Envision a future, make it so

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Science  31 Jan 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6477, pp. 489
DOI: 10.1126/science.abb0218

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In February, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS, the publisher of Science) and the scientific community will come together in Seattle, Washington, for the 2020 AAAS annual meeting under the theme of Envisioning Tomorrow's Earth. This convergence of a vast geographically dispersed community comes at a time of great opportunity and challenge.

These are my first weeks as the new chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of the Science family of journals. As part of the leadership of the world's largest multidisciplinary scientific society and nonprofit publisher, I will put my energy, skills, and passion to work in service to our mission of advancing science and serving society. I join a multitude of members who also believe that this is not a moment for stewards, but for leaders. We envision tomorrow's Earth to be a place where our children and their descendants will see science as a key to good decision-making, be awed by the fundamental discoveries under their feet and in the night sky, and be inspired to imagine the future that they want and take action to make it so. As the father of three school-aged children, I am completely committed to this vision.

In the pages of Science and elsewhere, we see the extraordinary advances of our era: the potential to not just treat, but cure diseases; computing and technology advances that may serve as the basis for life-improving products; and deepening understanding of the universe through exquisite images of objects in the outer reaches of the solar system and beyond. But we also see that the percentage of Americans who believe that vaccines are unsafe continues to grow; that new technologies raise transcendent questions around privacy and access; and that a small, but substantial and growing number believe Earth is flat.

These challenges to the relationship between science and society are most consequential when they become entangled with policy-making. Many examples face us today, from human germline gene editing to climate change. With the consequences so far-reaching, science must be integral to decision-making at every policy table and kitchen table.

AAAS must take on the critical topics of our time. We will lead when appropriate and collaborate with likeminded organizations always. As a voice for all sciences, AAAS must take a leadership role in issues that affect the entire scientific enterprise. Areas where you will see AAAS's commitment include global engagement. As more nations take their rightful place at the frontiers of science, a global scientific culture is evolving that must incorporate the best from all and value integrity, inclusivity, and ingenuity. We will continue to invigorate the United States as a welcoming crossroads where the best and brightest scientists converge to build the future while protecting science from unacceptable influence and unethical appropriation of intellectual property and ideas. AAAS will also advocate for safeguarding the scientific ecosystem for diverse voices and inclusivity and leverage the power of all great minds. AAAS will continue to be a leading voice for ensuring that evidence-based science is at the decision-making table at the international, national, and local levels to address preeminent challenges like climate change. And we will always stand up for investments in science and science education. On issues specific to individual disciplines, AAAS will collaborate and coordinate its activities with the leading organizations in that space. We look to our members for input, guidance, and leadership and encourage others to join in strengthening society's relationship with science.

This is a pivotal moment. Rarely have the opportunities for progress been as exciting, yet the challenges so existential. We must rise to the challenges of our time to ensure that the next generation has the opportunity to rise to theirs.

I look forward to Envisioning Tomorrow's Earth and to the privilege of working with all of you.

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