Remarks by Jonathan Fanton at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting
February 13, 2009 | Speech | Neuroscience & the Law, Policy Research, Conservation & Sustainable Development

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to Chicago on behalf of the MacArthur Foundation.

Chicago is a proudly international city, one of the world’s centers of science and technology. Among our accomplishments: the first controlled nuclear reaction, discovery of the top quark, carbon-14 dating. Our architects created the modern city, our industrialists pioneered the assembly line, and our companies developed the first artificial kidney, the cell phone, and car radios. So this is an appropriate place for the AAAS to hold its meeting and welcome their colleagues in the international community of science.

MacArthur is honored to support this event as we increase our attention to Science and Technology here in our home town and in the 60 countries where we work around the globe. Allow me to tell you a little about the Foundation. You may have heard of our so-called “genius awards,” the MacArthur Fellowships that recognize 25 exceptionally creative people each year. But the Foundation does far more. Within the U.S., we concentrate on urban community development, affordable rental housing preservation, juvenile justice reform, and how technology is changing the way young people learn. Almost half of our annual $260 million in grant-making is international, to work on population and reproductive health, human rights and international justice, peace and security, and biodiversity conservation.

We have taken the lead in launching the Encyclopedia of Life, a website which aims to have a page for every known species. Recently we began a Law and Neuroscience project to explore how advances in neuroscience will affect many of the assumptions that underlie our legal system. We have strengthened science research capacity at universities in countries where we work, especially Russia and Nigeria. And here at home we are sponsoring Science Chicago, the world’s largest year-long celebration of science.

You have chosen a theme for your meeting that resonates profoundly with MacArthur’s work. Our Conservation program is all about biodiversity preservation in eight large regions of incredible biodiversity under threat that cover 34 countries.

All our preservation efforts are at risk if we do not understand the threat of climate change and adapt to it. That is why MacArthur has launched a $50 million initiative called the Ecosystems and Livelihoods Adaptation Network. The Network will serve as an information hub, allowing researchers and practitioners to collaborate, share their most recent research and experience, and transmit successful ideas or practical measures rapidly around the world. We have commissioned several studies in every place we work to identify the impact of climate change and prepare adaptation plans.

We meet in the hometown of Barack Obama, encouraged by his commitment to base policy on evidence, not ideology. Working with the AAAS, MacArthur has been preparing for this moment.

Our Peace and Security Program has an initiative for Science, Technology, and Security to increase the number of mature scientists interested in security policy, to attract a younger generation, to strengthen university centers focusing on science and security policy, and to make expert advice available to policy-makers. We are pleased to have the AAAS as a partner with us in this endeavor through its Center for Science, Technology, and Security Policy.

This evening, we celebrate the global family of science, linked by a common commitment to free inquiry, creative curiosity, and intellectual rigor. MacArthur is privileged to support your mission to “advance science and serve society.” We look forward to more robust partnerships as we enter a period when the appreciation for science is growing. And we are proud that our former trustee, John Holdren, who did so much to elevate science at MacArthur, is now the President’s Science Advisor and that MacArthur Fellow Jane Lubchenco is Administrator of the NOAA.

I wish you a pleasant evening, and a stimulating time together.

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