AAAS president stresses innovation in opening address

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel joins AAAS President Phillip A. Sharp, university presidents and others at the opening address of the the 2014 AAAS annual meeting in Chicago.

By Mark Kuykendall

When thousands of scientists gather in one location to share ideas, it takes a Nobel Prize winner to sum up the importance of the occasion.

“I am more convinced than ever that the only avenue to a better future is continued advancements in science that are applied wisely to society,” said Phillip A. Sharp, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of split genes.

In his opening address, Sharp highlighted the crucial importance of innovation, discovery and entrepreneurship for the continued advancement of a healthy and prosperous society.

“It is widely accepted that innovation is at the heart of economic growth, accounting for approximately half of the expansion in the economy over the last 50 years,” said Sharp.

Sharp’s comments stressed the growing importance of science at a time when issues like climate change intersect with an exponentially expanding global population.

“The world will not allow us to forgo progress on living standards at a time when emerging nations like India and China are showing the developing world how innovation based growth can enable the movement of hundreds of millions into the global middle class,” said Sharp.

Before Sharp’s address, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined the Morton Schapiro, president of Northwestern University, and Robert J. Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago, in welcoming the AAAS and all attendees to Chicago.

“It’s fitting to have a conference on science and technology here between what happens at our universities in pure research…and with our companies and their engineers in the practical application of those ideas,” said Emanuel.

The mayor touted improvements to the education system in the city, and highlighted the universities in the area and their importance to bringing jobs in innovation and science to the city.

“I happen to believe that since the three quarters of all jobs in the future require two years of post high school education, we’re actually giving the kids the type of education they need,” said the mayor.