Next week, many of the world’s most distinguished scholars, researchers and thinkers will descend on Seattle to discuss leading-edge research and current thinking on some of the most critical public issues of our time.

The 186th annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to be held in and around the Washington State Convention Center from Feb. 13-16, offers an opportunity to explore emerging ideas and hear from some of the world’s leading authorities on a broad range of subjects — from agriculture to physics to neuroscience. Statisticians will rub elbows with geologists, geographers will mix with chemists. Educators, engineers, historians, public policy makers and journalists will convene for scientific sessions, town halls, seminars and lectures heavily focused on the future.

As many as 10,000 people are expected to attend the annual meeting, which organizers say is the world’s largest general scientific gathering. In addition to the scientific and technical sessions for registrants, who need not be AAAS members, the event will include free public lectures and other low- or no-cost public events, including a two-day program of Family Science Days.

The theme of this year’s event, “Envisioning Tomorrow’s Earth,” is well-suited to this hub of tech and innovation, where new ideas have long found fertile ground. Lectures, plenary sessions, flash talks, town halls, screenings, seminars and special sessions all are organized along future-oriented tracks, each promising a rich vein of inquiry on the futures of everything from digital and urban transformations, biomedicine, science engagement and advocacy, health strategies, learning, ethics and other topics of current interest.

Local experts from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and University of Washington will join international speakers from academia, government and private industry.

Microsoft is a local sponsor. The University of Washington, the host university, is a top public university, receiving $1.58 billion in total research awards in fiscal year 2019. It has been home to 177 members of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, according to the university. During the 2019-20 school year, 16 UW graduate and undergraduate students were awarded Fulbright grants.

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The AAAS is one of America’s oldest scientific societies, founded in 1848, but its mission is as important as ever: to “advance science, engineering, and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people.”

It is a pleasure to welcome this illustrious gathering to the Emerald City.


An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly cited the mission of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which is to “advance science, engineering, and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people.”