Keith Yamamoto, Ph.D., a cellular and molecular pharmacologist and biologist and the vice chancellor for science policy and strategy at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), was chosen by the membership of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to serve as the organization’s president-elect. Yamamoto’s term begins immediately, and he will serve as president-elect for one year, followed by one year as AAAS president and then one year as immediate past-president.
During the annual election, held April 7-21, 2022, AAAS members also elected two new members of the AAAS Board of Directors: Susan Rosenberg, Ph.D., the Ben F. Love Chair in Cancer Research at the Baylor College of Medicine, and Jane Maienschein, Ph.D., University Professor and director of the Center for Biology and Society at Arizona State University. Rosenberg and Maienschein’s terms also begin immediately, and each will serve for four years on the Board.
“I’m excited for AAAS to benefit from the expertise of Keith, Susan and Jane as the organization’s newest president-elect and Board members. Their perspectives will be instrumental as AAAS continues its essential work to advance science and serve society,” said Sudip S. Parikh, Ph.D., chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of the Science family of journals.
Susan Amara, Ph.D., chair of the AAAS Board of Directors, added: “I look forward to collaborating with Keith, Susan and Jane as they join the AAAS Board of Directors. The diversity of disciplines and backgrounds they represent echoes the diversity of AAAS’ membership and will be invaluable as we work together in service of the association’s mission.”
Yamamoto Calls for Focus on Scientific Literacy, Diversity, Impact
Outreach to promote scientific literacy and an appreciation for using evidence to understand and solve the world’s problems is “not just for scientists. It's for everyone,” Yamamoto shared. This is one key area he believes AAAS must continue to promote.
He recounted his early experiences with public outreach while pursuing his Ph.D. in biochemical sciences at Princeton University under his thesis adviser, Bruce Alberts – who later became editor-in-chief of Science. Alberts brought area high schoolers onto campus to learn more about science and recruited assistant professors and students, including Yamamoto, to create experiments to share how science can be “interesting and fun and important” – a rewarding experience for all involved.
But when Alberts sought to expand the program, he received pushback. Alberts was told he should be working in the lab. Undeterred, he persisted in his efforts.
The experience, Yamamoto said, “Convinced me that scientists have responsibilities that go beyond their work in their laboratories to do things that advance the scientific enterprise.”
In his candidacy statement distributed to AAAS Membership in advance of the annual election, he also identified two other priorities for AAAS.
First, AAAS can promote policies and practices that ensure a diverse, equitable and inclusive scientific enterprise. “Science is a global enterprise that’s going to move forward best if it’s practiced by a diverse workforce that approaches scientific problems from different perspectives and points of view,” Yamamoto said.
Second, AAAS can focus on building “a continuum from fundamental discovery to societal impact,” so that scientists can visualize the real effects of their work on societal issues, and in so doing, may alter the work we do, or the ways we do it, he said.
Because of the breadth and scope of its transdisciplinary, international membership, AAAS should be a leading voice in these conversations, now more than ever, Yamamoto noted.
“Keith will contribute significant experience in science policy to AAAS, both at the federal and state levels,” said UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS. “He brings a deep knowledge of biology and the transdisciplinary push toward precision medicine. He understands the many roles that scientists play in society. And he is committed to advancing diversity in science.”
Yamamoto brings to AAAS a significant background in science policy. He became UCSF’s first vice chancellor for science policy and strategy in 2015, but he has held a range of leadership roles there since joining the institution as a faculty member in 1976. In addition to his groundbreaking research on signaling and transcriptional regulation by nuclear receptors, Yamamoto has served as chair of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, vice dean for research in the School of Medicine and vice chancellor for research.
Outside of UCSF, he co-chairs the Science & Technology Action Committee (along with Parikh and others), which brings together nonprofit, academic, foundation and corporate leaders to encourage U.S. investments in science and technology research, development, and education.
A member of AAAS since 1977, he was elected as Fellow of AAAS in 2002 – recognized for his scientifically or socially distinguished efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications. He has served two terms on the AAAS Committee on Nominations and has participated in several AAAS forums and roundtables for science and public policy.
Rosenberg and Maienschein Bring Expertise to Board of Directors
Newly elected members of the AAAS Board of Directors Susan Rosenberg and Jane Maienschein bring a wealth of scientific expertise to the governing body, which is responsible for the affairs of the association.
Rosenberg’s research at the Baylor College of Medicine focuses on molecular mechanisms of genome instability in evolution, antibiotic resistance, and cancer. Rosenberg served as a Council Delegate for the AAAS Section on Biological Sciences and has conducted extensive work on the AAAS Governance Modernization Working Group. She was elevated to the rank of AAAS Fellow in 2010.
In addition to serving as a University Professor of History of Science at ASU, Maienschein leads the university’s Center for Biology and Society, which promotes research, education and engagement related to the study of the life sciences and their interconnections with society. She also serves as a Fellow and runs the history program at the Marine Biological Laboratory. Maienschein has served as Chair and Council Delegate for the AAAS Section on History and Philosophy of Science, as well as Chair of the Section on Societal Impacts on Science and Engineering. She has also served on the History Committee for the 150th year-anniversary and on the Program Committee. She joined the ranks of AAAS Fellows in 1996.
Maienschein noted that her scientist father gave her a AAAS gift membership in 1976, and she has remained a lifelong member, committed to the vision and values. “Instead of advocating for science in a vacuum, AAAS promotes science ‘for the benefit of all people,’ emphasizing education and communication, and recognizing that science exists in a complex and messy society and often has to deal with uncertainty. As AAAS approaches its 175th anniversary, I look forward to helping launch the next 175,” she said.