More Than a Century of Public Service as Advisors to the nation
"... the Academy shall, whenever called upon by any department of the Government, investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art ..." from the Charter of the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Abraham Lincoln, March 3, 1863.
Are pesticide residues in food harmful to children? How can we make sure that plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapons is kept out of the hands of terrorists? What is the best way to measure poverty in the United States? What should children be learning about science in school?
The nation's leaders grapple with a multitude of questions every day that are—at their core—issues of science, technology, and medicine. In most cases, there are no easy answers. in fact, as society increasingly depends upon advances in science and technology, the questions become ever more complex.
Since it was created by Congress as a private, non-profit organization in 1863, the National Academy of Sciences has provided independent, objective scientific advice to the nation. In this century, the Academy established the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council, whose executive offices share the building on these grounds.
The Academies and the Institute are honorary societies that
elect new members to their ranks each year. The National Academies of Sciences and Engineering jointly manage the National Research Council, which was established in 1916 to conduct most of the institution's science-policy and technical work. The Institute of Medicine conducts policy studies that focus on health.
Each year, some 200 studies are conducted on a wide range of topics that span the spectrum of science, technology, and health—studies that help improve public policy, understanding, and education by using knowledge in the natural and social sciences, mathematics, and engineering to benefit the public welfare.
The Academy and its sister organizations provide a public service by working outside the framework of government to ensure independent advice. They enlist the nation's most knowledgeable scientists and engineers, as well as experts in other fields, all of whom volunteer their time to work on study committees that address specific concerns. The results of their deliberations have improved the lives of many individuals and the vitality of the nation.