Our Study Process: Frequently Asked Questions

How are committee members chosen?
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine issue calls for nominations for committee members, seeking recognized experts from diverse disciplines and backgrounds.   Each committee must include the full range of expertise and experience needed to address the study’s statement of task.   The overall composition of the committee is evaluated to make sure that points of view are reasonably balanced so that the committee can carry out its charge objectively and credibly. A provisional slate is posted for a 20-day comment period.  Once approved by the President of the National Academy of Sciences, all committee members are screened for conflict of interest. 

How does the Committee gather information before it assembles a report?
Study committees typically gather information through: 1) meetings that are open to the public and that are announced in advance through the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine website; 2) the submission of information by outside parties; 3) reviews of the scientific literature; and 4) the investigations of the committee members and staff. In all cases, efforts are made to solicit input from individuals who have been directly involved in, or who have special knowledge of, the problem under consideration.

The committee deliberates in meetings closed to the public in order to develop draft findings and recommendations free from outside influences. The public is provided with brief summaries of these meetings that include the list of committee members present. All analyses and drafts of the report remain confidential.

Who reviews the report before it is published?
As a final check on the quality and objectivity of the study, all Academies reports whether products of studies, summaries of workshop proceedings, or other documents must undergo a rigorous, independent external review by experts whose comments are provided anonymously to the committee members. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recruit independent experts with a range of views and perspectives to review and comment on the draft report prepared by the committee.

The review process is structured to ensure that each report addresses its approved study charge and does not go beyond it, that the findings are supported by the scientific evidence and arguments presented, that the exposition and organization are effective, and that the report is impartial and objective.

Each committee must respond to, but need not agree with, reviewer comments in a detailed “response to review” that is examined by one or two independent report review “monitors” responsible for ensuring that the report review criteria have been satisfied. After all committee members and appropriate officials from the Academies have signed off on the final report, it is transmitted to the sponsor of the study and is released to the public.

When does the committee meet?
The committee meets throughout the study process.

Can I attend committee meetings?
All meetings in which the committee gathers information are open to the public. All meetings will be streamed via webcast. They will also be recorded and posted to the study’s website.

Can I provide comments or information to the committee?
Yes. At information-gathering meetings, members of the public can present comments to the committee. Members of the public may also submit written statements and relevant information to the committee. All written statements are distributed to the committee and cataloged in the study’s public access file.

Can I see the comments and information submitted to the committee?
Written materials submitted to a study committee by external sources are listed in the project’s public access file and can be made available to the public upon request. Contact the Public Access Records Office (PARO) for a copy of the list and to obtain copies of the materials. Copies of materials are free to the press and government employees. Please send an email or call PARO to make a request or an inquiry.
Public Access Records Office
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 5th Street NW
Washington DC 20001
Tel: 202.334.3543
FAX: 202.334.2158
Email: paro@nas.edu
Normal business hours for PARO are 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.

Will the results of the study be made available to the public?Yes.  An electronic version of the final report will be available to download for free at www.nap.edu upon completion of the study.