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2021 AAAS Science & Technology Policy Forum to Focus on Diversity and Innovation

Revisit highlights from the 2020 AAAS Science & Technology Policy Forum.

For 46 years, the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Forum has been the premier space to address challenges at the intersection of science and policy and their implications for society.

The 2021 Policy Forum, which will be held Oct. 12-13 under the banner “The Essentiality of DEI to Innovation: Pathways to Excellence,” will give attendees access to conversations with the nation’s top experts and decision-makers on the public policy issues affecting the science, engineering and academic communities.

2020 Policy Forum

In 2020, AAAS held its first-ever virtual Policy Forum, bringing together speakers and participants from around the world on Oct. 13 and 14 to analyze, discuss and offer solutions to two intertwined crises affecting the scientific community: the COVID-19 pandemic and structural racism.

“The pandemic has shone a bright light on intractable inequalities in our society,” said Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of The University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Hrabowski delivered the 2020 Forum’s Gilbert S. Omenn Grand Challenges Address, which aims to explore challenges at the intersection of science and society.

Such inequalities are also present within the scientific community, Hrabowski noted. While 13% of the U.S. population is Black, just 4% of new Ph.D.s in natural sciences and engineering are Black. While Hispanics make up 18% of the population, they are just 5% of new natural science and engineering Ph.D.s, he said.

Said panelist Joseph DeSimone, professor of radiology, chemical engineering and business at Stanford University, “A successful scientific endeavor is one that attracts a diversity of experience, draws upon the depth and breadth of that experience, cultivates those differences and acknowledges the creativity they spark.”

In a keynote address opening the 2020 Forum, Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences and former editor-in-chief of Science, highlighted the challenges amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic – and elucidated lessons about how to solve those challenges.

“I view every crisis as an opportunity,” McNutt said. “During a crisis, people are more willing to put aside their differences and work together toward a common goal. Barriers that seemed insurmountable before suddenly seem like they aren’t such a big deal anymore.”

Read more about the events of the 2020 Policy Forum and watch the full program on YouTube.

Register for the 2021 Policy Forum

Registration is now open for the virtual 2021 Policy Forum, which will build upon previous years’ conversation while focusing on timely issues: the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in achieving innovation and excellence in science and technology.

The full program includes several longstanding lecture series. Sheila Jasanoff, Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the Harvard Kennedy School, will deliver the William D. Carey Lecture, which features speakers who exemplify the legacy of former AAAS Executive Officer William D. Carey in articulating public policy issues engendered by application of science and technology. Shirley Malcom, senior advisor and director of the SEA Change initiative at AAAS, will deliver the Gilbert S. Omenn Grand Challenges Address on “The Innovation Gap and the Diversity Dividend.”

Other events include a conversation on advancing equity in science and technology between Eric Lander, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Alondra Nelson, OSTP deputy director for science and society; a panel on policies and legislation to address systemic racism in government and academia; and a plenary session on changing the culture of science to reward a broader definition of excellence.

A wide range of individuals interested in the intersection of science and policy are encouraged to attend, including scientists and engineers, research administrators, industrial R&D managers, policymakers, association officials, federal grant recipients, students, science diplomats, government affairs specialists, public affairs officers and science writers.

Register today for the Forum.