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Summer 2005 Vol. 5 No. 2

Table of Contents

Photo by Bachrach FROM THE PRESIDENT

Institute of Medicine

The Education President

Thomas Jefferson famously remarked that "If the condition of man is to be progressively ameliorated, as we fondly hope and believe, education is to be the chief instrument in effecting it." By this statement he meant both that society would benefit from the advancement of knowledge and that an educated citizenry would be essential for safeguarding the vitality and liberty of the young republic.

At the National Academies, we strive to realize these dual aspects of Jefferson's vision through the promotion of scientific knowledge that can improve human society and through efforts to better inform decision-making by leaders and citizens at large on matters relating to science, technology, and health. This work takes many forms, ranging from reports that advise the government to our one-year-old Marian Koshland Science Museum.

Outgoing NAS President Bruce Alberts has led a host of projects to promote scientific literacy in the general public. Under his leadership, the National Academies initiated the National Science Education Standards project, which has outlined curricular standards for kindergarten through 12th grade. The Center for Education at the Academies continues to undertake a broad spectrum of studies devoted to assessing and improving pedagogical practices. Other recent Academies reports have aimed at improving undergraduate education in the life sciences and fostering the independence of young postdoctoral researchers, described in this issue of In Focus. The National Academy of Engineering, for its part, has helped promote standards for learning about technology in primary and secondary schools, and the Institute of Medicine has highlighted the consequences and solutions for poor health literacy among the public in its report on Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion .

IOM and NAE are also working to strengthen professional education in their respective fields. The NAE, for example, has just released the second of a two-part report on Educating the Engineer of 2020: Adapting Engineering Education to the New Century . The IOM has promoted better professional education in health through such reports as Who Will Keep the Public Healthy? on the training of public health professionals and Health Professions Education: A Bridge to Quality on the training of clinical professionals.

As decisions affecting everything from personal health to national policy come to depend increasingly on public awareness and understanding of scientific issues, the National Academies will continue to provide objective and authoritative information to support an informed citizenry. Through his work promoting science education at home -- and through his efforts to build the advisory capacity of scientific academies abroad -- Bruce Alberts has stamped an important Jeffersonian legacy onto his 12 years of service to the Academies. This is a legacy worth preserving and extending, every bit as important at the start of the 21st century as it was more than 200 years ago.

    Institute of Medicine

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Copyright 2005 by the National Academy of Sciences