Association of American Geologists and Naturalists
Washington, D.C. office of the AAAS
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is an American international non-profit organization with the stated goals of promoting cooperation among scientists, defending scientific freedom, encouraging scientific responsibility, and supporting scientific education and science outreach for the betterment of all humanity. It is the world's largest and most prestigious general scientific society, with 126,995 individual and institutional members at the end of 2008, and is the publisher of the well-known scientific journal Science, which has a weekly circulation of 138,549.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science was created on September 20, 1848 in Pennsylvania. It was a reformation of the Association of American Geologists and Naturalists. The society chose William Charles Redfield as their first president because he had proposed the most comprehensive plans for the organization. According to the first constitution which was agreed to at the September 20 meeting, the goal of the society was to promote scientific dialogue in order to allow for greater scientific collaboration. By doing so the association aimed to use resources to conduct science with increased efficiency and allow for scientific progress at a greater rate. The association also sought to increase the resources available to the scientific community through active advocacy of science.
There were only 87 members when the AAAS was formed. As a member of the new scientific body, Matthew Fontaine Maury, USN was one of those who attended the first 1848 meeting.
At a meeting held on Friday afternoon, September 22, 1848, Redfield presided, and Matthew Fontaine Maury gave a full scientific report on his Wind and Current Charts. Maury stated that hundreds of ship navigators were now sending abstract logs of their voyages to the United States Naval Observatory. With pride he added, "Never before was such a corps of observers known." But, he pointed out to his fellow scientists, his critical need was for more "simultaneous observations."
"The work," Maury stated, "is not exclusively for the benefit of any nation or age." The minutes of the AAAS meeting reveal that because of the universality of this "view on the subject, it was suggested whether the states of Christendom might not be induced to cooperate with their Navies in the undertaking; at least so far as to cause abstracts of their log-books and sea journals to be furnished to Matthew F. Maury, USN, at the Naval Observatory at Washington."
William Barton Rogers, professor at the University of Virginia and later founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, offered a resolution: "Resolved that a Committee of five be appointed to address a memorial to the Secretary of the Navy, requesting his further aid in procuring for Matthew Maury the use of the observations of European and other foreign navigators, for the extension and perfecting of his charts of winds and currents." The resolution was adopted and, in addition to Rogers, the following members of the association were appointed to the committee: Professor Joseph Henry of Washington; Professor Benjamin Peirce of Cambridge, Massachusetts; Professor James H. Coffin of Easton, Pennsylvania, and Professor Stephen Alexander of Princeton, New Jersey. This was scientific cooperation, and Maury went back to Washington with great hopes for the future.
Growth and Civil War dormancy
By 1860 membership increased to over 2,000. The AAAS became dormant during the American Civil War; their August 1861 meeting in Nashville, Tennessee was postponed indefinitely after the outbreak of the first major engagement of the war at Bull Run. The AAAS did not become a permanent casualty of the war.
In 1866, Frederick Barnard presided over the first meeting of the resurrected AAAS at a meeting in New York City. Following the revival of the AAAS, the group had considerable growth. The AAAS permitted all people, regardless of scientific credentials, to join. The AAAS did, however, institute a policy of granting the title of "Fellow of the AAAS" to well-respected scientists within the organization. The years of peace brought the development and expansion of other scientific-oriented groups. The AAAS's focus on the unification of many fields of science under a single organization was in contrast to the many new science organizations founded to promote a single discipline. For example, the American Chemical Society, founded in 1876, promotes chemistry.
In 1863, the US Congress established the National Academy of Sciences, another multidisciplinary sciences organization. It elects members based on recommendations from colleagues and the value of published works.
Since 2006, AAAS's CEO Dr. Alan I. Leshner has published many op-ed articles discussing how many people integrate science and religion in their lives. He has opposed the insertion of non-scientific content, such as creationism or intelligent design, into the scientific curriculum of schools.
In December 2006, the AAAS adopted an official statement on climate change in which they stated, "The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society....The pace of change and the evidence of harm have increased markedly over the last five years. The time to control greenhouse gas emissions is now."
In February 2007, the AAAS used satellite images to document human rights abuses in Burma. The next year, AAAS launched the Center for Science Diplomacy to advance both science and the broader relationships among partner countries, by promoting science diplomacy and international scientific cooperation.
In his 2008 article  about the Experimental Lakes Area, in Kenora DistrictOntario, Canada, published in Science, Erik Stokstad described the ELA's "extreme science." The ELA project manipulated whole lake ecosystem's for forty years, collecting long-term records for climatology, hydrology, and limnology based on whole-ecosystem experiments that address key issues in water management. The ELA influenced public policy in water management in Canada, the USA and Europe, but by 2008 was attempting to convince federal funders to focus on climate change research. The decision to abruptly defund the ELA was widely condemned by the Canadian and international scientific community. The scientific journal Nature in an article entitled, The Death of Evidence, described the decision as "disturbing", and said that it "is hard to believe that finance is the true reason" for the closure.
In 2012, AAAS published op-eds, held events on Capitol Hill and released analyses of the U.S. federal research and development budget to warn that a budget sequestration would pose risks to scientific progress.
The most recent Constitution of the AAAS, enacted on January 1, 1973, establishes that the governance of the AAAS is accomplished through four entities: a President, a group of administrative officers, a Council, and a Board of Directors.
Individuals elected to the presidency of the AAAS hold a three-year term in a unique way. The first year is spent as President-elect, the second as President and the third as Chairperson of the Board of Directors. In accordance with the convention followed by the AAAS, presidents are referenced by the year in which they left office.
Phillip Sharp is the President of AAAS for 2013-14; William H. Press is the Board Chair; and Gerald Fink is the President-Elect. Each took office on the last day of the 2013 AAAS Annual Meeting in February 2013. On the last day of the 2014 AAAS Annual Meeting, February 17, 2014, Sharp will become the Chair, Fink will become the President, and a new President-Elect will take office.
There are three classifications of high-level administrative officials that execute the basic, daily functions of the AAAS. These are the Executive Officer, the Treasurer and then each of the AAAS's section secretaries. The current CEO of AAAS and executive publisher of Science magazine is Alan I. Leshner.
The Council is composed of the members of the Board of Directors, the retiring section chairmen and elected delegates. Among the elected delegates there are always at least two members from the National Academy of Sciences and one from each region of the country. The President of the AAAS serves as the Chairperson of the Council. Members serve the Council for a term of three years.
The council meets annually to discuss matters of importance to the AAAS. They have the power to review all activities of the Association, elect new fellows, adopt resolutions, propose amendments to the Association's constitution and bylaws, create new scientific sections, and organize and aid local chapters of the AAAS.
The Board of Directors
The board of directors is composed of a chairperson, the president, and the president-elect along with eight elected directors, the executive officer of the association and up to two additional directors appointed by elected officers. Members serve a four-year term except for directors appointed by elected officers, who serve three-year terms.
The current chairman is Peter Agre, director of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute and a Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry for his discovery of aquaporins. Agre will serve in the post until the end of the 2011 AAAS Annual Meeting, 21 February 2011. (The chairperson is always the immediate past-president of AAAS.)
The board of directors has a variety of powers and responsibilities. It is charged with the administration of all association funds, publication of a budget, appointment of administrators, proposition of amendments, and determining the time and place of meetings of the national association. The board may also speak publicly on behalf of the association. The board must also regularly correspond with the council to discuss their actions.
Formal meetings of the AAAS are numbered consecutively, starting with the first meeting in 1848. Meetings were not held 1861—1865 during the American Civil War, and also 1942—1943 during World War II. Since 1946, one meeting has occurred annually, now customarily in February.