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Meeting News: Flu Vaccines, Food Waste, Astronaut Team-Building, the 2020 Census, and More

A young girl holds a human brain in her hands
The 2019 AAAS Annual Meeting's two free Family Science Days will feature hands-on science-learning activities, plus a “Meet the Scientists” speaker series designed especially for middle- and high-school students. | Carla Schaffer/AAAS

Credentialed reporters and public information officers may register for the meeting newsroom. All others should register via meeting registration.

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Progress toward a universal flu vaccine, social and behavioral interactions among astronauts, indoor air pollution, and racial bias within the criminal justice system will be discussed at the 2019 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting, the world’s largest general scientific conference.

Free public lectures on exciting developments in particle physics and how to activate science for the public good, plus sessions on differential privacy and data protection in the 2020 U.S. Census, training machine-learning systems, and diagnosing “paint disease” to better preserve objects of art are just some of the news offerings at the conference.

During February 14-17 in Washington, D.C., the 185th AAAS Annual Meeting will offer free public lectures and hands-on fun for families, as well as an array of scientific and technical sessions for registrants. AAAS — publisher of the journals Science, Science Advances, Science Translational Medicine, Science Signaling, Science Robotics, and Science Immunology anticipates up to 10,000 attendees at the conference.

Two free Family Science Days — 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, February 16-17 — will feature hands-on science-learning activities, plus a “Meet the Scientists” speaker series designed especially for middle- and high-school students. Events will take place at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel.

The theme of this year’s conference, “Science Transcending Boundaries,” was organized by AAAS President Margaret A. Hamburg, foreign secretary of the National Academy of Medicine. “Science plays a unique and important role in how people see and understand the world and how lines and distinctions are drawn,” Hamburg said. “At this Annual Meeting, we will look for ways science is bringing together people, ideas and solutions from across real and artificial borders, disciplines, sectors, ideologies and traditions.”

Dr. Hamburg is an internationally recognized leader in public health, medicine and biomedical research and innovation. At the National Academy of Medicine, she serves as senior advisor on international matters and liaison with other academies of medicine around the world. She is a former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. She was also founding vice president and senior scientist at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a foundation dedicated to reducing nuclear, chemical and biological threats. Other roles have included assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, health commissioner for New York City, and assistant director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. She has done neuroscience research at Rockefeller University and the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Hamburg currently sits on several boards, including the Commonwealth Fund, the Simons Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, the Urban Institute and the American Museum of Natural History. She serves in various advisory roles, including the Harvard University Global Advisory Council, the scientific advisory committee for the Gates Foundation, and the World Dementia Council. She is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School and has received numerous awards and honorary degrees.


Free Public Lectures

The meeting will officially kickoff on Thursday, February 14 with the AAAS president’s lecture at 6:00 p.m. Public lectures will take place at the Marriott Wardman Park, Salon 2.

On Friday, February 15 at 5:15 p.m., an international panel — including Sir Mark Walport of UK Research and Innovation, H.E. Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, the South Africa Minister of Science and Technology, Michinari Hamaguchi of the Japan Science & Technology Agency, Jean-Eric Paquet of the European Commission, and Margaret A. Hamburg — will discuss how institutions can effectively evolve to address challenges including extreme weather, cybersecurity and infectious diseases in “Responding Faster and Smarter to New Problems.”

At 5:15 p.m. on Saturday, February 16, particle physicist Fabiola Gianotti, director-general of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, will present “Fundamental Research at CERN and International Collaboration.”

On Sunday, February 17 at 5:15 p.m., seismologist Lucy Jones, founder of the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society, will discuss community resilience and “Science Activation: How Do We Get Our Science Used by Those in Power?”


Science News Opportunities

Highlights from the meeting will include these and many other breaking research news topics:

  • Differential privacy, data protection, and the 2020 U.S. Census
  • Impacts of food waste on energy consumption
  • Diagnosing “paint disease” to better preserve art objects
  • Development toward a universal flu vaccine
  • Treating Syrian child refugees diagnosed with cancer
  • Behavioral and social interactions among astronaut teams
  • Training machine-learning systems and building better algorithms
  • Analyzing air pollution inside our homes
  • Racial and wealth bias in criminal justice systems
  • And much more.

The news briefing lineup will kick off Thursday, February 15 with a reporters-only press breakfast hosted by AAAS President Margaret Hamburg, followed by the release of new research from the journal Science Advances.


Meet the Scientists During Family Science Days

Free AAAS Family Science Days — scheduled for 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, February 16-17 at the Marriott Wardman Park — will include hands-on activities and stage shows for families with children, teenagers, and young adults. Online registration is available; walk-in registration is also available on-site.

Family Science Days participants will have the opportunity to:

  • Extract DNA from plant cells
  • Build a boat to complete a naval mission
  • Create a circuit that operates lights and buzzers
  • Excavate an archaeological site
  • Measure carbon dioxide levels
  • Transform body movement into electricity
  • Meet scientists and engineers.


Scientific Program for Registrants

In addition to free public offerings, registrants to the AAAS Annual Meeting will be able to sample a diversity of symposia, seminars, and lectures covering more than 120 topics encompassing engineering and technology; communication, language and culture; climate and the environment; medicine and health; physics and astronomy; science education; and more. View the full meeting program online.

Topical lectures will include discussions on the need to “find the accelerator pedal” for addressing climate change by Chris Field of Stanford University; organs-on-chip technology by Geraldine Hamilton of Emulate, Inc.; the gestural origins of human language and thought by Susan Goldin-Meadow of the University of Chicago; the mystery of heredity by science writer Carl Zimmer of The New York Times; the complexity of spider silk genes by Cheryl Hayashi of the American Museum of Natural History; using robots to develop new materials in “self-driving laboratories” by Alán Aspuru-Guzik of the University of Toronto; the intersection of human and environmental health by Sabrina Sholts of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History; assessing informal science education of adults by Karen Rader of Virginia Commonwealth University; and modernizing graduate STEM education by Alan Leshner, CEO emeritus of AAAS.