PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — In introductory remarks at the 183rd Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston on Thursday, Feb. 16, Brown University President Christina Paxson wasted no time in noting that this year's meeting will not only celebrate science, as usual, but also include "much discussion about risks and threats to the scientific enterprise."
“Today our community is galvanized by very real concerns — possible reductions in federally funded science research; the fear of clampdowns on science communications issued by federal agencies; and an executive order on immigration that has sent an extremely unwelcoming message to researchers and students from abroad,” said Paxson, in introducing an address by AAAS President Barbara A. Schaal.
Politically motivated assaults on science, Paxson said, have come and gone, yet science has remained resilient.
“At various times in our history, the science community has been compelled to respond to waves of science denial and threats to open public dialogue around scientific issues,” Paxson said. “I think it is safe to say that we have arrived at another of these moments. And so as before, we will refine the case for science. We'll redeploy its explanatory power.”
Paxson co-chaired this year’s AAAS meeting, which has a theme of “Serving Society through Science Policy.”
She emphasized science’s unique ability to inform policy via rigorously validated evidence as one of three vital themes that will help science to endure.
“We know that evidence-based policymaking works," she said. "That policies based on credible scientific work produce positive health outcomes, they keep people safe, they improve the quality of drinking water, improve access to education and jobs, and they protect our planet,” she said.
Paxson, an economist, also noted that science is an engine of economic growth and prosperity.
"One of the major first lessons of any economics student is that long-run economic growth is driven by technological change and increases in knowledge," she said.
Paxson said science is also a global public good.
“We know that engaging people from all around the world — the best, the brightest, the most diverse thinkers from everywhere — enriches the quality of scientific discovery and adds to the global marketplace of ideas,” Paxson said.
Before concluding her prelude to Schaal, who presides over the world's largest multidisciplinary scientific society, Paxson sought to rally the audience to keep moving forward, adversity aside.
“Let’s go on being who we are, doing what we do and sharing it with the world,” she said. “Let’s go on with our research.”