Medical Definition of National Academies

Reviewed on 3/29/2021

National Academies: Collectively, the four National Academies of the United States -- the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council.

The National Academy of Sciences was created in 1863 by a congressional charter approved by President Abraham Lincoln at the height of the Civil War. Scientific issues became even more contentious and complex in the years following the war. To keep pace with the growing importance of science and technology, the institution that was founded in 1863 eventually expanded to include the National Research Council in 1916, the National Academy of Engineering in 1964, and the Institute of Medicine in 1970. Collectively, these organizations are called the National Academies.

The Academies and the Institute are honorary societies that elect new members to their ranks each year. Membership is professionally prestigious.

The Institute of Medicine conducts policy studies on health issues but most of the science-policy and technical work of the National Academies is conducted by its operating arm, the National Research Council, created expressly for this purpose. These non-profit organizations provide a public service by working outside the framework of government to ensure independent advice on matters of science, technology, and medicine. They enlist committees of the nation's top scientists, engineers, and other experts -- all of whom volunteer their time to study specific concerns. The results of their deliberations have led to some of America's most significant and lasting efforts to improve the health, education, and welfare of the population.



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