Whatever its obligations to other groups and whatever its opportunities in wider fields, the AAAS is an organization of scientists for science. The AAAS must, first of all, serve scientists and science in such a way as to command the confidence and backing of the scientists of this country. Otherwise it will be in no position to meet its wider opportunities.
This central principle indicates the necessity that the AAAS re-examine those of its activities which relate primarily to the internal affairs of science in this country, improve these activities, and extend them when and where that seems desirable in view of present circumstances. This must in particular involve a most careful review of the program and policy in respect to meetings, publications, service to scientific societies and similar groups, aids to research, and various aspects of the interrelations of science and government.
There should be explicit mention of one particularly important aspect of this internal problem of service to science. We have reached the stage where one over-all organization cannot effectively deal with the intensive and specialized interests of individual branches of science. The technical papers that present detailed results in chemistry, in physics, in mathematics, in zoology, etc., can more properly be presented before meetings sponsored and arranged by the appropriate professional groups.
It is thus clear that the AAAS should not attempt to hold to a pattern of annual meetings that was natural and effective many years ago, but which is now outmoded.
This is, in fact, only one aspect of an important general principle. In view of the present size and complexity of science, in view of the seriousness and importance of the relation of science to society, and in view of the unique inclusiveness of the AAAS, it seems clear that this organization should devote less of its energies to the more detailed and more isolated technical aspects of science, and devote more of its energies to broad problems that involve the whole of science, the relations of science to government, and indeed the relations of science to our society as a whole.
This increased emphasis on broad problems should lead to new activities in wider fields, but it also requires a modification of what the AAAS tries to do with and for science. Thus it seems clear that a major present opportunity for the AAAS within science is to act, in all ways that promise useful results, as a synthesizing and unifying influence. As an obvious example, this indicates meetings at which one branch of science is interpreted to the other branches of science, meetings at which are stressed the interrelations between the branches of science, meetings which cultivate borderline fields, and meetings at which the unifying theme would be central problems whose treatment requires the attack of several disciplines.
This opportunity to try to "put science back together" seems so important that it may be wise to modify the existing statement [quoted in the next paragraph] of the purpose of the AAAS to include more specific dedication to synthesizing activities. Such activities are, of course, wholly consistent with the present statement of purpose; but if in fact this is, as some of us feel to be the case, the major present internal opportunity of the AAAS, then it deserves explicit statement.
Finally, this same emphasis on over-all problems demands that the AAAS not only recognize but attack the broader external problem of the relation of science to society. It seems to us necessary that the AAAS now begin to take seriously one statement of purpose which has long existed in its constitution. To quote:
The objects of the American Association for the Advancement of Science are to further the work of scientists, to facilitate cooperation among them, to improve the effectiveness of science in the promotion of human welfare, and to increase the public understanding and appreciation of the importance and promise of the methods of science in human progress.
It is clearly recognized that the diffusion among the general public of knowledge about science and its methods is a difficult, slow, and never-ending job. It would require staff, money, patience, and wisdom. It would involve failures, and it would at some points strain the professional sensitivities of scientists. But in our modern society it is absolutely essential that science--the results of science, the nature and importance of basic research, the methods of science, the spirit of science--be better understood by government officials, by businessmen, and indeed by all the people.
We enthusiastically reaffirm our belief in the statement quoted just above as the culminating object of the AAAS; and we favor the adoption, after suitable study, of activities in this field as a major active interest of the AAAS.
It is recommended that this tentative statement of general policy be placed before the whole membership of the AAAS, and that it be sent to all the members of the Council, accompanied by a request for serious consideration and response. As soon as democratic procedures indicate that the above statement, or some then available modification of it, represents a consensus, the Executive Committee should set up a series of committees to study the practical and detailed problems of implementing these principles.
These studies themselves should be carried out in a scientific manner, with disregard of vested interest, with tempered concern for traditional procedures, and with imagination in respect to the present and future. Various aspects of the studies can doubtless be usefully aided by the methods of operations research, so that judgments can be at least partially founded on fact as well as on opinion.
[Adopted by the AAAS Executive Committee, September 15, 1951.]