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Science Should Resist Rise in Nationalism, Says AAAS President

“Science at its best is an international activity,” AAAS President Margaret Hamburg said Thursday. | Robb Cohen Photography & Video

Scientists should resist trends toward nationalism because international collaborations provide the best opportunities for research breakthroughs, said American Association for the Advancement of Science President Margaret Hamburg at the 2019 AAAS Annual Meeting.

“I think that the scientific community has to ensure that it does not fall victim to this growing sense of nationalism in this country and many other countries around the world,” Hamburg said Thursday. “Science at its best is an international activity and scientific collaboration among the best and the brightest minds, wherever they are, is essential to the advancement of science.”

Hamburg chose the theme of this year’s meeting, “Science Transcending Boundaries,” to emphasize how essential multidisciplinary and multinational partnerships have become in addressing critical scientific challenges. “We want to continue to support and emphasize that kind of science which has proven so productive rather than retreat into an approach that is really focused on what we are doing domestically,” she said.

At a press breakfast on the opening day of the meeting, Hamburg and AAAS CEO Rush Holt said that the global scientific community also will be strengthened by promoting inclusion, especially among women and underrepresented minorities.

“This organization recognizes that in our role of defending the conditions under which science can thrive, we must promote diversity, protect against bias and foster opportunity,” said Holt. “We see it as our place, on behalf of science at large, to look after the conditions under which science can serve humankind.”

The environment for practicing science has changed in an era of “fake news” and “alternative facts,” said Hamburg. “It’s a moment in this country and around the world when policymakers and the public are questioning in ways they haven’t before the value of science and scientific expertise.”

Under these conditions, she said, it will be more important than ever for scientists to help provide “responsible stewardship” on technologies such as gene editing, artificial intelligence and robotics.

Hamburg, who also serves as foreign secretary of the National Academy of Medicine, is a former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. She will deliver the AAAS President’s Address Thursday evening 6:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, an address that will be livestreamed.