AAAS announces new center to communicate scientific evidence on public issues

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) announces the launch of the Center for Scientific Evidence in Public Issues, which will bring clearly and strategically communicated information to decision-makers–from policymakers to parents–and to others who influence them, when they need it most.

The new Center will address important policy issues that are at the forefront of public conversation and involve a broad range of audiences–from the federal executive and legislative branches to state and local governments, the judiciary and private citizens. Diverse viewpoints will be considered in assessing the state of the science, the evidence available, recent and future directions for research and knowledge gaps, as well as societal contexts such as policy decisions and public input.

“At a time when decision-makers too often ignore, misunderstand or misuse relevant evidence, we need new ways to communicate policy-relevant scientific evidence to decision-makers and influencers in all areas of government and society,” said Rush Holt, chief executive officer at AAAS. “The AAAS Center for Scientific Evidence in Public Issues will connect scientific expertise to the decisions and policies that affect our lives.”

The work and communications efforts of the AAAS Center for Scientific Evidence in Public Issues will reach audiences in communities across the United States, with Center staff based at AAAS headquarters in Washington, D.C. Generous founding support has been provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Rita Allen Foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Hellman family.

“Sound, evidence-based analysis can give early warning of potential problems, point to strategies that optimize solutions and anticipate the consequences of policy choices. Yet science and technology are often an afterthought in public debate,” said Harvey V. Fineberg, president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. “This new center has the potential to engage the right stakeholders, advance evidence-based decision making and lead to better solutions.”

Science policy and public affairs expert Michael Fernandez has been selected as the founding director of the AAAS Center for Scientific Evidence in Public Issues. “The most pressing issues we face today all have an important science and evidence-based component, a clear public interest component, and a significant public policy component,” he said. “Our work will help narrate the evidence to make it clearer and more relevant, compelling and useful to decision-makers.”

Fernandez joins AAAS from George Washington University, where he was most recently a senior fellow for its Food Policy Institute and Sustainability Collaborative and a lecturer at the Milken Institute of Public Health. Prior to that, he was senior director of global public policy at Mars, Inc., and executive director at the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology. He also has experience working in federal agencies as past associate administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service of the Department of Agriculture and as special assistant in the Pesticides, Prevention and Toxic Substances division of the Environmental Protection Agency. Fernandez first became involved in policy as a AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow with the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry in 1991, and then as professional staff with the committee for the next three years. He holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Princeton University.

The AAAS Center for Scientific Evidence in Public Issues will be adding policy and communications staff and an advisory council over the next few months and plans to hold stakeholder engagement summits in early 2019.

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