About Our Expert Consensus Reports

SealWhat is an Expert Consensus Report?
It's a report produced by a committee of experts convened by the National Academies (most often in the name of the National Research Council, but also in the name of the Institute of Medicine, the Transportation Research Board [another division of the National Research Council], the National Academy of Engineering, and occasionally the National Academy of Sciences) to study a specific scientific or technological issue of national importance.

These experts bring the range of expertise and balance of perspectives to address the issue. They serve pro bono and are screened for conflicts of interest to ensure that the committee is able to provide impartial and objective advice.

Through these committees, the Academies produce about 200 to 250 consensus reports each year. These reports are viewed as being credible and authoritative because of their independence and the unique ability of the Academies to recruit the world's top experts to serve on these committees and because of the unique study process.

As a final check on each study's quality and objectivity, all Academies consensus reports undergo a rigorous peer-review by independent experts. As a result, these reports not only represent the consensus view of the committee, but also have a formal Academies sign-off indicating that the report adequately addresses the statement of task, doesn't go beyond the task, and that all important issues raised in the peer-review have been adequately addressed.

More information about our study process and a complete study process timeline can be viewed at Our Study Process page.

Qualities of the Academies' expert, consensus reports include:

  • Independence. Free from external pressure, the Academies are able to examine controversial issues without reference or regard to politics or special interest. They are not part of the federal government.
  • Expertise. The Academies have access to the nation’s and world’s top scientific and technical experts to produce their reports.
  • Objectivity. The rigorous committee process for balancing views and avoiding conflict of interest ensures impartial, unbiased advice.
  • Integrity. Every one of the reports follows a meticulous study process to ensure the findings match the evidence and is submitted for an independent external peer-review by anonymous experts prior to publication, thus safeguarding the credibility of the findings.
  • Evidence-based. All findings, conclusions, and recommendations are based on the best available data.
  • They are produced by non-stakeholders. Consensus reports of the Academies are based on the evidence available to address the issues being studied. When the reports are completed the reports are made public and distributed to interested parties and the authoring committees are disbanded. The Academies do not become stakeholders on the issues in the reports and lobby their conclusions.
  • Nearly all reports are done at the request of others. Academies consensus studies are done at the request of the Federal Government, state governments, and some foundations. Only a few are done at their own initiative (typically on topics that are either so urgent that they should be done without delay, such as a report on the ability of science and engineering to address homeland security that was initiated right after Sept 11, 2001 or are important topics that will not likely be subject of a governmental request, such as guidelines for stem cell research.)
  • Academies leaders approve all studies. The Academies are not required to address any issues that their leaders do not feel are appropriate (e.g., are technical and objective in nature and have adequate information available to make findings.)
  • The Academies do not produce consensus reports for private for-profit firms with direct interests in their topics.