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National Academy of Sciences
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National Academy of Sciences
Some Frequently Asked Questions

Is the National Academy of Sciences part of the government?

No, the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council are private, nonprofit organizations. They provide policy advice under a congressional charter granted to the National Academy of Sciences. Together, the four organizations are also known under the umbrella name "The National Academies."

The congressional charter that established the National Academy of Sciences was signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 to create an independent adviser for the U.S. government on science and technology matters. As requests grew in complexity and scope, the National Research Council was established in 1916 as the academy's operating arm. The National Academy of Engineering and Institute of Medicine followed in 1964 and 1970.

The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine are honorific, membership organizations. Election by peers to these organizations is considered a high honor.

How should I reference your reports in my story?

Check the report's cover and front matter to see which organization is the primary author. Most reports are authored by the National Research Council or Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council is the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering. Reporters often write, "a report by the National Research Council, an arm of the congressionally chartered National Academy of Sciences," or "a report by the Institute of Medicine, the health care arm of the National Academy of Sciences."

What is the National Academies?

The National Academies refers to all four organizations as a group: the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council.

Are report authors employees?

No, reports are authored by a committee of experts and subjected to peer review by another group of experts, which remains anonymous until the report is published. All are volunteers who work pro bono in service to the nation. Paid staff scientists and administrators facilitate the work of the committee. For more on the study process, visit our policies and procedures page.

How are committees balanced, and how is conflict of interest evaluated?

For the National Research Council's policy on committee composition and conflicts of interest, see our conflict of interest page.

Are your reports peer reviewed?

Yes, all of the institution's reports - whether products of studies, summaries of workshop proceedings, or abbreviated documents - must undergo an independent review by anonymous experts who were not involved in the report's preparation. This process is overseen by the Report Review Committee, whose responsibilities are to ensure that the report addresses the approved study charge and does not go beyond it; the findings are supported by the evidence and arguments presented; and the exposition and organization are effective.

What is your major source of funding?

The federal government funds about 85 percent of our work. The rest is funded internally or by foundations.

What is the definition of science?

According to the latest edition of Science, Evolution, and Creationism, issued by the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine in early 2008, science is "the use of evidence to construct testable explanation and prediction of natural phenomena, as well as the knowledge generated through this process."

How are members elected and how many members are there in the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine?

Each organization elects new members annually. Current membership information is maintained by the membership offices of each organization. For details on the nomination and election process, visit the membership offices of each organization:

National Academy of Sciences
National Academy of Engineering
Institute of Medicine

What is the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences?

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is an independent, multidisciplinary scientific journal published by the National Academy of Sciences. Established in 1914, the journal publishes cutting-edge research reports, commentaries, reviews, perspectives, colloquium papers, and actions of the NAS. The evidence and views presented in papers published in PNAS are those of the authors and do not represent views, findings, or positions of the National Academy of Sciences or National Research Council. PNAS is supported principally by subscriptions and advertising. For more information, visit http://www.pnas.org/.