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Science  29 Jun 2007:
Vol. 316, Issue 5833, pp. 1861
DOI: 10.1126/science.316.5833.1861

SCIENCE AND SECURITY

AAAS Center Connects Scientists, Policy-Makers on Security Issues

Norman Neureiter

This spring, the U.S. Congress revisited the future of the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW), a program to revamp an aging nuclear weapons stockpile. As legislators questioned RRW's potential impact, AAAS's Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy brought some critical answers to Capitol Hill with the release of their RRW report on 24 April.

The nonpartisan panel convened by the Center concluded that the RRW faced significant technical uncertainties in the short run. In May, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development cut all RRW funding from its budget, citing many of the concerns raised in the AAAS report.

Rudy Barnes, a professional staff member for the House Armed Services Committee, praised the Center for providing a “timely and great targeted resource.”

“I cannot tell you how valuable it was for us to have it,” Barnes said. “The review panel's report was so impressive that two different House committees mentioned it in their own reports.”

Benn Tannenbaum, a project director with the Center, said AAAS's reputation bolstered the panel's conclusions. “Because we were viewed as being neutral, people didn't have preconceived notions about what we were going to say,” he said.

“Our reputation for useful and reliable input is growing,” agreed Norman Neureiter, the Center's director. “I think what we've done in the last 3 years is that we've clearly demonstrated that we can operate effectively and have some impact.”

AAAS's security policy shop debuted 3 years ago with a $2.25-million grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's Science, Technology, and Security Initiative. The initiative encourages new relationships between scientific experts and policy-makers seeking reliable data on critical security policy issues. The Center's mission is to serve as a communications portal between the academic community and policy-makers.

AAAS's diverse membership has helped the Center cover the wide range of topics under the 21st-century definition of security policy, Tannenbaum said. This year, he and senior program associate Kavita Berger have organized policy briefings for congressional and administration staff on cybersecurity, agricultural security, the geopolitics of energy use, and intelligence reform, among other topics.

The Center maintains on its Web site an extensive database of security policy events, experts, and resources of interest to the science and security community. The program also hosts university Visiting Scholars who spend a year in the policy trenches. Neureiter said that one of the Center's goals has been to reach out “beyond the people at Harvard and Princeton, who have been in this business for a long time,” to researchers with policy interests at other universities.

Clifford Singer, a professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, had spent years working on international security issues before his year as a Visiting Scholar. But he said the experience “reduced by an order of magnitude the difficulty of getting to the right people at the right time with the right information.”

Singer said that the Center's scholar program complements the analyses offered by most Washington think tanks. “The essential difference when it comes to getting university people involved in more than a fly-in, fly-out basis is that they can draw on years' worth of quantitative work or experimental research done by sizable teams of people,” he noted.

Neureiter agrees. “We think that decisions made with knowledge of the relevant scientific and technical information and that take that information into consideration will in the long run be better decisions than those made in ignorance of those facts,” he said.

The Center often works on controversial issues “in a Washington environment that has been highly polarized politically, making it important that the program avoid any hint of advocacy,” Neureiter said. One government official “once told me, 'We like science, but we don't like political opinions from scientists,'” he recalled. “I said, we're in the science business, and we just want to make sure you have access to the best available science on any given security issue. We'll do our best to make sure you have that and nothing more—or less.”

—Becky Ham

AAAS

New Dues Rates Approved for 2008

The AAAS Board of Directors has approved a dues increase for 2008. The Board authorizes increases to cover two kinds of expenses: unavoidable costs associated with running AAAS and publishing Science, and new expenses that add value to membership. Postage and paper increases and improving online resources are examples of the kind of expenses the Board anticipated in setting the 2008 rates.

The new rates are effective for membership terms beginning after 31 December 2007. As listed below, they do not include postage or taxes for international members, which is additional.

View this table:

The Board also set the institutional subscription rate for print Science at $360 for high school and public libraries and $770 for all other institutions. For further information, including subscription rates for Science Online, librarians should contact AAAS or their subscription agents, or go to the Science Online Web site.

All members will be advised of the new dues rates on their renewal notices for 2008. Member dues and voluntary contributions form the critical financial base for a wide range of AAAS activities. For more information, contact the AAAS Membership Office at 202-326-6417, or www.aaas.org/membership/.

2006 Annual Report

The AAAS 2006 Annual Report has been published and can be downloaded from the Web site.

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