Public Release: 

Headlines to cover at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, DC

Human gene-editing, plus scientific strategies to combat wildlife crime, amphibian decline, addiction, cancer, food shortages, and more

American Association for the Advancement of Science

WASHINGTON, D.C.-- Forensic techniques to fight wildlife crime, new information on how children learn language, and strategies to combat addiction, dementia tied to hearing loss, and weather-driven food shortages will be a few of this year's headlines at the world's largest general scientific conference.

A free public lecture on the revolutionary human gene-editing technique that could make it possible to correct disease-causing genes, plus sessions on sea-level rise, the safety of alternative tobacco products, and oral cancers caused by human papilloma virus also promise news at the 2016 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting.

The 182nd AAAS Annual Meeting, set for 11-15 February in Washington, D.C., will offer free public lectures and hands-on fun for families as well as an array of technical sessions for registrants. AAAS--publisher of the journals Science, Science Translational Medicine, Science Signaling, and Science Advances--may draw up to 10,000 total attendees. The 2015 AAAS Annual Meeting in San Jose, California, drew 9,722 total attendees. In 2011, when AAAS last convened in D.C., the meeting drew 7,553 total attendees, including 4,420 general registrants, 2,079 Family Science Days participants, 1,054 newsroom registrants.

For 2016, two free Family Science Days--Saturday and Sunday, 13-14 February--will feature hands-on science-learning activities, plus a jam-packed "Meet the Scientists" speaker series designed especially for middle- and high-school students. For details, see Events will take place in D.C.'s Marriott Wardman Park Hotel.

The theme of this year's conference, "Global Science Engagement," was set forth by AAAS President and newly named National Medal of Science winner Geraldine Richmond. "Scientists and engineers are working both within and outside of national boundaries on local and global issues," said Richmond, who serves as Presidential Chair in Science and Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oregon, and as U.S. Science Envoy to the Lower Mekong River Countries of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, and Thailand. "Challenges necessitating innovation and international scientific collaboration are abundant in food and water security, sustainable development, infectious disease and health, climate change, natural disasters, and energy."

A physicist and chemist, Richmond has long championed the importance of supporting women in science (she co-founded COACh, the Committee on the Advancement of Women Chemists), the value of science diplomacy, and global challenges such as climate change and childhood stunting. Her research has focused on using laser spectroscopy and computational methods to understand the chemistry and physics that occur at complex interfaces. The work relates to key problems in energy production, environmental remediation, and atmospheric chemistry. She will become the Chair of the AAAS Board of Directors on the last day of our annual meeting. In that capacity, she will serve as a voice for some 10 million affiliated scientists worldwide.

Free Public Lectures

Meeting co-chairs National Science Foundation Director France Córdova and Smithsonian Institution Secretary David J. Skorton will kick off a public lecture by the AAAS president at 6:00 p.m. Thursday, 11 February in the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, Salon 2.

In the same spot at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, 12 February, Christopher Dye, Director of Strategy in the Office of the Director General at the World Health Organization will describe international efforts to combat epidemic diseases.

At 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, 13 February, biochemist Jennifer Doudna, professor of chemistry and molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley, one of TIME magazine's top 100 most influential people, will discuss the groundbreaking gene-editing technique known as "CRISPR." The method--so-named for "clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (segments of DNA containing short repetitions of base sequences, followed by "spacer DNA")--opens the door for genomic surgery to correct disease-causing genes, but also raises complex ethical questions. Immediately following her plenary, Doudna will speak with reporters in the Marriott's Virginia Room.

On Sunday, 14 February at 5:00 p.m., Radiolab Host and Producer Jad Abumrad, a 2011 MacArthur Fellow, will explain how Radiolab uses a combination of deep-dive journalism, narrative storytelling, dialogue, and music to share big ideas with listeners.

Science News Opportunities

Highlights from the meeting will include these and many other breaking research news topics:

  • Human gene-editing: Questions and opportunities

  • Fighting wildlife crime with forensic science

  • Preparing for weather-driven food shortages

  • Are alternative tobacco products safe?

  • The human-health impacts of air pollution

  • Climate-change research: Drones, sea-level rise, and more

  • The neuroscience of addiction

  • Understanding how children hear and learn

  • Locked in: Speech loss without dementia

  • Hearing loss, cognitive decline, and access to hearing aids

  • Research transparency

  • U.S. public opinion on key S&T issues

  • And much more.

Reporters can contact AAAS to receive advance information about more than two-dozen embargoed press briefings and related social events for credentialed newsroom registrants.

The news briefing lineup will kick off Thursday, 11 February with the release of new content from the Science family of journals.

Meet the Scientists During Family Science Days


Free Family Science Days--scheduled for 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, 13-14 February in the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel--will include hands-on activities and stage shows for families with children, teenagers, and young adults. To attend, register in advance via the website above. Walk-in registration is also available on-site.

Family Science Days participants will have the opportunity to:

    - Drive a robot

    - Engineer a tsunami-safe building (or create an earthquake)

    - Collect data on sea turtles

    - Identify wildlife

    - Explore quantum computing

    - Build a climate record

    - Conduct their own experiments

    - Meet scientists and engineers.

Scientific Program for Registrants

In addition to free public offerings, registrants to the AAAS Annual Meeting will be able to sample a smorgasbord of symposia, seminars, and lectures covering more than 150 topics including climate change, energy, ecology and the environment, food and water resources, human origins and behavior, efforts to protect cultural heritage sites, precision and personalized medicine, and many other topics.

Topical lectures will include insights on illegal wildlife trafficking, by Samuel Wasser of the University of Washington; a discussion of "Supermassive Black Holes and the Evolution of the Universe," by Thaisa Storchi Bergmann of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil; an introduction to "Psychological Perspectives on Race Relations in the 21st Century," by Jennifer Richeson of Northwestern University, and more.

The first AAAS Annual Meeting took place in 1848 in Philadelphia, Pa. Past meetings have featured U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton; Microsoft's Bill Gates; the science ministers of the European Commission, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Hungary; Nobelists Sherwood Rowland, Leon Lederman, Wolfgang Ketterle and many others.


Press registration:

MEDIA NOTE: On-site registration for journalists opens at 7:00 a.m. on Thursday, 11 February, in the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, Maryland A. The AAAS President's press breakfast will begin at 7:45 a.m. on that date, followed by the first news briefing at 9:00 a.m. Additional information on AAAS Annual Meeting news can be provided in advance to reporters who ensure adherence to the embargo policy. Embargoed news will be available to reporters via the AAAS virtual newsroom, online at EurekAlert!,, beginning Monday, 8 February.

This news release contains only general, publicly available information about this year's program, and is therefore appropriate for immediate release.

About AAAS

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science as well as Science Translational Medicine, Science Signaling, and a digital, open-access journal, Science Advances. AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes nearly 250 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world. The non-profit AAAS is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, public engagement, and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!,, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS. See

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.