BOSTON—State science academies, which traditionally ply the backwaters of the scientific world, can actually play vital roles in public debates that involve science and technology, according to an environmental policy specialist.

The North Carolina Academy of Sciences (NCAS) has shown the way by playing an active role in setting standards for hazardous waste landfills and designing a state regulatory approach to toxic air pollutants, reported Richard N.L. Andrews, director of the University of North Carolina Institute for Environmental Studies, at last month’s meeting here of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In both cases, said Andrews, there was general agreement among environmental and industry groups that the panels organized by the academy “came up with fair conclusions.”

The NOAS was founded in 1902 as an independent, non-profit corporation catering to biologists at small independent colleges. Its outreach efforts began in 1979 when it formed a committee on public...

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