APPOINTMENTS TO FEDERAL ADVISORY COMMITTEES
Many scientists, engineers, and health professionals serve on roughly 1,000 federal S&T advisory committees, examining issues such as safety standards for drinking water and biodefense priorities. Some are chosen for their policy expertise, but most are selected for their scientific and technical knowledge. Experts who are nominated mainly to provide scientific or technical advice in particular fields should be chosen for their credentials and integrity -- not for irrelevant criteria, the report says. Also, conflict-of-interest requirements should not be so burdensome that top scientists, engineers, and health professionals are unwilling to serve on advisory committees particularly committees that review research proposals or provide direction to federal research programs.
The S&T perspectives of advisory committee candidates and their possible biases should be disclosed and discussed in closed sessions with committee members and department or agency staff at a committee's initial meeting. Doing so would provide context and help officials determine whether they need to appoint more committee members to balance strong opinions, as required by federal law.
Overall, heads of departments or agencies should establish a more visible process for nominating and appointing people, the report says. And the process should be supported by explicit policies and procedures. Staff members should be held accountable for its implementat
Contact: Vanee Vines
The National Academies