AAAS 2013 – The Beauty And Benefits Of A Network

As Boston digs out from this weekend’s historic nor’easter, the city is experiencing a second, rather different type of accumulation event. As they do every year (though the location varies), thousands of scientists and hundreds of journalists from around the world convene for the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting. This year the theme, “The Beauty and Benefits of Science,” encourages participants to think about not only the aesthetic pleasure of pure understanding, but also the practical value of applied knowledge. If you know us, you know it’s a very appealing theme for COMPASS!

This year, I’ll be attending along with Chad English, Karen McLeod, and Erica Goldman. We’ll be sitting in, and sometimes live-tweeting, sessions on topics ranging from marine spatial planning, food security, and the future of conservation to creative communication tactics and graduate education reform.

This meeting has been a fixture on the COMPASS calendar since 2001 because it offers a great breadth of science topics, making it an excellent complement to the deep disciplinary conferences we attend. Most importantly, it is an unparalleled opportunity to reconnect with friends and colleagues from the media, science, policy and nonprofit worlds. Year after year, our most important task at AAAS is networking. One of our most visible activities, for example, has been our signature Marine Mixer, where countless collaborations, story ideas, and projects have been hatched over the past decade.

The AAAS Meeting will be held in Boston this week.  Photo of the Boston Skyline courtesy of: Werner Kunz via Flickr.

COMPASS returns to Boston for AAAS – old stomping grounds for three of us who are Boston University alumni!
Photo by Werner Kunz: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.0

With 2013 being a year of growth and change for us, we are adapting our approach. Instead of the Marine Mixer, much of our networking will take place in smaller, strategic conversations. We’ll be exploring the leading edges of new topical areas – like climate adaptation and water resources – and looking for links to thematic areas more familiar to us, such as ecosystem services and coastal systems. We also have a separate focus to gather information for a workshop we are convening this fall – to improve communications training for science graduate students across the country. In all of these conversations, we’ll explore the relevant scientific and policy landscapes and be thinking hard about bridging parallel dialogues and weaving networks together. Sound interesting? Know who we should involve? We want to talk to you.

While what happens in the hallways and over meals is critical for us, we’re also very excited about the official program this year and the sessions we’ll be involved in organizing and moderating. Come join the conversations:

  • Thursday: Chad is leading the seminar Communicating Science to Policy-Makers with David Goldston and Arthur Lupia. This is part of the day-long series of seminars organized by Cory Dean of the New York Times – worth your time to see them all if you are in town. 10:00 AM-11:30 AM, Ballroom A (Hynes Convention Center).
  • Friday: I am the organizer and moderator for A New (Social) Media Contract for Science. I’m thrilled to have a fantastic group of speakers coming together for a comprehensive look at how social media changes not only how we share our science, but how we conduct it. 1:30 PM-4:30 PM, Room 308 (Hynes Convention Center).
  • Saturday: Karen and Erica co-organized From Promise to Proof: How Ecosystem Service Science Is Transforming Real Decisions to highlight the ways that ecosystem services can be game-changers for decision-making. As discussant Jane Lubchenco will point out, this is particularly timely given its relevance to restoration in the Gulf of Mexico and the need to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy. 8:30 AM-11:30 AM, Room 309 (Hynes Convention Center).
  • Saturday: I’m a moderator and discussant in Dawn Wright’s The Beauty and Benefits of Escaping the Ivory Tower. This one is exciting because all the speakers are Leopold Fellows, and rather than presenting data in the role of experts, they’re synthesizing and facilitating what should be a lively discussion about changing academic culture for the better.  10:00 AM-11:30 AM, Room 308 (Hynes Convention Center).

All in all, it’s going to be a busy week! Keep an eye out for us tweeting on the #AAASmtg hashtag. And, shoot us an email if you’d like to connect – if you would like to be added to our annual AAAS meeting list for updates you can sign up here.

About Liz Neeley

Liz was an Assistant Director of Science Outreach at COMPASS.


  1. PS – Did you know there is a AAAS meeting app? Available here:

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