The National Research Council, the operating arm of the Academy of Sciences, routinely conducts peer review of scientific issues. The experts it provisionally appoints to these review panels are subject to a 20 calendar day public comment period.
Historically, the public’s actual ability to comment has been severely limited and in violation of the spirit (if not the letter) of the Federal Advisory Committee Act. NRC would post notice of a provisional committee appointment, but not alert the public that it had done so. Members of the public would have to know that a review was about to begin; the name of the board, committee or other unit under whose auspices the review was taking place; and possibly the name of the ad hoc committee. Then they would have to check the NAS web site every day.
For an organization that claims to be the premier scientific and technical body in the United States, this scheme is remarkably archaic. Today, one NRC division finally made it easy for the public to monitor its activities.
Members of the public who want to monitor certain NRC activities can sign up to receive email notification of a variety of Academy activities, including provisional appointments.
Only activities within the Division on Earth & Life Studies are included in this notification system:
- Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Atmospheric Sciences and Climate
- Chemical Sciences and Technology
- Disaster Management
- Earth Sciences and Resources
- Environmental Studies and Toxicology
- Global Change
- Laboratory Animal Research
- Life Sciences
- Nuclear and Radiation Studies
- Ocean Studies
- Polar Research
- Water Science and Technology
The rest of the National Academies — including the National Academy of Engineering, which has a unit devoted to the frontiers of information technology — is not covered by this new notification system. Members of the public wishing to keep abreast of their activities still must rely on the antiquated and cumbersome process described above.