for a directory on research funds published in Science in April 1916.
While committee work continued to define an essential element of AAAS's interactions with policy issues in the early 20th century, the Association also recognized the potential of published reports and manuscripts to influence public policy debates on the organization and uses of scientific knowledge. In 1934, AAAS began a series of "Occasional Publications" on symposia from annual meetings and reports of its committees as supplements to Science. The first book, The Protection by Patents of Scientific Discoveries, urged universities to create institutional research foundations in order to profit from their faculty's research accomplishments. Printing these volumes was possible only with sponsorship. Publication of papers from a 1935 symposium on "The Scientific Aspects of Flood Control," for example, became possible when the Rural Electrification Administration agreed to purchase 1,000 copies. Books on topics such as cancer, tuberculosis and leprosy, and syphilis were also published (Sokal, Kohlstedt, and Lewenstein forthcoming).
Perhaps AAAS's most important policy contributions during the early part of the 20th century were made by the AAAS journal Science. Science was founded in 1880 by New York journalist John Michels, with backing from Thomas Edison. Michels's venture lost money and, when Edison pulled out, Alexander Graham Bell and his philanthropist father-in-law, Gardiner G. Hubbard, bought the rights to Science in 1882. The journal continued to struggle and, in 1894, Bell and Hubbard sold it to James McKeen Cattell (a psychology professor at Columbia University) for $500 (Kohlstedt 1980, Sokal 1980). In 1895, Cattell and AAAS agreed to make Science the Association's official journal, a union that would prove to be highly beneficial to both parties.
Cattell, who was editor of Science for 50 years until his death in 1944, was a strong and obstinate character, generally well-respected but often not well-liked. His forceful opinions appeared regularly on the editorial pages and by his own admission reflected his own views. However, the strange relationship between Science and AAAS (Science was the Association's official journal, but AAAS did not own or exert control over it) led AAAS to often worry that Cattell's opinions might be misconstrued as Association positions. Although AAAS assumed ownership of the journal after Cattell's death, this tradition of Science's editorial independence continues todaynot always without tension.
AAAS was ambivalent about its policy role during this era in other ways as well. In 1919, the AAAS Council passed a resolution banning "political questions on which public opinion is divided" from being raised at annual meetings. The aftermath of World War I had changed international and domestic politics. The 1917 Bolshevik revolution in Russia, the mass arrests of labor organizers, and the creation of the FBI all contributed to a politically charged atmosphere from which AAAS leaders hoped to safeguard the Association by discouraging the use of meetings as forums for discussion of political controversies (Sokal, Kohlstedt, and Lewenstein forthcoming).
By the 1930s, however, the Great Depression in the United States and the rise of fascism in Europe challenged many American institutions to take social action. President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal offered opportunities for AAAS officials to win support for science. AAAS endorsed a number of proposals that would aid unemployed scientists and provide for scientific and technical cooperation in recovery and reconstruction projects. Although none of the proposals went anywhere, by the end of 1934 the AAAS Council resolved "that aggressive governmental support of scientific work is essential to any sound program of building for the future national welfare" (Summarized Proceeding 1940; 109).
According to historian Peter Kuznick, AAAS provided the principal forum for the articulation of a new social vision promoted by the Science and Society movement of the 1930s. The movement among scientists, which had its intellectual origins in Britain, was propelled by frustration with the government's failing attempts in national planning that would reconcile the labors of science with socially productive ends during times of national crisis. Kuznick argues that scientists in the 1930s became politicized: "The seeming ineptitude of American policymakers in business and government buttressed the growing conviction that the scientists would have to take a leadership role in national revitalization" (Kuznick 1987, 257). At the 1937 AAAS annual meeting in Indianapolis and the 1938 meeting in Richmond, Virginia, a number of symposia were held on the role of science in solving social problems and the social responsibilities of scientists. Announcement of the formation of the American Association of Scientific Workers, an organization calling for the democratization of science, at the 1938 Richmond meeting signaled a radical effort on the part of a number of American scientists to make scientists aware of their social and economic responsibilities ("Scientists Form Unit for Social Action" 1938).
In the Aftermath of World War II
AAAS became more active in federal science policy in the post-World War II era. In 1947, the AAAS Cooperative Committee on the Teaching of Science and Mathematics provided recommendations for improving science education from elementary to graduate school, taken from a survey on science education of AAAS members for the Steelman report, Science and Public Policy (Steelman 1947).
The same year, as the scientific community and policymakers sought to implement recommendations of Vannevar Bush's report, ScienceThe Endless Frontier, AAAS spearheaded an Inter-Society Committee for National Science Foundation legislation. The Committee was intended to "obtain and to express the best judgment of American scientists upon the type of National Science Foundation which they believe will work most effectively." AAAS leadership invited scientific organizations to appoint 2 representatives to the Committee, and over 75 societies complied. A questionnaire was mailed to the participating groups soliciting their views on organizational issues for the proposed foundation. Sixty-three percent of the respondents voted for a single administrator to lead such a science foundation; 18 percent voted for a 48-person board; and 18 percent for a commission (AAAS Inter-Society Committee 1947). The respondents also overwhelmingly favored inclusion of the social sciences in the new foundation.
Opposition to a National Science Foundation was substantial. The National Patent Council issued a circular that labeled such legislation as "wasteful and dangerous," and argued that a new foundation would usurp the functions of the National Academy of Sciences. The Patent Council feared that the new foundation would be "empowered to invade all research and developmental activities of Industry and individuals, and to confiscate and pool patents, for purposes of coercive harassment of Industry in perpetuation of political power" (National Patent Council 1950). Dael Wolfle, who served as secretary to the intersociety group, recounts that a break in the events leading to the passage of the science foundation legislation came when he, Cornell economist Edmund Day (chair of the committee), and Harvard astronomer Harlow Shapley (vice-chair) met with William Carey and Elmer Staats of the Bureau of the Budget to agree on a compromise for the governing structure of the proposed foundation (Wolfle 1989, 17). In 1950, the National Science Foundation was established. Wolfle went on to become AAAS's executive officer from 1954 to 1970; Carey held that post from 1975 to 1987; Harlow Shapley was AAAS president in 1947; the first National Science Board chair, James Conant, was AAAS president in 1946; and the first NSF director, Alan Waterman, became AAAS president in 1963.
In 1951, as more and more disciplinary societies went their own way, the AAAS executive committee met at Columbia University's Arden House to address the need for the Association to, as former (1944-45) AAAS president Anton J. Carlson put it, "find another function or die." The Arden House Statement noted the growing size and complexity of science and declared that AAAS "should devote less of its energies to the more detailed and more isolated technical aspects of science, and should devote more and more of its energies to broad problems which involve all of science, the relations of science as a whole" ("AAAS Policy" 1951). The Arden House Statement set the stage for a major shift in AAAS's focus, leading over the course of the next three decades to the flowering of programs that characterize the Association today.
The outlines of one such program, the current series of AAAS Science and Technology Policy Colloquia were put in place when, in March 1958, AAAS convened a "Parliament of Science" to consider current policy issues in science and technology and their contributions to national welfare. One hundred working scientists were invited as parliament members and 60 others were invited as observers from industry, government, academia, and other organizations. Participants at the 3-day meeting, held in Washington, D.C., offered recommendations on education and the support of science in an atmosphere of growing national concern over the Soviet Union's October 1957 launching of the first manmade satellite, Sputnik. Sputnik challenged American confidence in its lead position in science and technology. Parliamentarians acknowledged the palpable determination of the Nation to respond to this development, but urged a broader view. What concerned them was "far and away larger than any question about a satellite, or even about a battery of long-range guided missiles." They were concerned instead with the questions surrounding man's "new relation to the atom, to the cell, to himself, and to the universe" brought about by the rapid pace and magnitude of scientific change. The report from the meeting, which appeared in the April 18, 1958, Science, argued
What faces man is not, in any restricted sense, a scientific problem. The problem is one of the relation of science to public policy. Scientific issues are vitally and almost universally involved. The special knowledge of the scientist is necessary, to be sure; but that knowledge would be powerless or dangerous if it did not include all areas of science and if it were not effectively pooled with the contributions of humanists, statesmen, and philosophers and brought to the service of all segments of society ("1958 Parliament of Science" 1958).
Business Week reported on the meeting, noting, "The scientist today is feeling the pressure from congressmen, from the Rotary Club, and from the Parent-Teachers Association to add scientific weight to economic and social questions" ("Scientists Succumb to Public Role" 1958). Of utmost concern at the Parliament of Science was the state of funding for basic research. While government spending for research and development soared after World War II (from $1.5 billion dollars in 1945 to $9 billion by 1958), the percentage apportioned to basic research did not grow proportionately, but instead fell from around 4 percent to only 2 percent of the total. Participants projected that by 1975, basic research would be lucky to reach $300 million dollars out of an estimated total R&D budget of $20 billion ("Basic Research Calls for Help" 1958, Wolfle 1989, 255).
After World War II, the political and economic drive for science as an applied enterprise was increasing. In May 1959, a Symposium on Basic Research was convened by AAAS, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to again address the problem of diminishing basic research funds for science. The meeting took place in New York City with an audience of 250 invited participants. President Dwight Eisenhower delivered an address on "Science: Handmaiden of Freedom" that described government responsibility for the support of basic research. Eisenhower called for increased support and announced that the President would recommend to Congress that the Stanford Linear Accelerator be funded. Dael Wolfle argues that the symposium was aimed at societal leaders to help them "gain a fuller understanding and appreciation of the role of basic research in acquiring and retaining the world leadership the nation then enjoyed." No concrete actions came from it, however (Wolfle 1989, 31).
The Association's growing policy role was part of a broader shift in its mission that reflected the enormous postwar expansion of the U.S. scientific enterprise. In 1946, had AAAS revised its constitution, expanding its mission "to improve the effectiveness of science in the promotion of human welfare, and to increase public understanding and appreciation of the importance and promise of the methods of science in human progress" (Summarized Proceedings 1948). This new mission was realized some years later with the creation of the AAAS Committee on Science in the Promotion of Human Welfare, chaired by biologist Barry Commoner who, as a graduate student in the late 1930s, had been a founding member of the American Association of Scientific Workers. The work of this committee, founded in 1958, defined the critical edge in AAAS in the 1960s.
Commoner chaired the committee for seven years and was succeeded by anthropologist Margaret Mead. The committee issued a report in 1960 titled "Science and Human Welfare." It argued that a disparity was growing between scientific progress and the resolution of social issues, and that the scientific community was "failing to attain its appropriate place in the management of public affairs." It was also concerned that the exploitation of science for industrial, military, and political purposes would adversely affect the integrity of science. It recommended a more active role for the scientific community and that AAAS "assume an obligation to call to public attention those issues of public policy which relate to science, and to provide for the general public the facts and estimates of the effects of alternative policies which the citizen must have if he is to participate intelligently in the solution of these problems" ("Science and Human Welfare" 1960). The Committee took on discussion of many timely issues, such as birth control and population, civil defense, military support of academic research, secrecy in science, and environmental hazards.
The notion of AAAS and the scientific community taking a more active role in matters of science and policy led, in 1970, to AAAS sponsoring an investigation of the U.S. military's use of chemical defoliants in Vietnam. The investigation originated in a resolution passed at a AAAS Pacific Division meeting that was submitted to the AAAS Council at the 1966 annual meeting. After unsuccessfully trying to convince the National Academy of Sciences, the United Nations, and the Departments of State and Defense to undertake a field study in Vietnam, the AAAS Board instructed staff in 1968 to convene an ad hoc committee to plan an investigation. At the 1969 annual meeting in Boston, the AAAS Board appointed Mathew Meselson, a biologist from Harvard, to design and conduct a study. During the 1969 meeting, the Council issued a resolution calling for a ban on the use of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D herbicides by the military in Vietnam. While The New York Times reported that the call for a ban was unusual for the traditionally conservative AAAS, it noted that at the same meeting, "the body refused to considerto the annoyance of dissident students at the rear of the ballroom of the Statler Hotela series of motions that would have denounced 'the ruthless outburst of repression' against the Black Panthers, called for American withdrawal from Vietnam, and demanded equality for women in science" (Reinhold 1969).
Meselson led a four-person team to Vietnam in August 1970. At a symposium at the December 1970 AAAS meeting in Chicago, the team reported that ecological damage from the herbicides and threats to the health and livelihood of the people of the Vietnamese hill tribes were substantial. A member of the audience at the symposium declared that the herbicide study was "the greatest service the AAAS has ever performed for the human race." On December 26, while the AAAS meeting was still in session, the Nixon White House announced that "an orderly yet rapid phase-out" of the use of herbicides in Vietnam would begin. An account of the AAAS experience in designing the herbicide study was published in one of several volumes prepared for the House of Representatives Committee on Science and Astronautics as they considered legislation to create the Office of Technology Assessment (Library of Congress, 1969) (Boffrey 1971, Wolfle 19189, 246247).
The 1970s saw a blossoming of AAAS program initiatives in science policy as well as in education and other realms. In 1973, the Association, in collaboration with several of its affiliates, established a program to place Ph.D. scientists and engineers on congressional and agency staffs. Since that time, the Congressional Science and Engineering Fellowship Program and several related AAAS policy fellowship programs have brought more than 1,100 Fellows to Washington, D.C., many of whom have remained and pursued policy careers.
From the 1950s to the late 1960s, research and development spending grew by almost 10 percent a year. By 1969, however, this phenomenal growth rate began to slow. In June 1976, following several years of budget stagnation, the first AAAS R&D Colloquium, sponsored by the AAAS Committee on Science and Public Policy (now known as the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy), met in Washington, D.C. Participants gathered to explore issues identified by Willis H. Shapley in his report Research and Development in the Federal Budget: FY 1977. The idea behind annual R&D reports and colloquia was to make the budget process more comprehensible to AAAS members and the scientific community at large. The role of AAAS and the scientific community, Shapley hoped, would evolve into a responsible advocacy " which takes account of both the interests of the science and technical community as they see them and, at the same time, the broader interests that are epitomized by the President and his Administration, the OMB and the Congress" (Blanpied and Lightizer 1976, 16). Now known as the AAAS Colloquium on Science and Technology Policy, the annual conference has become a fixture on the Washington science policy scene.
During the early years, AAAS's organization and activities reflected the interests of an elite community of scientists who actively lobbied Congress and government officials to gain a presence for science and a voice for scientists in national affairs. This small community of scientists used the Association to create a professional identity for science and scientists in the mid-1800s. Annual meetings were used as forums to exchange ideas and gather support for particular projects. Although AAAS had a relatively open membership, encouraging all who had a strong interest in science to join, the organization of the Association's committees was not necessarily democratic in practice. As the example of Alexander Bache and the Coast Survey suggests, the Association was sometimes used to legitimize certain policy proposals by scientists who had an obvious financial and professional stake in those proposals. AAAS's major contribution to the formation of U.S. policy during this period was in the area of conservation. The strong presence of geologists and naturalists gave much weight to AAAS's opinions on the advisability of federal surveys and expeditions. Later, AAAS joined with other like-minded organizations to defend the most important funding agencies for science at the time against allegations being investigated by the Allison Commission. The Association's influence began to wane, however, as the National Academy of Sciences came into prominence with a congressional charter to coordinate science and technology in the service of the federal government and a membership made up exclusively of the scientific elite.
Through the early years of the 20th century, AAAS's principal contributions on policy issues were made through the pages of the journal Science. Editor James McKeen Cattell held strong, single-handed influence over the journal and to a great extent over many of AAAS's affairs during that time. AAAS sought episodically to involve itself in policy matters through its Committees of One Hundred. The annual meetings continued to provide unique forums for scientists to raise issues of pressing social concern, often creating tension between those who saw the Association as a guardian for the unadulterated expression of scientific ideas and those who viewed it as a potential agent for social change. In this era, AAAS gained some influence by publishing reports and monographs from meeting symposia and committee reports that offered the expert opinions of its members on urgent public policy issues.
Over the past 50 years, AAAS has been transformed from a vehicle for communication among its members to an organization running programs on behalf of its members through a large professional staff. Transformations in the Association's attitude toward science and policy occurred in tandem with other areas such as education, opportunities in science, international issues, and communication. As the scientific community has grown larger and more diverse, AAAS has become one voice among many organizations concerned with the advancement and social implications of science. Committees, annual meetings, and a set of well-established relationships among AAAS and government agencies have all played roles in the Association's effectiveness. AAAS committees have published reports on air conservation, energy, greenhouse gases, AIDS, and many other issues and have played significant roles in garnering scientific expertise to inform public policy-making. AAAS created new roles for itself in science and policy discussions by sponsoring the S&T Policy (formerly R&D) Colloquium and a variety of policy fellowship programs.
Perhaps the best summation of the role of AAAS in science and policy was made by Dael Wolfle who observed that, "It is a truism to say that the activities of an individual or of an association are influenced by the conditions under which they live and work. But the specifics of those relationships between science and society are the stuff of science policy, of the nation's attitudes toward and its support for and control of scientific activities. Thus, sometimes explicitly and sometimes implicitly the whole history of AAAS activities and growth was constantly influenced by those relationships between the scientific community and the larger world. It could not have been otherwise" (Wolfle 1989, pp. 258259).
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Amy Crumpton is a program associate at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Albert H. Teich is director of Science and Policy Programs at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. This article is based on remarks delivered at the 23rd Annual AAAS Colloquium on Science and Technology Policy, held April 29May 1, 1998, in Washington, D.C.