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AAAS President: Developing Countries Must Have Equal Voice in Science

AAAS President Geri Richmond speaks to journalists at the start of the 2016 AAAS Annual Meeting. | Boston Atlantic Photography

Scientists in developed and developing countries need to be on "an equal footing" when they work together on global issues from climate change to public health, AAAS President Geri Richmond said Thursday at the start of the 2016 AAAS Annual Meeting.

Richmond has worked to improve scientific capacity and collaborations in Africa, South America, and most recently Southeast Asia as a U.S. Science Envoy to the region. Scientists from developed countries "must recognize the importance of having everyone at the table when we're discussing global problems," she said. "It's important that we have a variety of voices, a variety of backgrounds, and a variety of cultures in order to come up with these solutions."

At a breakfast for journalists at the meeting, Richmond also answered questions about several high-profile cases of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment in science. She said the recent cases are probably "the tip of the iceberg" and that left unchecked, pervasive harassment would "slow down the creativity and productivity of science." When she becomes chair of the AAAS Board following the 2016 Annual Meeting, Richmond said, "it would be my top priority to see how we can have AAAS be more effective on this issue."

AAAS CEO Rush D. Holt, asked about what role science might play in U.S. elections this year, noted that "science has not entered into presidential campaigns in a large way" in recent decades. AAAS will work with other science organizations to inject a science question into the 2016 presidential debates, and to counter any scientific misinformation that arises during the campaigns, he said. "It's very much our responsibility, our intent, and our history to point out what the evidence says."

The 182nd Annual Meeting officially opens tonight with the presidential address by Richmond, a recent National Medal of Science recipient. The meeting in Washington, D.C. is expected to draw nearly 10,000 attendees from more than 60 countries.