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Kentucky Academy of Science | Eastern Kentucky University - Special Collections and Archives

Name: Kentucky Academy of Science

Historical Note:

The Kentucky Academy of Science (KAS) is an affiliate of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). At this writing (1992), it is in its 78th year of continuous operation. It is the largest scientific organization in the Commonwealth and embraces some twenty-two disciplines of science. Membership is open to anyone who has an interest in science and includes citizens of the Commonwealth as well as many outside the state.

OBJECTIVES OF THE ACADEMY: The objectives of the KAS are to encourage scientific research, to promote the diffusion of scientific knowledge, and to unify the scientific interests of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The aims of KAS are (1) to stimulate effective communication between all scientists within the Commonwealth, (2) to provide a forum for the presentation of scientific information of specific significance to the Commonwealth, (3) to foster the interaction of science with other sectors in seeking solutions to major social and environmental problems, (4) to interest the youth of the Commonwealth in science and to encourage them to consider science as a profession, and (5) to provide advisory assistance to the Commonwealth as well as to local governments in areas of science and technology.

ACTIVITIES: The Academy holds an annual meeting in the fall of the year, usually at one of Kentucky's institutions of higher education. In addition to concurrent sectional meetings, there is an annual business meeting, a banquet, and general sessions intended to stimulate the interests of all scientists. On occasion, the Academy organizes various symposia and conferences on subjects of special interest. The Academy sponsors the Kentucky Junior Academy of Science that is conducted by and for students at the pre-college levels. The Junior Academy sponsors a statewide spring symposium every year. Research grants are awarded yearly by appropriate committees from funds generated by endowments, institutional or corporate affiliates, and the Kentucky Academy of Science Foundation.

PUBLICATIONS: The Transactions of the Kentucky Academy of Science is the official publication of the Academy. The journal is published semiannually, and is sent to all members in good standing. It provides a medium for publishing the results of original investigations in scientific fields and serves as the official record of Academy activities. All papers submitted to the Transactions undergo a peer review process and conform to high standards of nationally respected journals. Information in the Transactions is distributed widely through interlibrary-exchange programs, international abstracting services, and distribution of reprints. A newsletter that contains items of general interest and official announcements is distributed to the members at least twice a year.

The first meeting of the Kentucky Academy of Science was held on May 8, 1914, in the Physics Building of "State College" (now the University of Kentucky). The meeting was attended by twenty-five scientists. Four scientific papers were presented and a constitution was adopted. Since that time, annual meetings (and sometimes biannual meetings) have been held. An exception was in 1945 when no meeting was held due to gasoline rationing during World War II.

At the eighth annual meeting in May 1921, the Academy formally accepted affiliation with the AAAS. Since 1916, abstracts of papers given at the meetings had been published in Science, the journal of AAAS. In 1923, this arrangement was terminated due to space limitations in Science. The Academy did not have funds to publish its own journal at that time. In 1924, Dr. Willard Rouse Jillson, the State Geologist, from his own funds, underwrote the cost of publishing the first Transactions of the Kentucky Academy of Science. Thus was the beginnings of the Transactions which have been published since that time. There were many lean years, especially during the depression of the 1930s and after World War II when the Transactions contained few pages. In 1990, paid membership had grown to 904, with 19 Educational Affiliates and 32 Corporate Affiliates. In 1990, the Transactions had grown to 202 pages, printed biannually on acid-free paper.

In the early days, papers were delivered before the entire membership. In 1991, there were 18 concurrent sections consisting of: Anthropology; Botany & Microbiology; Chemistry; Geography; Geology; Physics; Physiology; Biophysics; Biochemistry & Pharmacology; Science Education; Psychology; Sociology; Zoology & Entomology; Computer Science; Mathematics; Engineering; Scientific Information; Health Sciences; Agricultural Sciences; and Industrial Sciences.

The Kentucky Junior Academy of Science (KJAS) was organized in 1932 for pre-college students. KJAS has a spring symposium in which KJAS members present papers based on their own research. The winners often compete in the national meetings of the American Junior Academy of Science. They also compete in a Science Bowl and a Lab Skills competition. Plaques recognizing their accomplishments are awarded to the winners at the annual meeting.

While it is important for scientists to talk among themselves, it is also important that the Academy advise the public of their views and suggestions in the areas of their expertise. The Committee on Legislation makes itself available to the governor and the legislature should they need advice which the members of the Academy are uniquely qualified to give. Similarly, the Science Education Committee studies developments in science education (primarily pre-college) and presents its opinion to the proper authorities. The Public Relations Committee is responsible for informing the general public and building up an appreciation of the Academy. The Academy was in a difficult financial position for most of its life and could do little to support research for its members or anyone else. In 1974, Mr. Raymond Athey of Paducah, KY, made available an annual gift of $500 for botanical research. The Athey family added to those gifts over the years, and in 1991 the KAS Foundation had an endowment of $99,000 (most of which was donated by the Athey family) and had disbursed $8,607 in research grants from the earnings. The KAS Foundation was originated in 1980 to handle funds for research.

The Academy also played a vital role in obtaining an EPSCOR grant (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The EPSCOR program was designed to give a "boost" to those states that lagged behind in obtaining research grants. Previous work by members of the Academy had shown that Kentucky had received Research and Development funds from the federal government that, figured on a per capita basis, returned less than one-tenth of the national average. In 1984, the Academy joined with the "Kentucky Tomorrow" Commission to write a successful EPSCOR proposal totaling $15.5 million from NSF, the state, industry, and university funds. "Kentucky Tomorrow" was originated by Lt. Governor Steve Beshear for long-range planning of science and technology programs in Kentucky. As a result of the EPSCOR grant, annual external funding (outside of EPSCOR) received by EPSCOR target faculty increased by more than 100 percent from 1985 to 1989.

At this writing (June 1992), it appears that the EPSCOR grant has really provided a turning point for Kentucky Research and Development. A second EPSCOR grant, called an Enhancement grant, totaling about $2.8 million has been funded, and a grant from NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) has also been received. In addition, the Commonwealth of Kentucky has received a grant entitled State Science and Math Systemic Improvement Program from NSF to improve math and science teaching in Kentucky. This grant is for $10 million. Many other proposals are being written for grants from the Departments of Energy, Defense, Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, and others.

Throughout most of the years of the existence of the Academy, a constant theme occurred: an Executive Secretary was sorely needed, but the Academy did not have the funds to support such an office on even a part-time basis. In 1987, Dr. J. G. Rodriguez of the University of Kentucky retired from the Department of Entomology and volunteered his services as an Executive Secretary without compensation from the Academy. This will provide much needed continuity to the operation of the Academy. With the increase in income of the Academy, due to a large increase in membership and in the Affiliates, it may be possible to employ a part-time Executive Secretary at some future date.

By Ted George

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