AAAS/NAAS Delegate's Report
The annual meetings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the National Association of Academies of Science (NAAS) were held on February 1318 and 1216, respectively, in Seattle. The NAAS meeting includes the activities of the American Junior Academy of Science (AJAS), in which two students represented the Mississippi Academy of Sciences (MAS) this year. Rachel Hutchins, the 1996 Overall Winner at Mississippi Junior Academy of Science (MJAS), and Adam Friedman, our 1996 Sheely Award winner, presented their work as part of the AJAS program.
Activities followed what has become more or less a traditional format, with NAAS beginning on Wednesday evening (February 12) with organization and orientation meetings and registration for AJAS participants, sponsors, chaperones, etc. On Thursday the AJAS spent most of the day visiting selected laboratories at the University of Washington: the Biotechnology Center, the Human Genome Project Center, the Seismology Laboratory, and the Department of Chemistry. During the evening they went to ENTROS, which advertises itself as "the intelligent amusement park," where they enjoyed a group dinner and interactive problem-solving games. Meanwhile, the NAAS Board of Directors held a meeting which lasted into Thursday afternoon. Since my attendance, as Past-President and ex officio Program Chairman, was obligatory, I have no first-hand knowledge of the AJAS activities, but reports are that they were interesting and enjoyable. Thursday evening was taken up with the opening plenary session of AAAS.
On Friday morning the AJAS students presented their research in six consecutive sessions. The audience at these presentations consisted mostly of the other students, teachers, parents and chaperones, NAAS Delegates, and a few drop-ins from among the scientists and others attending AAAS. The students had about three hours then to attend AAAS sessions of their choice, before presenting their work in poster format in a 3-hour session. That evening, the AJAS group visited Tillicum Village, located at the Marine State Park on Blake Island, by boat to partake of an alder-smoked salmon buffet dinner and a theatrical illustration of local native American lore by the Northwest Native American Performers. As the MAS delegate to AAAS, I visited the AJAS presentations for a couple of hours, then attended a meeting of the AAAS affiliates. That afternoon, I attended the meeting of Section Y (General Interest in Science and Engineering), of which MAS is a member, and then visited the AJAS poster session. That evening I attended a plenary lecture by Leroy Hood (Director of the University of Washington Biotechnology Center, which the students had visited on Thursday).
Saturday began for the AJAS students with a Breakfast With Scientists (at which they have non-structured conversation with scientists, with a ratio of about 3:1, over a leisurely breakfast). This was followed by Youth Meets the Masters (at which two to four scientists of renown speak about their work exclusively to AJAS participants). At this same time, MAS member Jerry Jackson (Mississippi State) and I attended the AAAS Fellows Forum, where we were formally presented with certificates of our election (as of September, 1996) as Fellows of AAAS. I then gave my own poster presentation at a regular AAAS poster session scheduled from 10:30 until 2:30. However, since I was also scheduled to chair an NAAS workshop from 12:30 until 3:45 and attend the NAAS Delegates' Assembly from 4:00 until 6:00, I had to skip out on the poster session and depend upon someone else to rescue my poster. (The hall was locked at 5:00.) I did have time to attend one AAAS plenary lecture before joining the NAAS and AJAS delegates and others at the annual NAAS Awards Banquet. An address was given to those assembled by Dr. Maynard Olson, Director of the Human Genome Project, following which awards were presented. Dr. Gene Kritsky (Indiana Academy and outgoing President of NAAS) received the Distinguished Service Award, and the AJAS student delegates were each presented with certificates of participation in AJAS and attendance at Youth Meets the Masters. After the banquet the students and a few stalwart adults stayed for a dance; I went to my room and collapsed.
On Sunday the NAAS program was completed, AJAS participants left, and I was free to attend AAAS sessions. Over the next two days I was able to attend presentations (either seminars or special lectures) on a variety of topics, including genes and behavior, other aspects of genetics, emerging diseases and human population, climate change and biodiversity, as well as see what Bill Gates really looks like (just like his pictures). Unfortunately for Bill, his demonstration of Internet capabilities was interrupted by a modem fault (or who knows what) and the connection could not be reestablished, and a demonstration of computer interpretation of visual (camera) signals from a person (one of his programmers) was brought to a halt, apparently by the camera's inability to deal with the spotlight.
It was a very successful meeting for NAAS and AAAS. There were 116 student delegates from 28 academies of science participating in the AJAS program, and 74 adults registered. The latter included teachers, junior academy directors, parents, and NAAS board members. Since some of the NAAS delegates and board members register directly with AAAS rather than through NAAS/AJAS, the number of adults was somewhat higher. Attendance at the NAAS Workshop and the Assembly of Delegates, was just over 30, which reflects the fact that there are always some academies which, for whatever reasons, do not send delegates to the NAAS and AAAS meetings. I'm not sure what the AAAS attendance was--several thousand, but those figures will be out in a future edition of Science.
The NAAS Board of Directors at its meeting on Thursday considered routine business and operational matters, with some particular effort being given to streamlining the NAAS governance structure so that operation would be more efficient and productive. The number and duties of committees were reviewed and reorganization will take place. A second major concern of the board is the annual Directory, Proceedings and Handbook. Since publication of this compendium became a joint effort of NAAS and AAAS, the publication schedule has seldom been met. The results this year, in which AAAS physically moved to a new building, were disastrous, with the 1996 edition still to be printed. Since the problem is primarily with the compilation of revisions by AAAS personnel, the board discussed taking over the compilation but leaving printing in the hands of AAAS, taking over completely all aspects of publishing, or even publishing completely online on the Internet. No decisions were made, but all avenues will be explored. Anyone having an opinion should contact me. The newsletter, which is supposed to be issued quarterly, has also had some problems, but promises now to be a regular publication with Don Jordan (South Carolina academy) as the new Editor. Complying with changes to the By-Laws by the Assembly of Delegates last year, the board appointed two Members-at-Large. Neil Berman (Arizona/Nevada academy) will serve one year; Leslie Sue Liebermann (Florida academy) will serve a two-year term. In subsequent years a Member-at-Large will be elected for a two-year term by the Assembly of Delegates each year.
At the Assembly of Delegates meeting, the board reviewed its activities, made the appropriate
reports and presented a slate of candidates for election to NAAS offices. There were no further
nominations from the floor, and all candidates presented were elected, as follows:
President-Elect--Judy Parker (Minnesota Academy of Science)
Secretary--Fred Brenner (Pennsylvania Academy of Science) (re-elected)
AJAS Director--Gloria Takahashi (Southern California Academy of Sciences) (re-elected)
Archivist--Lynn Elfner (Ohio Academy of Science) (re-elected)
Representative to AAAS Council--Ertle Thompson (Virginia Academy of Science)
Several items, some already discussed at the board meeting, were considered by the Delegates. Among these were the need for sharing meeting news amongst the member academies. It was decided that NAAS would for the present attempt to serve as a clearing house for this purpose. Any academy wishing to send, receive or share newsletters with others should contact Gene Kritsky with all relevant information via e-mail: email@example.com. The executive director of the National Center for Science Education, Who had been one of the presenters at the workshop, indicated that NCSE would like to have closer liaison with state academies. Possible ways in which this might be accomplished are to be explored with NCSE by the President (Juan Rodriguez, Kentucky academy) and Past-President (Gene Kritsky). Also discussed were the AAAS grants (or lack thereof) in support of student research, and possible ways of improving attendance at NAAS by member academies. The idea of an online journal, sponsored by NAAS/AJAS, for high school students in which they could relate their experiences with experimental protocols, techniques, and analyses for the benefit of other students was broached by Gene Kritsky for consideration by the Delegates. Anyone having any thoughts or opinions about this should contact me or my successor so that they can be presented to the other delegates next year.
NAAS Workshop '97 addressed two general topics this year: ways in which academies can work
to accomplish their purposes, particularly in conjunction with other organizations, including other
academies; and ways to go about securing financial support. A number of presentations were
made with considerable discussion after each presentation. Some of the take-home messages
When organizing science-related activities (for high school or younger students) choose your
associates--mentors, as it were--on the basis of character and enthusiasm, not on the basis of
Very important aspects of accomplishing your purpose are publicity and marketing. Let people
know that your academy exists, that your meetings are taking place, and about the things your
academy does for science and the general public.
Academies should not shrink from controversial issues if they have something to offer. Science
academies should contribute to decisions about such things as the teaching of evolution, animal
use in research, and protection of the environment.
In dealing with the press, put your responses at a level everyone can understand.
Investigate and utilize whatever other organizations (science-oriented or not) can offer.
Corporations prefer to donate to specific programs.
Personal contacts in fund-raising are very important.
Provide your donors with feedback about the use of their funds.
The Section Y meeting addressed primarily the planning for sessions at the 1998 meeting. The Affiliates meeting was taken up for the most part with a panel discussion of career concerns of young scientists. Speakers dealt with such topics as unemployment, involuntary employment out of field, underemployment, and the over/under production of scientists and engineers. The last part of the meeting was devoted to free discussion of topics of interest by affiliate representatives. There are 285 affiliated societies and groups; probably about one-third had representatives in attendance. The discussions ranged from interesting to boring, but there is space here to report neither type. I will comment that this was the best organized and conducted affiliates meeting I have yet attended. (These meetings, to my knowledge, have only recently come into being.)
A planning committee (past-president, AJAS director, and president, usually) will visit Philadelphia, the site of next year's meeting, sometime this spring, and the NAAS Board of Directors will hold a summer meeting, via conference call in June or July.
If there are any questions or comments about these activities beyond what is reported here, I may be contacted at 601-984-5720 or (preferably) at dfp@ anat.umsmed.edu.
It has been my privilege and pleasure, and sometimes more work and time-consuming than I expected, to serve as your representative to AAAS and delegate to NAAS for the past several years. I am grateful for the opportunity. I am pleased to have determined over this time that the Mississippi Academy of Sciences is one of the better organized and operated, although by no means the largest, of those in the nation. As the vernacular had it at one time, Right On!--Dudley Peeler