Image: Anthony Canamucio

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self- perpetuating society of distinguished scientists and engineers "dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare," and committed to "advis[ing] the federal government on scientific and technical matters."

The Academy regularly conducts studies for a variety of sponsors, most often the federal government. The public, as well as those who are knowledgeable about the subjects in question, assumes that these analyses are unbiased and performed by disinterested experts and that they are, therefore, the benchmark for accuracy and objectivity. Consequently, the Academy's studies are widely cited by the media and relied upon by the Congress and by Executive Branch agencies for the formulation of legislation and policy.

However, two recent committees working under the auspices of the National Research Council (NRC), the research arm of the Academy, are problematical. Both...

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