A Message From the Presidents

When President Abraham Lincoln signed the congressional charter that created the National Academy of Sciences in 1863, the nation was locked in a bitter Civil War. Yet Congress and the president saw the need for independent, expert scientific and technical advice; one of our first studies recommended ways to improve navigation for the Union's fleet of ironclad warships. In 2013, the Academy -- which has expanded to include the National Research Council, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine -- celebrates 150 years of service to the nation at a time when science, engineering, and medicine are more essential than ever for prosperity and security, not only in the U.S. but around the world.

Today's dramatic breakthroughs in science, technology, and medicine would not be possible without the contributions of world-class research universities. However, a 2012 report by the National Research Council warns that U.S. research universities are in danger of serious decline. The report calls on the federal and state governments, industry, and universities to each do its part to ensure that our research universities continue to be critical wellsprings of progress.

Tackling the obesity epidemic is one of the nation's best opportunities to prevent premature death and chronic diseases such as diabetes while also lowering skyrocketing health care costs. An ambitious report issued by the Institute of Medicine in 2012 sifts through more than 800 obesity prevention recommendations and identifies those that could work together most effectively to speed change.

Late in 2012, the federal government asked the National Academy of Sciences to take on a new, 30-year research initiative focused on human health and environmental protection in the Gulf of Mexico. To be funded over a period of years as a result of the settlements between the Department of Justice and BP and Transocean Deepwater Inc., the program will include issues concerning the safety of offshore oil drilling and hydrocarbon production and transportation in the region. As we do with all of our work, we will draw upon the expertise of the nation's most knowledgeable scientists, engineers, health professionals, and other experts.

Throughout our history, NAS, NAE, IOM, and the Research Council have provided independent, authoritative advice on science, engineering, and medicine. This Report to Congress summarizes a selection of studies issued in 2012. We look forward to continuing in this tradition of service to the nation.

Ralph J. Cicerone
President, National Academy of Sciences
Chair, National Research Council
Charles M. Vest
President, National Academy of Engineering
Vice Chair, National Research Council
Harvey V. Fineberg
President, Institute of Medicine