National Academy of Sciences

June 11, 2020

Statement by the President of the National Academy of Sciences

This nation is facing its second crisis of the year: a crisis of equality of opportunity for Blacks and African-Americans: opportunity for justice, for education, for freedom, for health, for prosperity, for quality housing and food, and frankly, for the American dream. This crisis has been escalating with each act of violence and injustice against Blacks and African-Americans, but recently reached a flash point with the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police. I am horrified and saddened by what has happened, and I commit to being part of the change needed to confront this crisis and build a better society.

Just as it would be insufficient for me as president of the National Academy of Sciences to have simply offered words of support to the victims of COVID-19 and carried on our business as usual, so too for this crisis in equality of opportunity I must act decisively both in how the Academy conducts its business and in how it serves the nation. These are the actions that I am immediately taking to address this most recent crisis.

First, within the National Academies we are conducting internal conversations with staff, confidential if requested, to make sure that each person feels valued, supported, and heard within the organization. In addition to other initiatives, we are revising our hiring and promotion policies and procedures to ensure that we find, hire, and retain diverse talent. Creating a climate of diversity, equity, and inclusion within – including redoubling our efforts to increase diversity among our membership – will be accompanied by work to address these issues beyond our own walls.  

I am also asking the leaders of each of our programs to brainstorm with staff and external advisors as to how they can reposition their programs better to address issues of equity and justice. Have they unintentionally been reinforcing the status quo? How can they reduce barriers to and promote inclusion and equity?

Finally, in order to build a more just society, we need to expand the remit of our advice to the nation. Inequality in opportunity has many dimensions that cross-cut nearly all of our reports. Rarely do the instructions to the report committees task them with considering current inequities, along with the challenges they pose, or how any possible science-based solutions could reduce inequities, and the benefits that could accrue. Building this extra effort into each study will require the cooperation of the study sponsors, appropriate expertise on the study committee, selection of knowledgeable reviewers, and broader dissemination of findings and recommendations, but could be transformative. Working together with our dedicated staff, volunteers, and sponsors, I am committed to building the fair and just society that every person wants and deserves.

Marcia McNutt

Powered by Blackbaud
nonprofit software