American Association for the Advancement of Science

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Washington, D.C. office of the Association

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is an international non-profit organization with the stated goals of promoting cooperation among scientists, defending scientific freedom, encouraging scientific responsibility, and supporting scientific education and science outreach for the betterment of all humanity. It is the world's largest general scientific society, with 126,995 individual and institutional members at the end of 2008,[1] and is the publisher of the well-known scientific journal Science, which has a weekly circulation of 138,549.[2]



The American Association for the Advancement of Science was created on September 20, 1848 in Pennsylvania. It was a reformation of the Association of American Geologists and Naturalists. The society chose William Charles Redfield as their first president because he had proposed the most comprehensive plans for the organization. According to the first constitution which was agreed to at the September 20 meeting, the goal of the society was to promote scientific dialogue in order to allow for greater scientific collaboration. By doing so the association aimed to use resources to conduct science with increased efficiency and allow for scientific progress at a greater rate. The association also sought to increase the resources available to the scientific community through active advocacy of science.

There were only 87 members when the AAAS was formed. As a member of the new scientific body, Matthew Fontaine Maury, USN was one of those who attended the first 1848 meeting.

At a meeting held on Friday afternoon, September 22, 1848, Redfield presided, and Matthew Fontaine Maury gave a full scientific report on his Wind and Current Charts. Maury stated that hundreds of ship navigators were now sending abstract logs of their voyages to the United States Naval Observatory. With pride he added, "Never before was such a corps of observers known." But, he pointed out to his fellow scientists, his critical need was for more "simultaneous observations."

"The work," Maury stated, "is not exclusively for the benefit of any nation or age." The minutes of the AAAS meeting reveal that because of the universality of this "view on the subject, it was suggested whether the states of Christendom might not be induced to cooperate with their Navies in the undertaking; at least so far as to cause abstracts of their log-books and sea journals to be furnished to Matthew F. Maury, USN, at the Naval Observatory at Washington."

William Barton Rogers, professor at the University of Virginia and later founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, offered a resolution: "Resolved that a Committee of five be appointed to address a memorial to the Secretary of the Navy, requesting his further aid in procuring for Matthew Maury the use of the observations of European and other foreign navigators, for the extension and perfecting of his charts of winds and currents." The resolution was adopted and, in addition to Rogers, the following members of the association were appointed to the committee: Professor Joseph Henry of Washington; Professor Benjamin Peirce of Cambridge, Massachusetts; Professor James H. Coffin of Easton, Pennsylvania, and Professor Stephen Alexander of Princeton, New Jersey. This was scientific cooperation, and Maury went back to Washington with great hopes for the future.

Growth and Civil War dormancy

By 1860 membership increased to over 2,000. The AAAS became dormant during the American Civil War; their August 1861 meeting in Nashville, Tennessee was postponed indefinitely after the outbreak of the first major engagement of the war at Bull Run. The AAAS did not become a permanent casualty of the war.

In 1866, Frederick Barnard presided over the first meeting of the resurrected AAAS at a meeting in New York City. Following the revival of the AAAS, the group had considerable growth. The AAAS permitted all people, regardless of scientific credentials, to join. The AAAS did, however, institute a policy of granting the title of "Fellow of the AAAS" to well-respected scientists within the organization. The years of peace brought the development and expansion of other scientific-oriented groups. The AAAS's focus on the unification of many fields of science under a single organization was in contrast to the many new science organizations founded to promote a single discipline. For example, the American Chemical Society, founded in 1876, promotes chemistry.

In 1863, the US Congress established the National Academy of Sciences, another multidisciplinary sciences organization. It elects members based on recommendations from colleagues and the value of published works.


Since 2006, AAAS's CEO Dr. Alan I. Leshner has published many op-ed articles discussing how many people integrate science and religion in their lives. He has opposed the insertion of non-scientific content, such as creationism or intelligent design, into the scientific curriculum of schools.[3][4][5][6]

In December 2006, the AAAS adopted an official statement on climate change in which they stated, "The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society....The pace of change and the evidence of harm have increased markedly over the last five years. The time to control greenhouse gas emissions is now."[7]

In February 2007, the AAAS used satellite images to document human rights abuses in Burma.[8] The next year, AAAS launched the Center for Science Diplomacy to advance both science and the broader relationships among partner countries, by promoting international scientific cooperation.[9]


The most recent Constitution of the AAAS, enacted on January 1, 1973, establishes that the governance of the AAAS is accomplished through four entities: a President, a group of administrative officers, a Council, and a Board of Directors.


Individuals elected to the presidency of the AAAS hold a three-year term in a unique way. The first year is spent as President-elect, the second as President and the third as Chairperson of the Board of Directors. In accordance with the convention followed by the AAAS, presidents are referenced by the year in which they left office.

Nina V. Fedoroff is the President of AAAS; Alice S. Huang is the Chair person; and William H. Press is the President-Elect.[10] Each took office on the last day of the 2011 AAAS Annual Meeting, February 21, 2011.[11][12] On the last day of the 2012 AAAS Annual Meeting, February 20, 2012,[13] Fedoroff will become the Chair, Press will become the President, and a new President-Elect will take office.

Past presidents of AAAS have included some of the most important scientific figures of their time. Among them: explorer and geologist John Wesley Powell (1888); astronomer and physicist Edward Charles Pickering (1912); anthropologist Margaret Mead (1975); and biologist Stephen Jay Gould (2000).

Notable Presidents of the AAAS, 1848-2005
Year President Year President
2000 Stephen Jay Gould 1929 Robert A. Millikan
1990 Richard C. Atkinson 1927 Arthur Amos Noyes
1972 Glenn T. Seaborg 1887 Samuel P. Langley
1942 Arthur H. Compton 1886 Edward S. Morse
1934 Edward L. Thorndike 1882 J. William Dawson
1931 Franz Boas 1871 Asa Gray 1877 Simon Newcomb

Administrative officers

There are three classifications of high-level administrative officials that execute the basic, daily functions of the AAAS. These are the Executive Officer, the Treasurer and then each of the AAAS's section secretaries. The current CEO of AAAS and executive publisher of Science magazine is Alan I. Leshner.[14]

Sections of the AAAS

The AAAS has 24 "sections" with each section being responsible for a particular concern of the AAAS. There are sections for agriculture, anthropology, astronomy, atmospheric science, biological science, chemistry, dentistry, education, engineering, general interest in science and engineering, geology and geography, the history and philosophy of science, technology, computer science, linguistics, mathematics, medical science, neuroscience, pharmaceutical science, physics, psychology, science and human rights, social and political science, the social impact of science and engineering, and statistics.[15]


AAAS affiliates include 262 societies and academies of science, serving more than 10 million members, from the Acoustical Society of America to the Wildlife Society, and including, for example, the Parapsychological Association.[16]

The Council

The Council is composed of the members of the Board of Directors, the retiring section chairmen and elected delegates. Among the elected delegates there are always at least two members from the National Academy of Sciences and one from each region of the country. The President of the AAAS serves as the Chairperson of the Council. Members serve the Council for a term of three years.

The council meets annually to discuss matters of importance to the AAAS. They have the power to review all activities of the Association, elect new fellows, adopt resolutions, propose amendments to the Association's constitution and bylaws, create new scientific sections, and organize and aid local chapters of the AAAS.

The Board of Directors

The board of directors is composed of a chairperson, the president, and the president-elect along with eight elected directors, the executive officer of the association and up to two additional directors appointed by elected officers. Members serve a four-year term except for directors appointed by elected officers, who serve three-year terms.

The current chairman is Peter Agre, director of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute[17][18] and a Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry for his discovery of aquaporins.[19] Agre will serve in the post until the end of the 2011 AAAS Annual Meeting,[20] 21 February 2011.[21] (The chairperson is always the immediate past-president of AAAS.)

The board of directors has a variety of powers and responsibilities. It is charged with the administration of all association funds, publication of a budget, appointment of administrators, proposition of amendments, and determining the time and place of meetings of the national association. The board may also speak publicly on behalf of the association. The board must also regularly correspond with the council to discuss their actions.

See also


  1. Publisher's own data[clarification needed]
  2. BPA Worldwide, June 2008
  3. "'Academic Freedom' Bill Dangerous Distraction," Alan I. Leshner, The Shreveport Times 28 May 2008
  4. "Anti-science law threatens tech jobs of future," Alan I. Leshner, The Times-Picayune 6 May 2008
  5. "Design: Critical Deception?," Alan I. Leshner, Akron Beacon-Journal 11 September 2006
  6. "Science and Public Engagement," Alan I. Leshner, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Chronicle Review 13 October 2006
  7. AAAS Board Statement on Climate Change December 2006
  8. "Satellite Images Verify Myanmar Forced Relocations, Mounting Military Presence". ScienceMode. Retrieved 2007-10-01. 
  9. "AAAS – AAAS News Release – "AAAS Opens New Center for Science Diplomacy to "Promote International Understanding and Prosperity""". Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  10. Board of Directors: 2011-2012,
  11. AAAS Annual Meeting Archives (dates),
  12. "William H. Press Elected To Serve As AAAS President-Elect",
  13. Future AAAS Annual Meetings (dates),
  14. ScienceTalk: Alan I. Leshner,
  15. AAAS Sections,
  16. list of affiliates starting with the letter P.
  17. AAAS Experts & Speakers Service: Peter C. Agre,
  18. Bloomberg School of Public Health Welcomes Peter Agre,
  19. Karl Grandin, ed. (2003). "Peter Agre Biography". Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 2008-07-29. 
  20. Board of Directors,
  21. 2011 AAAS Annual Meeting,

External links

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