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Committee Appointment Process

Selection of appropriate committee members, individually and  collectively, is essential for the success of a study. All committee members serve as individual experts, not as representatives of organizations or interest groups. Each member is expected to contribute to the project on the basis of his or her own expertise and good judgment. A committee is not finally approved until a thorough balance and conflict of interest discussion is held at the first meeting, and any issues raised in that discussion or by the public are investigated and addressed.

Careful steps are taken to convene committees that meet the following criteria:

An appropriate range of expertise for the task. The committee must include experts with the specific expertise and experience needed to address the study’s statement of task. One of the strengths of the National Academies is the tradition of bringing together recognized experts from diverse disciplines and backgrounds who might not otherwise collaborate. These diverse groups are encouraged to conceive new ways of thinking about a problem.

A balance of perspectives. Having the right expertise is not sufficient for success. It is also essential to evaluate the overall composition of the committee in terms of different experiences and perspectives. The goal is to ensure that the relevant points of view are, in the National Academies’ judgment, reasonably balanced so that the committee can carry out its charge objectively and credibly.

POINT OF VIEW IS DIFFERENT FROM CONFLICT OF INTEREST

A point of view or bias is not necessarily a conflict of interest. Committee members are expected to have points of view, and the National Academies attempt to balance these points of view in a way deemed appropriate for the task. Committee members are asked to consider respectfully the viewpoints of other members, to reflect their own views rather than be a representative of any organization, and to base their scientific findings and conclusions on the evidence. Each committee member has the right to issue a dissenting opinion to the report if he or she disagrees with the consensus of the other members.


Screened for conflicts of interest. All provisional committee members are screened in writing and in a confidential group discussion about possible conflicts of interest. For this purpose, a “conflict of interest” means any financial or other interest which conflicts with the service of the individual because it could significantly impair the individual's objectivity or could create an unfair competitive advantage for any person or organization. The term “conflict of interest” means something more than individual bias. There must be an interest, ordinarily financial, that could be directly affected by the work of the committee. Except for those rare situations in which the National Academies determines that a conflict of interest is unavoidable and promptly and publicly discloses the conflict of interest, no individual can be appointed to serve (or continue to serve) on a committee of the institution used in the development of reports if the individual has a conflict of interest that is relevant to the functions to be performed. For more information, see the National Academies’ Web site at www.national-academies.org.

Other considerations. Membership in the three Academies (NAS, NAE, IOM) and previous involvement in National Academies studies are taken into account in committee selection. The inclusion of women, minorities, and young professionals are additional considerations.

Specific steps in the committee selection and approval process are as follows:

  • Staff solicits an extensive number of suggestions for potential committee members from a wide range of sources, then recommends a slate of nominees.
  • Nominees are reviewed and approved at several levels within the National Academies; a provisional slate is then approved by the President of the National Academy of Sciences, who is also the Chair of the National Research Council.
  • The provisional committee list is posted for public comment in the Current Projects System on the Web (http://www8.nationalacademies.org/cp/).
  • The provisional committee members complete background information and conflict of interest disclosure forms.
  • Committee balance and conflict of interest discussion is held at the first committee meeting.
  • Any conflicts of interest or issues of committee balance and expertise are investigated; changes to the committee are proposed and finalized.
  • Committee is formally approved.
  • Committee members continue to be screened for conflict of interest throughout the life of the committee.