A Message From the Presidents

(left to right) C. D. Mote, Jr., president of the National Academy of Engineering; Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences; Victor J. Dzau, president of the National Academy of Medicine, photo by Paul KennedyMore than 150 years ago, in the midst of a civil war, President Lincoln signed the congressional charter creating what would become the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine because he recognized the need for an independent science advisory body outside of government. Ever since, our ability to provide unbiased, nonpartisan, evidence-based guidance on complex challenges relating to science, engineering, and medicine has made us trusted “advisers to the nation.”

This Report to Congress provides a snapshot of our impact in just one year — 2016 — with highlights from some of the hundreds of reports we produced. Our committees examined the economic and fiscal consequences of immigration, performed an exhaustive review of the impacts of genetically engineered crops, and identified ways that the U.S. civilian and military trauma care systems could draw upon each other’s strengths for the benefit of all patients, among other complex issues. The nearly 6,000 scientists, engineers, health professionals, and policy experts who gather together over months to conduct our studies serve without compensation to examine the evidence and issue the peer-reviewed findings and recommendations contained in our reports.

But policy reports are only a part of the important work we do. In 2016, for example, the National Academies’ Gulf Research Program — founded as part of a legal settlement surrounding the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill — awarded millions of dollars of research grants and fellowships aimed at making the Gulf of Mexico region stronger and more resilient. The National Academy Medicine’s Vital Directions in Health and Health Care initiative brought together more than 150 researchers, scientists, and policy experts to provide a succinct blueprint to address challenges to Americans’ health and health care that span beyond debates over insurance coverage. And the National Academy of Engineering made important strides toward advancing the vision presented in the 2008 Grand Challenges of Engineering, most notably through the Grand Challenges Scholars Program, which is focusing on ensuring that we have the engineering talent needed for the global challenges we face in the 21st century.

2016 was notable at the Academies for another reason: Marcia McNutt took the helm as president of the National Academy of Sciences, building upon her decades of experience as a leading scientist, agency administrator, and leader. Sadly, we also lost a great visionary, friend, and colleague, former NAS President Ralph Cicerone. His steadfast devotion to advancing science and scientific discovery will be very much missed.

Marcia McNutt
President, National Academy of Sciences
C. D. Mote, Jr.
President, National Academy of Engineering
Victor J. Dzau
President, National Academy of Medicine