Every February brings an exciting event for scientists – the AAAS Annual Meeting. AAAS is the American Association for the Advancement of Science, whose mission is to “advance science, engineering, and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people.” It is the world’s largest multidisciplinary scientific society and the publisher of the Science family of journals. This year’s Annual Meeting brought scientists, engineers, and press from around the world to Seattle, Washington for three days of scientific sessions, panels, press events, discussions, and plenary talks in many different disciplines of science.
“Computer science touches almost every aspect of our society today so it is critical that computer scientists engage in discussions of pressing challenges and evaluate how we as a discipline can help address those challenges. Disinformation, its rapid spread, and the toll it is taking on our democracy is a great example – computer science has contributed to the rise of this challenge and we can certainly contribute to finding solutions, but to do so we need to connect with other disciplines and honestly assess and discuss the vulnerabilities and security risks of the things we create.”
– Nadya Bliss, CCC Executive Council Member
Traditionally, computing has been under-represented at the Annual Meeting despite its great potential to inform scientists and researchers about the exciting research happening in the field and across related and impacted disciplines, especially as it relates to broader impacts of science and policy.
As Jim Kurose, former Assistant Director of the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate at the National Science Foundation and a member of the Program Committee for the annual AAAS meeting shared, “The annual AAAS meeting is absolutely the best face-to-face venue for sharing the state-of-the-art and recent advances in computing with the broader scientific community. This happens through special sessions that are dedicated to specific topics, as well as through widely-attended keynote talks. This year, three prominent computer scientists – Bill Gates, Eric Hovitz, and Krysta Svore – gave awesome keynote addresses at the Seattle meeting.”
Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, spoke about how gene editing and AI can benefit the world’s poorest populations (watch the video of Gates’ speech here). Eric Horvitz, Technical Fellow and Director of Microsoft Research Labs, gave a topical lecture on AI Advances and Aspirations. Krysta Svore, General Manager of Quantum Systems at Microsoft, gave a talk titled Develop for Quantum Impact.
The Computing Community Consortium (CCC) has been working with members of AAAS’s Section T (Information, Computing, and Communications) to increase the presence of computing research at the Annual Meeting. There were 18 scientific sessions that identified with Section T at this year’s meeting – which is likely an all-time high, ranging in topics from synthetic biology to communication through touch. The CCC sponsored five of these scientific sessions:
- New Approaches to Fairness in Automated Decision Making
- Using Computing to Sustainably Feed a Growing Population
- Artificial Intelligence Research: A Community Roadmap
- Detecting, Combating, and Identifying Dis and Mis-information
- Next Generation Computer Hardware
Related resources from each session can be found by following the hyperlinks, and session slides are linked below the speaker’s name. In addition, the Catalyzing Computing podcast recorded a live podcast from the AAAS Main Stage with John Beieler from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and Nadya Bliss led a debrief about the Disinformation Session on the Expo Stage. In-depth write-ups about each session and the Q&As that followed will be appearing on the CCC Blog in the coming weeks.
“As a computer scientist and Chair of the Computing Community Consortium, I believe that it is important that we explain the value of our work to society. This is due to the altruistic motivation of enhancing our positive impact and the beneficial motivation of ensuring that citizens and their representatives see the value to society of funding pre-competitive information technology work. AAAS is a great venue to share our insights. Now, and going forward, is an important time to do so, as technology products are no longer viewed as an unalloyed good.”
– Mark D. Hill, CCC Chair
Proposals for AAAS 2021 are due by April 16, 2020. Please consider submitting a proposal yourself or reaching out to the CCC (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions or want to discuss your idea and possibly coordinate with others in the community.