1 April 2015

Lack of applied environmental research at AAAS meeting

This year’s AAAS science conference contained a great deal about data management, big data and visualisation. Although there was little mention of applied environmental research at the meeting, there were some useful nuggets of information for Mistra.

The annual get-together arranged by the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) is the largest scientific conference in the world. Some 9,000 scientists, practitioners, decision-makers, journalists and others gathered in mid-February to attend hundreds of seminars, lectures and workshops. This year, the conference was held in San José on the West Coast.

The main themes of the conference this year were ‘Innovations, Information and Imaging’. Accordingly, there was much talk of big data and different ways of analysing the large quantities of data that various graphic visualisation techniques are making increasingly accessible. This was thus more a matter of new methods than of applicable research findings.

Environmental research was not high on the agenda this year, but one theme concerning climate change, the environment and ecology was presented. Several seminars in this block also covered new ways of visualising climate data, but also how visual technology can be used as a tool for pursuing various theses. Michael E. Mann from Pennsylvania State University held a lecture on this theme entitled ‘The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars’. Another seminar was about the need to boost returns from farming and the challenge of producing enough food for the global population.

Good global analysis

Malin Lindgren, Mistra’s Communications Manager, was on the spot in California.

‘Over the years, the AAAS conferences have been good for Mistra’s global analysis. They range wide, with both subject-specific and more general seminars and lectures.’

Lindgren particularly mentioned seminars that clarified the challenges of research communication, with the difficulty of making oneself heard in an arena where anyone can make virtually any statement whatsoever, except for the scientists, who have to stick to the truth.

‘These conferences are also an opportunity to meet researchers, and colleagues from other fund providers, who are often on the spot,’ says Malin Lindgren.

She and several others were also struck by the fact that so many speakers encountered technical problems:

‘Film projection broke down and there were network glitches. A bit funny, given the proximity of Silicon Valley.’

Text: Thomas Heldmark, Vetenskapsjournalisterna

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