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Science  26 Jan 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5811, pp. 473-475
DOI: 10.1126/science.315.5811.473

Baltimore: Time for Scientists to Take Role in Public Life

David Baltimore

If the Nobel Prize is supposed to be the crowning achievement of a scientific career, someone forgot to tell David Baltimore. After sharing the 1975 Prize in Medicine for the discovery of reverse transcriptase at age 37, Baltimore has published more than 600 papers, including seminal research on the genetics of cancer, the workings of the HIV virus and AIDS vaccine candidates, and fundamental observations in molecular immunology. He was a founder of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, president of Rockefeller University and the California Institute of Technology, and a leading figure in national policy commissions on recombinant DNA and AIDS research.

“Much of my life since the Prize has been taken up with doing science,” Baltimore said. As he assumes the presidency of AAAS in February, he wants to remind the public that “science is the driving force” of all modern life, not just his own.

It's an idea Baltimore thinks has been lost in the classroom and Congress in recent years. “With science feeling itself under attack from various sides, it's never been a more important time for scientists to take a role in public life…and there is hardly any other organization that can speak as broadly for science as AAAS,” he noted in a recent interview.

Schools are one place where “increasing skepticism about rational thinking” has placed science under siege, according to Baltimore. In his candidacy statement, he said, “Raising children who do not know that life and our planet evolved over 4.5 billion years of change and development hamstrings them from participating in modern life.”

Baltimore wants AAAS to continue its strong support of science education from kindergarten to college, noting that it has already had much success with curriculum and science literacy programs such as Project 2061 and outreach at the AAAS Annual Meeting.

AAAS should remind its members that “there is an opportunity for every scientist to be involved with a local school board,” providing curriculum advice and helping teachers understand “the experimental nature of science,” Baltimore said.

Throughout his career, Baltimore has played a key role in creating national science policy, as an organizer of the 1975 Asilomar Conference that set standards for recombinant DNA technology, as cochair of the 1986 National Academy of Sciences Committee on a National Strategy for AIDS, and head of the National Institutes of Health AIDS Vaccine Research Committee in 1996. He received the 1999 National Medal of Science in part for his work on AIDS research policy.

Baltimore has been outspoken about what he sees as government efforts to distort and suppress scientific research, and he thinks that AAAS has a role to play in fighting this trend as well. AAAS's congressional testimony and science issue briefings for new members of Congress by the AAAS Center for Science, Technology, and Congress can help restore science's necessary place in national policy, he said.

In particular, the controversy over federal funding for embryonic stem cell research has cast a shadow over America's labs, Baltimore said, noting that his own graduate students have been wary about funding woes in their future.

“It's unique in my experience in science that the government has put shackles on a certain kind of research. We've never had a richer set of opportunities put in front of any scientists than the opportunities put in front of biologists today, yet there is a pervasive sense of being abandoned by the National Institutes of Health,” he said.

Baltimore stepped down as Caltech president last September, but continues as Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Biology and head of the Baltimore Lab at the university. His current research, supported by a $13.9-million grant from the Gates Foundation, is looking for ways to genetically boost the immune system against infectious pathogens, particularly HIV.

Baltimore laughed when asked if he had ever envisioned himself as an international advocate and spokesperson for science in the early days of his career. “No, I was just a lab rat and loving it. I've sort of grown into this as a consequence of my interest in institutions.”

Baltimore will succeed the current president, John P. Holdren, at the close of the 2007 Annual Meeting on 19 February. Holdren will become chair of the AAAS board, as Gilbert S. Omenn steps down as chair. James J. McCarthy has been elected to succeed Baltimore as president-elect. McCarthy is the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography at Harvard University.

—Becky Ham

AAAS Expands Human Rights “Eye in the Sky”

Before and after satellite images of Bir Kedouas, Chad, burned during an attack in December 2005 by Janjaweed militants in the Darfur conflict.

[© Copyright 2006 DigitalGlobe Inc. All rights reserved]

Before and after satellite images of Bir Kedouas, Chad, burned during an attack in December 2005 by Janjaweed militants in the Darfur conflict.

After a successful yearlong pilot program, AAAS will dramatically expand its use of powerful satellite imagery and related technologies to help investigate international reports of human rights violations with a new 3-year, $760,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

During the pilot project, AAAS, in partnership with other organizations, used geospatial technologies to document human rights violations around the world, including in the Darfur region of Sudan, Burma, and Zimbabwe.

With the new grant, the Science and Human Rights program will expand upon its 2005–2006 pilot project with a new emphasis on tailoring its activities to the priorities of intergovernmental organizations and courts like the International Criminal Court and the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights.

“This grant is extremely exciting because it will allow us to develop the first steps of a worldwide information system using advanced technologies that should help prevent human rights violations before they accelerate,” said Lars Bromley, senior program associate in the AAAS Office of International Initiatives.

In late May 2006, AAAS released its first human rights report, in partnership with Amnesty International and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, to rely on satellite imagery.

The report presented evidence that the government of Zimbabwe had destroyed entire settlements, including the town of Porta Farm, forcing thousands of residents to flee their homes. Reports on the Zimbabwean satellite imagery were published in several outlets, including the Washington Times, National Public Radio, the Guardian, and Reuters.

“With a global reach and reputation for independence, human rights organizations are able to sound the alarm and mobilize millions quickly, often before governments or the international community have even admitted there is a problem,” said Ariela Blätter, director of the Crisis Prevention & Response Center at Amnesty International USA, a partner of AAAS's Science and Human Rights program.

Since 1978, the MacArthur Foundation has provided support to advance human rights around the world, with a special interest in innovative uses of technology that advance its grant-making goals. The foundation's November 2005 pilot grant of $110,000 to AAAS was used to help international organizations, government agencies, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) rapidly collect, evaluate, and distribute information about human rights violations using geospatial technologies.

Within the past year, NGOs such as Amnesty International, the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, and the U.S. Campaign for Burma have worked with AAAS to merge high-resolution satellite imagery with geographic information systems and human intelligence to raise public awareness and alert governments, media outlets, and others about human right violations.

While the overall price of new satellite imagery and powerful computers to analyze the findings has recently fallen, AAAS has received other grants from a variety of organizations, including an award of $50,000 from the Open Society Institute for monitoring in the Karen State of Burma. A report on Burma will be released later this year, as will reports on Darfur and elsewhere.

In addition to gathering and analyzing the images from companies like DigitalGlobe and GeoEye, SHR plans to use the grant money to develop an outreach program through Web sites, workshops, meetings, and correspondence with organizations that have expertise applicable to human rights projects.

AAAS has been a pioneer in bringing science and technology to bear on international human rights issues with regular reports and workshops sponsored by its Science and Human Rights program. The program also supports scientists whose human rights are threatened, through the AAAS Human Rights Action Network.

In January 2006, the network coordinated an appeal to the government of Guatemala to protect Fredy Peccerelli, executive director of Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation, who had received death threats against him and his family for his efforts to locate and exhume mass graves from the country's bloody civil war.

—Benjamin Somers

Call for Nomination of AAAS Fellows

AAAS Fellows who are current members of the Association are invited to nominate members for election as Fellows. A Fellow is defined as “a Member whose efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications are scientifically or socially distinguished.” A nomination must be sponsored by three AAAS Fellows, two of whom must have no affiliation with the nominee's institution.

Nominations undergo review by the Steering Groups of the Association's sections (the Chair, Chair-Elect, Retiring Chair, Secretary, and four Members-at-Large of each section). Each Steering Group reviews only those nominations designated for its section. Names of Fellow nominees who are approved by the Steering Groups are presented to the AAAS Council for election.

Nominations with complete documentation must be received by 11 May 2007. Nominations received after that date will be held for the following year. The nomination form and a list of current AAAS Fellows can be found on the AAAS Web site at To request a hard copy of the nomination form, please contact Ellen Carpenter at the AAAS Executive Office, 1200 New York Ave., N.W., Washington, DC, 20005, at 202-326-6635, or at ecarpent{at}

Sustainability from All Sides

The AAAS Annual Meeting stands apart from other scientific gatherings in its emphasis on the connection between science and society, a critical crossroads that is explored in depth with this year's theme of “Science and Technology for Sustainable Well-Being.”

At the 173rd Annual Meeting in San Francisco next month, scientists, journalists, and the public can explore the idea of sustainability across a wide number of disciplines, from climate-change science and the future of the oceans to the politics of energy reserves, endangered languages, and environmental justice.

In his invitation to the conference, AAAS President John Holdren said, “The character of the challenges to the human condition—energy, water, health, climate, security, development, and more” are best tackled by AAAS's interdisciplinary approach.

For the first time this year, a AAAS Annual Meeting blog will provide extensive coverage from San Francisco, featuring reports and podcasts from the staff of Science and ScienceNOW, AAAS's award-winning Science Update radio program, and AAAS's writers, along with links to U.S. and international news coverage of the meeting.

—Becky Ham

Results of the 2006 Election of AAAS Officers

Following are the results of the 2006 election. Terms begin on 20 February 2007.

General Offices

President-Elect: James J. McCarthy Board of Directors: Cherry Murray, Linda P.B. Katehi Committee on Nominations: Rita R. Colwell, Jane Lubchenco, Floyd E. Bloom, Mary L. Good

Section on Agriculture, Food, and Renewable Resources

Chair-Elect: Roger N. Beachy Member-at-Large: Charles J. Arntzen Electorate Nominating Committee: Sally A. Mackenzie, Richard A. Dixon

Section on Anthropology

Chair-Elect: Eugenie C. Scott Member-at-Large: Leslie C. Aiello Electorate Nominating Committee: G. Phillip Rightmire, Payson Sheets Council Delegate: Michael A. Little

Section on Astronomy

Chair-Elect: Jill Cornell Tarter Member-at-Large: Carey Michael Lisse Electorate Nominating Committee: Alan Marscher, Heidi Newberg Council Delegate: Heidi B. Hammel

Section on Atmospheric and Hydrospheric Sciences

Chair-Elect: Anne M. Thompson Member-at-Large: Peter H. Gleick Electorate Nominating Committee: Jennifer A. Francis, Patricia Quinn

Section on Biological Sciences

Chair-Elect: Mariana Wolfner Member-at-Large: Yolanda P. Cruz Electorate Nominating Committee: Kate Barald, Joel Huberman Council Delegates: Brenda Bass, Nancy Beckage, Johanna Schmitt, Catherine Krull, Michael Cox, Rob Steele, Toby Kellogg, David Queller, Diane Shakes

Section on Chemistry

Chair-Elect: Wayne L. Gladfelter Member-at-Large: Dennis A. Dougherty Electorate Nominating Committee: Linda C. Hsieh-Wilson, Gregory C. Fu Council Delegates: C. Bradley Moore, Jon Clardy, Nicholas Winograd

Section on Dentistry and Oral Health Sciences

Chair-Elect: Mary MacDougall Member-at-Large: Paul H. Krebsbach Electorate Nominating Committee: Luisa Ann DiPietro, Ichiro Nishimura

Section on Education

Chair-Elect: George D. Nelson Member-at-Large: Gerald Wheeler Electorate Nominating Committee: Cathryn A. Manduca, Carlo Parravano

Section on Engineering

Chair-Elect: Priscilla P. Nelson Member-at-Large: Debbie A. Niemeier Electorate Nominating Committee: Melba M. Crawford, Rafael L. Bras

Section on General Interest in Science and Engineering

Chair-Elect: Barbara Gastel Member-at-Large: Lynne Timpani Friedmann Electorate Nominating Committee: Don M. Jordan, Susan Pschorr

Section on Geology and Geography

Chair-Elect: Victor R. Baker Member-at-Large: Lonnie G. Thompson Electorate Nominating Committee: Neil D. Opdyke, Sherilyn C. Fritz Council Delegate: Douglas J. Sherman

Section on History and Philosophy of Science

Chair-Elect: Thomas Nickles Member-at-Large: Karen A. Rader Electorate Nominating Committee: Kathryn M. Olesko, Richard M. Burian

Section on Industrial Science and Technology

Chair-Elect: Stan Bull Member-at-Large: Thom Mason Electorate Nominating Committee: Ana Ivelisse Aviles, Joyce A. Nettleton

Section on Information, Computing, and Communication

Chair-Elect: Michael R. Nelson Member-at-Large: Christine L. Borgman Electorate Nominating Committee: Deborah Estrin, Gladys A. Cotter

Section on Linguistics and Language Science

Chair-Elect: Frederick J. Newmeyer Member-at-Large: Wendy K. Wilkins Electorate Nominating Committee: Sarah Grey Thomason, Barbara Lust

Section on Mathematics

Chair-Elect: William Jaco Member-at-Large: Claudia Neuhauser Electorate Nominating Committee: Francis Sullivan, Juan Meza Council Delegate: Joel L. Lebowitz

Section on Medical Sciences

Chair-Elect: Gail H. Cassell Member-at-Large: R. Alan B. Ezekowitz Electorate Nominating Committee: Peter F. Weller, Michael Lederman

Section on Neuroscience

Chair-Elect: John H. Byrne Member-at-Large: Charles D. Gilbert Electorate Nominating Committee: Alison Goate, Theodore W. Berger Council Delegate: Patricia K. Kuhl

Section on Pharmaceutical Sciences

Chair-Elect: Danny D. Shen Member-at-Large: Ian A. Blair Electorate Nominating Committee: John D. Schuetz, Kenneth W. Miller

Section on Physics

Chair-Elect: Cherry Murray Member-at-Large: Sally Dawson Electorate Nominating Committee: Barbara Goss Levi, Elizabeth Beises Council Delegates: Miriam P. Sarachik, W. Carl Lineberger

Section on Psychology

Chair-Elect: Lila Gleitman Member-at-Large: Morton Ann Gernsbacher Electorate Nominating Committee: John F. Kihlstrom, Richard L. Doty

Section on Social, Economic, and Political Sciences

Chair-Elect: Russell Hardin Member-at-Large: Arnold Zellner Electorate Nominating Committee: Gary L. Albrecht, Gary King

Section on Societal Impacts of Science and Engineering

Chair-Elect: Lewis M. Branscomb Member-at-Large: Ruth L. Fischbach Electorate Nominating Committee: Ann Bostrom, Robert Cook-Deegan

Section on Statistics

Chair-Elect: William F. Eddy Member-at-Large: Francoise Seillier-Moiseiwitsch Electorate Nominating Committee: Judith M. Tanur, Norman Breslow

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