Friday at the AAAS in DC

As I mentioned last year, I can’t speak highly enough of the AAAS meetings. What a great chance to bring scientists and science-interested parties together, to update the community, and to forge new goals and partnerships for the coming year. The AAAS meeting has it all!  I promise to expand on the symposia I saw today at a later date, but here’s the skinny on Friday.

Perspectives on Research and Development in the President’s FY 2012 Budget Request It’s obvious that President Obama values science and is willing to invest in research and development despite the need for huge budget cuts. “Everything is a little topsy turvy right now” says Dahlia Sokolov of the House Committee on Science, commenting on the continuing resolution. She wouldn’t be surprised if the government shuts down on March 4th when the continuing resolution ends. Howard Gobstein of the APLU thinks the request is a “damn fine budget for R&D.”

Science Without Borders and Media Unbounded: What Comes Next? I only hit the second half of this symposium, but it was apparent that the science journalism and the scientific communities are both concerned with accurate and engaging climate change reporting, but the cultural divide between the two communities is still an issue.

GM Crop Regulations: Safety Net or Insurmountable Obstacle? I caught the first half of this one (and Andy the second half). The environmental, societal, and economic benefits of GM crops were discussed and the fact that hardly any have passed regulation by the USDA, EPA, and FDA despite studies (even meta studies from the EU) that state that GMOs are not per se more risky than non GMOs or traditionally bred plants. Elizabeth Grabau, a scientist who developed blight blocker peanuts for Virginia peanut farmers spoke of the benefits of this GMO and the regulatory trials she has experienced trying to get them approved.

Portraits of the California Energy System in 2050: Cutting Emissions by 80 Percent I missed the first half of this symposium (because of the GMO talks), but managed to find a few take home messages from the work being done in CA energy studies. The four actions required to reduce emissions include 1) higher efficiency 2) demand reduction 3) low carbon fuels and electricity 4) electrification (of everything possible). CA must be successful in all four actions to get to 60% CO2 reductions of 1990 levels by 2050 with currently available technologies. Not an easy task. 60% reductions will require aggressive policies (including changes to California’s ban on building new nuclear plants). To reach 80% reductions requires innovations in technologies not currently commercially available. Nathan Lewis of Cal Tech emphasized that innovation is absolutely required to bridge this technology gap, which of course, requires investment in research and development.

With that, it seems we have come full circle.

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