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Solving Challenges by “Flattening the World”


Pacific Rim S&T. The AAAS Annual Meeting will convene for the first time in Vancouver, British Columbia. [Photo @ Tom Quine, Licensed CC-BY 2.0]

It is a question that frames the 21st-century scientific enterprise: As the world population moves toward 9 billion, will it be possible to provide food, water, and energy for everyone without dangerously depleting natural resources and damaging the environment? These challenges will be the focus of the 178th AAAS Annual Meeting, which convenes from 16 to 20 February in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The meeting will feature top scientists, engineers, educators, policy-makers, and science journalists from some 50 nations and a full spectrum of disciplines. More than 170 plenary addresses, lectures, seminars, and symposia are scheduled under the theme “Flattening the World: Building a Global Knowledge Society.”

“The theme... is intended to focus the program on the complex, interconnected challenges of the 21st century and on pathways to global solutions through international, multidisciplinary efforts,” said AAAS President Nina V. Fedoroff in her letter of invitation.

The program will be rich and ambitious: Among the daily plenary events will be a panel of influential journalists and scientists—including NASA climate expert James Hansen—discussing the challenges of communicating climate change, and an address by Ismail Serageldin, the eminent director of the Library of Alexandria, Egypt, on “Science and Democracy.”

Some of the world’s leading experts will offer topical lectures on water security, the science of science education, international science collaboration, molecular motors, and other issues. Sessions in the seminar “Unlocking Biology’s Potential” will look at predictive medicine and delivering on the promise of the Human Genome Project.

2012 marks the first AAAS Annual Meeting in Vancouver—there have been seven other meetings in Canada, starting with Montreal in 1857—and this one will have a strong focus on Canada, the Arctic, and the northeastern Pacific Ocean.

A full-day seminar will focus on climate change in the northern latitudes. And among many Canadian speakers at the meeting will be Mike Lazaridis, president and co-CEO of Research In Motion and founder/chairman of Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, whose plenary address will explore “The Power of Ideas.”

For registration and program information, see The site will serve as a portal for Annual Meeting news from ScienceNow, Science Update,, AAAS MemberCentral, and EurekAlert! The AAAS Facebook page and Twitter (#AAASmtg) also will feature news from Vancouver.