Frequently Asked Questions

What do all these acronyms mean?

The National Academies are comprised of four distinguished organizations - the National Research Council (NRC), the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). These non-profit organizations provide a public service by working outside the framework of government to ensure independent advice on matters of science, technology, and medicine.

What are the relationships between the Board and the NRC/IOM, and between all of these and the National Academy of Sciences?

The Water Science and Technology Board (WSTB), is part of the National Research Council's (NRC) Division on Earth and Life Studies (DElS). The National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), the Institute of Medicine (IOM), and the NRC are the four organizations that comprise the National Academies. The NRC is the operating arm of the NAS and the NAE. Congressional charter established the NAS in 1863. The NRC, NAE, and IOM were established under the same charter in 1916, 1964, and 1970, respectively, and are all private, non-profit, self-governing membership bodies.

What is the relationship between the Water Science and Technology Board and DELS?

The Division on Earth and Life Studies (DELS) is one of the four major divisions of the National Research Council (NRC) that encompasses the WSTB and 11 other boards.

Are your meetings open to the public?

All meetings are open to the public, unless otherwise stated, such as when a committee is deliberating over final conclusions and recommendations. However, we do ask that you RSVP if you would like to attend a meeting, so that we can ensure that the meeting space is large enough to accommodate everyone who plans to attend.

How can I learn about meetings before they take place instead of after they have taken place?

You can ask to be added to the mailing list of the Water Science and Technology Board. We send invitations to meetings and information about projects to people in our database who have indicated an interest in a particular field related to that project. You can also visit our web site regularly to see if any new meetings have been added.

Who sits on your committees?

The projects undertaken by the National Academies are conducted or overseen by expert committees. Our committees typically are comprised of 10-20 volunteers from a range of disciplines and sectors, with expertise pertinent to the issues under consideration. Prospective committee members are identified in a variety of ways, most of which involve suggestions from individuals considered knowledgeable in the fields in which nominees are sought. Once a list of nominees has been developed, the list is sent to the chair of the National Research Council (NRC) for approval.

The NRC procedures include specific questions and assessments at virtually every stage of a project that are designed to bring possible conflicts of interest to the surface. Two essential parts of this process are, at the time of appointment, completion of a short form on "Potential Sources of Bias" that lists professional and financial connections and indicates any positions taken in relevant public statements, and discussion of this information at the committee's first meeting. When it is difficult to find individuals with the pertinent knowledge who have not been involved previously with an issue that will come before the committee, the situation is resolved by selecting a carefully balanced group so that all points of view can be represented.

Are you a government agency?

The National Academies were created by the federal government to serve as advisers on scientific and technological matters. The National Academies are private, non-governmental organizations, and we do not receive direct federal appropriations for our work. Many of our studies are funded by government agencies, but we also receive funding from private foundations.

Do you award grants?

No. The Water Science and Technology Board was created to address and advise on major national and international water issues in an impartial and expert manner.

Where does the Board get funding?

WSTB studies are conducted with funding procured from study sponsors. Studies are sometimes initiated in response to inquiries from potential sponsors, while the topics of some studies are generated by WSTB members and staff. WSTB study sponsors have been traditionally been federal agencies, and federal agencies today constitute the large majority of WSTB study sponsors. The WSTB has, however, recently been involved in several important studies sponsored by state agencies and private foundations, and the WSTB anticipates a future in which it continues to broaden its range of study sponsors. WSTB studies are also frequently conducted with support from multiple sponsors.

How are your reports reviewed and produced?

Every report produced by the National Research Council undergoes a lengthy review process. In addition to extensive review within the institution, individuals independent of the institution, who are not involved in the authoring study committeethe institutional review process has been satisfactorily completed. This process ensures the credibility and authority of every NRC report by subjecting it to critical review by a body of peers highly knowledgeable in the subject matter. Adherence to the review process protects against a committee taking a narrow or parochial view of a problem, or failing to consider fully or properly document data or information pertinent to the issue under review. The process is particularly aggressive in differentiating committee opinions and judgment from findings of fact well grounded in research.

Are your reports free or for sale? And are they all on the Internet?

Some of our publications are free, and most are available on-line at National Academies Press. Most are available for sale through National Academy Press. Please see our Publications section for information on the availability of specific reports. You can also request a hard copy of our list of publications by calling our publications order line at (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313.