Society is facing an array of complex policy questions. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are distinctively qualified to provide nonpartisan, objective guidance for decision makers on pressing issues. As we have done since our founding in 1863, we marshal the energy and intellect of the nation’s critical thinkers to respond to policy challenges with science, engineering, and medicine at their core.
Through a meticulous process of information collection, evidence analysis, and deliberation, our studies provide blueprints for progress. By shining a spotlight on subjects and facilitating dialogue across disciplines, our work advances understanding of critical issues. The needs of the nation—and therefore the topics we study— change over time, but our commitment to putting sound advice to work for the public good does not.
The work of the National Academies spurs progress by connecting understandings of science, engineering, and medicine to advising national policies and practice. Our studies have lasting impacts, from guiding NASA’s agenda for space exploration, to charting the course for improving the quality of health care, to proposing effective strategies to guard against cyberattacks.
When faced with a complex question, we bring together experts from across disciplines to look at the evidence with fresh eyes and openness to insights from other fields. These study committees survey the landscape of relevant research, hold public meetings to gather information, and deliberate to reach consensus, which results in a shared understanding of what the evidence reveals and the best path forward.
We shield committee deliberations and conclusions from influence by sponsors and special interests and make certain each report undergoes rigorous peer review to ensure that our advice is grounded in the best available evidence. This provides policy makers assurance that the results reflect the facts and the combined expertise of the science, engineering, and medical communities.
The National Academies also convene workshops, symposia, and other events that bring together experts and practitioners to consider issues related to science, engineering, and medicine and their implications for policy and practice. In a space free from partisan pressures and preset agendas, participants share their own research and perspectives and also look beyond them—making connections within and across disciplines, sharpening questions, sparking new ideas, and exploring possible solutions.
Some workshops focus on specialized areas, while others tackle big questions. When necessary, we can swiftly gather the nation’s top minds to address matters of urgent importance, such as how to combat an emerging virus or respond to a natural disaster.
When there is a need for ongoing dialogue, our roundtables and forums—which are organized around a topic—offer stakeholders an opportunity to build relationships and unravel complicated issues over time.
Regardless of the format, these gatherings go beyond bringing people together. They advance conversation, catalyze movement around an issue, and generate bold ideas.
In addition to our landmark studies and convening activities, the National Academies pursue a range of initiatives to strengthen the scientific, engineering, and medical fields and their capacity to contribute to human welfare. This includes supporting fellowship programs that foster the career development of young scientists and collaborating with the academies of other nations that advance science globally.
We strive to bring the benefits of science and technology to the economic, cultural, and industrial life of the nation and to the health and well-being of its citizens. In the same way the institution contributed to landmarks of American achievement such as the Apollo space program and the Human Genome Project, we continue to kindle new frontiers in science, engineering, and medicine.
Our activities help marshal new knowledge as it develops, identifying how it can be used to meet the needs of the public and decision makers— helping move us all toward a healthier, safer, and more prosperous future.
Our reports and convening activities have a wide range of impacts on policy and practice, on scales ranging from the global to the individual. They guide the development of federal laws and regulations, improve the effectiveness of government programs, shape the direction of research fields, and inform public knowledge and dialogue about issues of critical importance.
One of our reports influenced the development of federal fuel economy standards for the nation’s cars and trucks. Another provided evidence for the toxicity of secondhand smoke and prompted airlines to ban smoking on planes. When Ebola reached U.S. shores for the first time, we quickly gathered experts to identify what is known about the disease and its transmission.
Individuals around the world benefit from open access to our thousands of publications at www.nap.edu. Each year we receive thousands of comments from readers about how they plan to use our work to enhance their lives and communities. For example, a reader recently told us, “I am a trauma surgeon working in Bogotá, Colombia, and this material will be very useful in organizing prehospital and hospital trauma care in order to prevent deaths.” He was referring to our report A National Trauma Care System: Integrating Military and Civilian Trauma Systems to Achieve Zero Preventable Deaths After Injury
By applying our insights to a range of challenges, readers have helped advance change, improve their communities, and share knowledge with others.