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Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco

San Francisco is sizzling with science. Today marks the start of the 2007 version of the annual meeting of the AAAS, the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Last year the meeting was held in St. Louis, this year I’m happy to be attending in a very warm San Francisco. The oddly toasty weather here is actually somewhat ironic, since the main theme this year is Science and Technology for Sustainable Well-Being, and climate change features prominently on the conference programme.

The conference felt a little different this year, and my feeling was confirmed by James Cornell, president of the International Science Writers Association, who has been coming to AAAS meetings for 20 years or so. He told me that he found the science presented this year was less “meaty” and more about policy. The United States appears to realise that they have a lot of money but lack the technologies and the governmental vision that are needed to steer this country into a sustainable future.

Another interesting observation from James was that the number of science writers from the US seems to be declining whereas the number of European journalists attending the meeting is rising. A couple of years ago the ratio would be 5 to 1 in favour of American journalists. But the tables have turned the past few years and the amount of non-US working reporters are now the majority in the newsroom. His explanation is that budget cuts in US media are detrimental for science journalists in this country. Science editors at newspapers are disappearing and there are almost no more science programmes on television in the United States. This made us glad that we can still listen to Ira Flatow on NPR’s Science Friday, which was broadcast live from the AAAS again this year. Below is a picture of Ira talking to scientists about the probability of water on Mars.

Science Friday with Ira Flatow