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The BBC's John Duce
"Its primary aim is to allow scientists from all over the world to meet and exchange ideas"
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banner Friday, 16 February, 2001, 09:15 GMT
America celebrates science
Graphic BBC
By John Duce in San Francisco

One of the largest scientific conferences in the world has opened in San Francisco, US.

The annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is widely regarded as the most prestigious expo of its kind.

About 3,000 researchers from every part of the globe will be attending the hundreds of talks and lectures scheduled over the next five days. About 1,000 journalists are here to file news copy on the event.

Topics for discussion include the human exploration of space and the use of technology to help feed the world's rapidly growing population. But much of the debate is bound to centre on the international project to decode the human genome.

'Book of life'

This week saw the historic publication of the first analysis of the human "book of life" in the journals Nature and Science, and the revelation that we have little more than 30,000 genes.

One of the organisers of the 2001 AAAS expo, Michael Spinella, said a primary aim of the conference was to allow scientists from all over the world to meet and exchange ideas.

"What's interesting and unique about the AAAS is its diversity," she told the BBC. "It really covers every area of science. We've got top-level scientists from every discipline and it's interesting for them to meet up and consult with each other."

Two of the key figures in the genome story, Dr Craig Venter, who led the private effort to decode our DNA sequence, and Dr Francis Collins, who led the public effort, are both giving keynote speeches.

They have previously said that, in the coming decades, our greater knowledge of our genetic make-up will increase our chances of beating diseases such as cancer.

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