Academy Criticism Of A Foreign Associate Stirs Debate Over NAS Role And Policies

Controversy centers on whether and how the elite science body should deal with members whose behavior is questionable For the first time in its 129-year history, the National Academy of Sciences has sent a letter to one of its members hinting that he should resign. The unprecedented move has called into question the academy's role as an ostensibly apolitical body. The ensuing debate has focused on, among other issues, whether NAS should censure its members whose activities are offensive to a l

Barbara Spector
Sep 27, 1992


Controversy centers on whether and how the elite science body should deal with members whose behavior is questionable
For the first time in its 129-year history, the National Academy of Sciences has sent a letter to one of its members hinting that he should resign. The unprecedented move has called into question the academy's role as an ostensibly apolitical body. The ensuing debate has focused on, among other issues, whether NAS should censure its members whose activities are offensive to a large group of people, what evidence is necessary to prompt such censure, and whether it is proper for the NAS council, without first consulting the academy's grass roots, to confront members it believes have violated "what the National Academy stands for," in the words of the academy's foreign secretary, James B. Wyngaarden.

The letter, signed by NAS president Frank Press and by Wyngaarden, was delivered in July to Russian...