Today on BoingBoing: Highlights from the world's largest general science conference


Last week, thousands of scientists gathered in Washington D.C. for the 2011 American Association for the Advancement of Science conference. While most science conferences are field-specific—a geology conference here, a bio-medicine symposium there—AAAS is the big, fully-loaded enchilada, featuring speakers and panels that cover just about every facet of science that you can imagine. It lasts for six days. The unabridged program is as thick as a phone book. The two times I've been to AAAS, in 2009 and 2010, I've found myself so wrapped up in rushing from one amazing presentation to the next that I would go through an 8-hour day before I remembered to stop and eat.

I wasn't able to make it to AAAS 2011, but lots of other science journalists were there, and I've been reading their work. Today, I'm going to post about some of the most fascinating stories to come out of this year's conference—A few highlights, and another post with links galore.

Want more sciency goodness? A great place to start is Science Magazine. This website is connected to the AAAS organization, who are also the publishers of the peer-reviewed journal Science. They've got all sorts of podcasts, videos, and stories from AAAS 2011, which should give you a good idea of the breadth of topics the conference covers.

Image: Some rights reserved by krossbow


  1. One of the best things about this meeting was the Family Science Days they had over the weekend. Being lucky enough to live outside DC, we took our kids down on Saturday. And it was great. They had plenty for the kids to do, to get their hands into. In particular, NSF had a great booth with the SciGirls. Young graduate students and post-docs who truly enjoyed demoing and explaining things to my 8 yr old daughter. This went a long way in helping her see herself as a potential scientist.

    My complements also to all the professional researchers that put the energy forward to talk with my kids about what they do. My wife and I just got to stand back and let the kids talk as they wanted to with these folks. You know the kids got something out of it when the next morning all they wanted to do is play “Science Conference.” Don’t ever think professional scientist don’t want to put the effort forward to engage the next generation.

  2. Correction. With around 200,000 members [Wikipedia], AAAS may well be “The World’s Largest General Scientific Society,” as it bills itself, but its Annual Meeting is far from the “world’s largest gathering of scientists.” I couldn’t find exact numbers for the 2010 meeting, but I believe it draws around 10,000 people, only half of which are scientists. The Society for Neuroscience’s 2010 Annual Meeting drew nearly 32,000 people in 2010, 26,000 of which were scientists.

  3. I have no doubt that the AAAS meeting is big, diverse, and fun. I’d love to attend it myself.

    But it isn’t even close to being the world’s largest gathering of scientists. I couldn’t find any exact attendance records online, but an prediction for AAAS 2010 on their own site is ~8,000. Last year’s Society for Neuroscience meeting topped out over 31,000, and I wouldn’t assume it was the biggest science meeting, either.

  4. My inner pedant thanks you.

    Actually, AAAS should be commended for drawing as well as it does; I would imagine that it’s much harder to get active scientists to a general meeting than a field-specific meeting. LIke I said, looks like a fun meeting.

    Speaking of pedantry, I meant “a prediction.”

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