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Winter/Spring 2007 Vol. 7 No. 1

Table of Contents

Photo by Cable Risdon Photography FROM THE PRESIDENT

National Academy of Engineering

An Interesting Time Indeed

On completing my second term this June 30th, I will step down as president of the National Academy of Engineering. It has been an incredible pleasure to have the privilege to work with my counterparts in the NAS and IOM, and indeed, with all the staff, the members of the National Academies, and the volunteers who serve on our committees. It's been a stimulating time!

As president, I did a lot of traveling outside the U.S., and as a result came to understand at a much deeper level the value of our Academies. Similar academies in other countries don't generally provide their nations with the kind of independent, fact-based, peer-reviewed analysis and advice that we do. Perhaps that was all right in a simpler time, but as societies worldwide become more technologically dependent, it's inevitable that more public policy issues will need to be resolved with a full and balanced understanding of the available scientific and technical options and their implications. The contents of this issue of In Focus are an excellent example of this. Issues covered range from explosives detection, to risk assessment, to "smart" prosthetics, to capacity-building of academies in other nations, and more. All these areas need the kind of input and guidance that the National Academies provide.

The last 11 years have been an "interesting time" to be at the Academies. One of the first things that happened after I arrived was that we lost a court case that removed our ability to operate outside the jurisdiction of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, or FACA, seriously endangering our independence. Had this ruling stood, the Academies would have been put out of business. Fortunately, enough members of Congress understood the value of the National Academies that a special section was added to FACA that applies almost exclusively to us. We had to change our way of doing some things, such as posting proposed committee rosters for public comment and publishing the name of reviewers in our reports. But in the end I believe those changes improved and strengthened our processes.

We also embarked on a capital campaign that helped us gather the resources to do studies on important issues of science and policy without government or foundation support -- such as Rising Above the Gathering Storm. We also built a new building, the Keck Center, which has enhanced considerably our ability to collaborate internally. We underwent a major reorganization and significantly improved our business practices. And, along the way, we tackled a number of sensitive and controversial issues. I've enjoyed playing a role in the development of this unique set of institutions. Oh yes, it's been quite an interesting time. Thanks to you all.

    WM. A. WULF
    National Academy of Engineering

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Copyright 2007 by the National Academy of Sciences