President Abraham Lincoln signed the legislation creating the U.S. National Academy of Science (NAS) on March 3, 1863, shortly after establishment of the Land Grant Colleges, under the 1862 Morrill Act. These two events provided the U.S. a strong foothold from which American scientific achievements were born. Since then, the National Academy not only promoted excellence in science through its publications (report series and the acclaimed journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences-PNAS) and its elected body of scholars into The Academy; the National Academy elevated the quality of scientific, engineering and medical achievements to the most prestigious places worldwide.
From its humble beginnings, additional entities were spawned and created an even more robust atmosphere celebrating and driving America’s scientific achievements. President Woodrow Wilson signed an executive order in 1918 that paired science and public policy through the National Research Council, which works in concert with the National Academy of Science, the National Academy of Engineering (created in 1964)and the Institute of Medicine (in 1970).
Among the celebratory remarks about the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the Academy, Robert Cicerone, NAS President, elaborated on the goals and mission of the Academy in an editorial in the March 19th issue of PNAS. They include a concise inventory of the Academy’s current mission (read his full editorial):
- Validate scientific excellence,
- Enhance the vitality of the scientific enterprise,
- Guide public policy with sciences, and
- Communicate the nature, values and judgments of science to government and the public.
The Reports of the National Academies and the National Research Council are published by the National Academies Press (NAP). NAP publishes roughly 200 reports per year, all of which are entered into the UB Libraries collection of E-book Resources with many of their titles also acquired in their print formats. They are often used as supplemental readings for classes in the sciences, engineering, mathematics, and medicine. It is interesting to note that among publishers, NAP is the first self-sustaining publisher making its reports available on the Web for free, in an open access model.