Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Science reaching the public -- AAAS more relevant than ever?

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

"This week newspapers in Beijing, radios in Brisbane, and television sets in Berlin will all carry stories springing from Room 112, a windowless cell buried within Boston's Hynes Convention Center. More than 600 reporters and producers from media outlets around the world will be buzzing around that news-briefing room and nearby meeting halls, lured by legions of scientists giving talks about AIDS, climate change, poverty, stem cells, and many other thorny issues that confront modern society.


In recent decades, though, the AAAS has struggled to keep its annual meeting from fading into history. As more-specialized societies have taken over the regular business of science, the AAAS meeting has had trouble attracting researchers and providing cutting-edge presentations. It actually loses money for its parent organization, and some have questioned its usefulness.

So the AAAS has tried to carve out a unique niche for its annual meeting — as a place where scientists can best reach out not just to colleagues, but also to the mass media and the world at large.


"There's been a decline in public interest, public trust, and public support for science — and scientists want it back," says Sharon Dunwoody, a professor of journalism at the University of Wisconsin at Madison who has studied the behavior of reporters at AAAS meetings.

But with increasing competition for their attention, and tighter travel budgets, many journalists have trouble justifying a trip to the meeting. National Public Radio, for example, has not routinely sent any reporters to cover the meeting for more than a decade, says Richard Harris, a science correspondent at the network.

Still, Ms. Dunwoody expects the press room in a popular destination like Boston to be overflowing, a prediction that matches the high number of media-registration requests received by the AAAS."

(click here for the full article)

The 2008 AAAS annual meeting will take place later this week in Boston, MA:

"Science and Technology from a Global Perspective emphasizes the power of science and technology as well as education to assist less-developed segments of the world society, to improve partnerships among already-developed countries, and to spur knowledge-driven transformations across a host of fields. With more than 150 symposia as well as plenary and topical lectures and a variety of special events to choose from, Boston is the place to be from 14-18 February for anyone with a passion for science or a desire to meet the world's leading experts.

Click here to view the full program."