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The AAAS Reflection

April 18, 2019

This past February, the Center for Biology and Society sent a select group of students to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting, held this year in the bustle of the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., to present their research and to engage with science and policy experts. Each year, AAAS hosts a conference that invites science researchers, students, communicators, policy experts, and media from around the world to come together for a confluence of scientific innovation, advocacy, and reflection on the state of science in socie

The Center for Biology and Society sent a group of exceptional undergraduate students to present on some of their own research in the AAAS Student E-Poster Competition. Students spoke on projects ranging from biomedicine and neuroscience to ecology and science policy, including the work of ASU West sophomore Rachael King on the policies and prevalence of environmental toxins in Arizona fish and surface water. Students were evaluated by a panel of judges who would evaluate their clarity, scientific merit, and the professionalism of their presentations. And as has come to be expected, the students from Arizona State University continue to stand out as exceptional researchers and science communicators among their peers from across the nation.

To mark the occasion, the Center for Biology and Society also hosted a celebratory dinner for those students and other ASU affiliates at the conference, including other ASU graduate students as well as faculty based in ASU’s D.C. research centers. The annual dinner provided the opportunity to unwind and engage with other ASU students and faculty as well as to open up conversation about students’ future graduate school and professional aspirations.

As much as the AAAS Annual Meeting is about scientific research, it is also a hub for science policy experts. The conference hosts numerous events and mixers to facilitate students, early-career researchers, and science policy professionals alike to rub shoulders, develop wider networks, and foster future collaborations. Biology and Society doctoral candidate, Christian H. Ross, took advantage of the opportunities at AAAS to reconnect with various science-related professionals developed over previous years of conference and workshop travel. Conversations included policy fellows at AAAS and the National Academies of Science, academic journal editors, and experts working in federal agencies. His research on public engagement with human and environmental applications of gene editing was of wide interest with scientists and policy experts alike on account of how it bridges the space between emerging science and technology and democratic decision making.

The AAAS Annual Meeting convenes on a range of science topics, from presentations on advances in AI and automation technology to the ethics of environmental and climate research. AAAS also held extensive sessions on the implications of science research including science policy, outreach, and communication.

One session that was particularly stand-out was on how as science communication has grown into its own discipline, distinct from science research, the field has become increasingly feminized in how it has come to be perceived in society. They highlighted how many of the systematic pressures that have excluded women from science may also be at play in promoting women in science communication, but with similar prejudices and stigma against both as less rigorous, less knowledgeable, or less valuable than masculine-dominated scientific disciplines. They pointed that more women than men have found themselves in full-time science communication careers, and that this coincided with fewer opportunities, resources or tenure recognition for science communicators than their traditional science research counterparts. This has been despite the critical emphasis given to it by traditional science researchers. The session closed with forming the audience into small groups, encouraging attendees to discuss their experiences and responses to the challenges and opportunities for greater equity in science communication practice.

For more information please visit: AAAS and Center for Biology and Society 

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