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Ars takes on the Advancement of Science
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Written by Daniel   
Monday, 25 February 2008 12:56
Ars takes on the Advancement of Science

By John Timmer | Published: February 24, 2008 - 09:20PM CT

Last week's annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science was unlike just about any other scientific meeting or trade show. Most other gatherings target a specialized audience; a few keynotes cover the big picture, then smaller sessions (and sometimes booths on the show floor) provide a focused view for those who care about the details. None of that was true about the AAAS meeting. Nearly every session focused big-picture issues and the audience, as indicated by the meeting's title, "Science and Technology from a Global Perspective," was nothing less than the entire planet.

 

This was made clear in countless ways, including an opening talk by Rwanda's President Paul Kagame. The AAAS also made sure that the message got out to the world; over 20 percent of the attendees were press, and scientists were given many opportunities to interact with them. Most talks were targeted so that even nonspecialists—both the press and researchers in other fields—could follow them. Even the show floor was designed to appeal to an audience with a broad range of science sophistication.

Specific sessions focused on a variety of global concerns. First and foremost of these was climate change, where the current thinking on the relative role of human and natural influences was discussed in detail. Even if you doubt the scientists that tell you the sun isn't responsible for the recent rise in temperatures, a second session reminded everyone that dumping lots of carbon into the atmosphere could have drastic consequences for life in the oceans. Stay tuned, as we have notes from sessions covering one potential solution for energy sustainability, biofuels.

Other panels discussed the global integration of the scientific community, as projects such as large telescopes, big physics, and genome sequencing have all gone international. Since physics went this direction first, the lessons from their large-scale collaborations were presented as a way of informing current and future efforts. Unfortunately, these collaborations may increasingly leave the US out. Examples such as elimination of funding for the ITER fusion reactor and the International Linear Collider are suggesting that the US is simply an unreliable partner for long-term collaborations.  [ARS Technica...]   [Comments...]

 

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