The National Academies: Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine

Our Mission

The National Academies addresses critical national issues and provides cogent, unbiased advice to the United States government and its citizens in matters of science, engineering, and medicine.

For More Information


Cameron Fletcher
Associate Director, Foundation Relations


Tel: 202 334 2431

Our Work

The National Academies are the nation’s most respected, objective, and authoritative advisors on science, technology, and health issues. Including more than 135 Nobel Prize winners, National Academies members are recognized as among the most important people in their fields. In their volunteer service on National Academies committees, they join with other leading scientists, researchers, healthcare professionals, and business leaders to carefully study and make recommendations on the most pressing issues and most difficult challenges.

The National Academies appoint committees to conduct a consensus study, organize an ad hoc convening function (such as a workshop, roundtable, or other forum), or survey the state of understanding in a particular field in order to identify and assess emerging issues and challenges. Some 650 committees are currently active, drawing on the expertise of more than 11,000 members who serve pro bono.

Committee membership is determined by the institution, which retains sole responsibility for the appointment of committee members based on their professional expertise, and which reviews membership composition for balance and to avoid conflicts of interest. While sponsors may suggest candidates for consideration for membership, they have no influence on the composition of study committees or on their conclusions.

Studies are conducted according to a strict, rigorously impartial process, with the final form and content of each study report determined solely by the Academies and the authoring committee. All Academies reports are available to the public.

Data-gathering committee meetings and convening activities are announced in advance and open to the public (with the rare exception of those concerning classified or other restricted data).

All of these factors ensure the independence and objectivity of the Academies’ study process and give the results credibility.


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Structure of the Organization

Major Program Units

Study committees and convening activities are typically overseen by continuing or standing committees (often called boards). Examples of standing boards include the Board on Children, Youth and Families and the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources. Boards meet periodically in open session.

For administrative purposes, the Academies’ standing boards and committees are organized into the following six divisions:

Institutional Organization

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) was chartered by Congress in 1863 as advisor to the federal government on decisions involving scientific and technological issues. NAS members are dedicated to the use of science and technology research and applications to improve society and human well-being. Dr. Bruce Alberts is president of the NAS.

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE), established in 1964 as advisor to the federal government, is an invaluable national resource that provides leadership and guidance on the application of engineering resources to social and economic problems. Dr. Wm. A. Wulf is president of the NAE.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM), established in 1970, comprises distinguished professionals drawn from the fields of healthcare, public health, research, and education. The IOM provides policymakers with guidance on matters pertaining to the health of the public. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the IOM.

Each of these organizations consists of members elected by peers in recognition of distinguished achievement in their respective fields.The National Academy of Sciences includes about 1,800 members, the National Academy of Engineering about 1,900, and the Institute of Medicine about 1,200. All three organizations also elect foreign associates.

The National Research Council (NRC), the principal operating agency of the NAS, NAE, and IOM, was organized in 1916 to associate the broader science and technology community with the institution’s charter to further knowledge and to advise the federal government.

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Our Products & Services

The National Academies offer a wide variety of products and services:

  1. Consensus studies are the most common type of service. The Academies appoint a group of distinguished scientists, engineers, healthcare professionals, and others with the appropriate expertise who meet to review the state of knowledge in a particular subject. These scientists, who often have diverse backgrounds and ideas, work together to reach consensus on timely, often controversial, topics.
  2. Workshops and symposia bring together policy makers, members of industry, scientists, engineers, healthcare professionals, and sometimes laypeople to exchange information and views and to discuss timely issues. There may be anywhere from 25 to 250 participants. Proceedings or workshop summaries are often produced.
  3. Roundtables are discussion groups that exchange information and ideas but do not produce reports.
  4. Postdoctoral fellowships and internships are offered for scientists, physicians, and engineers who are interested in science policy.

A representative sampling of recent Academies products includes both science-based analytical reports and the special audience-targeted products based on them, such as brochures, pamphlets, posters, and Web sites.


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For Foundations

To receive the Academies’ monthly e-mail newsletter, Philanthropy Horizons, with the latest information about meetings, activities, and recently released reports of likely interest to foundations, send a blank email to

Foundation representatives are invited to attend and participate in all open meetings, including the meetings of standing boards. If you are interested in learning more about this outreach effort, please contact Cameron Fletcher.

For further information about the National Academies, contact:

Cameron Fletcher
Associate Director, Foundation Relations

The National Academies
500 Fifth Street NW, NAS 068
Washington DC 20001

Tel: 202 334 2431
Fax: 202 334 1270

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