Governing Documents

Act to Incorporate the National Academy of Sciences

The Act to Incorporate the National Academy of Sciences, also known as the Academy Charter, was signed by President Lincoln on 3 March 1863, establishing the Academy as an independent honorary and consulting body with its own governance and structure.  The Act also sets out an obligation for the Academy to provide scientific and technical advice to any department of the Government, whenever requested, with the Academy receiving no compensation for its services.

Amendments to the Act of Incorporation

The Academy Charter was amended three times after its initial enactment.  An amendment of 14 July 1870 did away with the original limitation of Academy membership to fifty; an amendment of 20 June 1884 authorized the Academy to receive and hold trust funds; the final amendment of 27 May 1914 broadened the scope of the Academy’s permitted use of trust funds.

Constitution and Bylaws

The Constitution and Bylaws of the Academy have their origins in the Articles of Organization crafted at the first meeting of the Academy in April 1863.  The Constitution and Bylaws, enacted in January 1864, outline the structure and governance of the Academy as well as basic functions and procedures regarding meetings, election of members and officers, and the communication of information with the Academy and to the public.

Establishment of the National Research Council

The National Research Council was initially established by Executive Order of President Wilson as a contingency organization charged with coordinating American scientific and technological research in the service of preparedness for war.  After the war in question—the First World War—ended in 1918, the Research Council was given permanent status as the Academy’s operating arm. The National Research Council is now known as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

The Federal Advisory Committee Act

The Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA)—established in 1972—governs committees that provide advice to officers and agencies of the executive branch of government. The act requires that advisory committee meetings are open to the public, and it assigns government officials roles in committee operations.  Following a lawsuit brought against the Academy by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, in 1997 FACA was amended to exempt the institution from the bulk of the Act while providing that most information-gathering meetings of committees are open to the public, and any written materials provided to the committee by individuals who are not officials, agents, or employees of the National Academies are maintained in a public access file that is available for examination.