The Committee on Science, Engineering, Medicine, and Public Policy (COSEMPUP) is a joint unit of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and the National Academy of Medicine. Most of its members are current or former members of the Councils of the three institutions. COSEMPUP operates out of the division of Policy and Global Affairs of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

COSEMPUP addresses cross-cutting issues in science and technology policy. It was chartered by the Academies "to deliberate on, make recommendations about, and incubate when called upon, priority initiatives that may be undertaken as studies or other activities of the National Research Council in areas of science and technology policy that cut across disciplines and underpin the science and innovation enterprise; and to keep itself apprised of current and emerging science and technology policy issues, taking especially into account the concerns and requests of the President's Science Advisor, the Director of the National Science Foundation, the Chair of the National Science Board, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, the heads of other federal research and development departments and agencies, and the chairpersons of key science and technology-related committees of the Congress."

COSEMPUP studies are usually conducted by special interdisciplinary panels comprising the nation's best scientific and engineering expertise. While many studies are sponsored by government agencies, COSEMPUP procedures safeguard its studies from the influence of sponsors or other outside groups.


COSEMPUP traces its origins back to the very beginnings of modern U.S. science policy. It, and its progenitors, have played a prominent role on a range of critical science policy issues since the Eisenhower and Kennedy Administrations raised scientific issues to the national policy agenda.

It was clear soon after the launch of Sputnik by the U.S.S.R (and the appointment of the first Presidential Science Advisor) that the President and his advisers needed a systematic way to tap the expertise of the U.S. research community on broad policy matters. The NAS at that point, however, had no mechanism for doing so.

Thus, discussions between NAS President Detlev Bronk and former Presidential Science Advisors George Kistiakowsky and Jerome Weisner culminated, in 1961, in the creation of the NAS Committee on Government Relations. Its purpose was to draw on the expertise of the wide range of disciplines represented in the Academy to assist the NAS President and Council in their roles of advising the government at the highest levels on policy matters related to U.S. science and technology. It was envisioned that the Committee would respond to requests of the Presidential Science Advisor and chairmen and staff directors of key Congressional science and technology committees. The NSF supported the new NAS effort at the onset; in early 1962 the Committee sought and obtained a core grant from the NSF, and this arrangement has continued to the present. In 1963 the NAS entity's name was changed to the Committee on Science and Public Policy (COSPUP).

COSPUP had five exceptionally distinguished chairmen during its 20-year existence; former Presidential Science Advisor George Kistiakowsky (1962-65), Harvard University's Harvey Brooks (1965-72), Nobel Laureate Melvin Calvin (1972-75), prominent mathematician I.M. Singer (1975-80), and Robert McCormick Adams -- later Secretary of the Smithsonian (1980-81). It proved to be a most visible and influential committee of the NAS, issuing 49 separate documents on a broad range of science and technology policy issues. Many were at the core of the newly-emerging national discussion of U.S. science policy. Among its landmark publications were "Federal Support of Basic Research in Institutions of Higher Learning" (1964), "Basic Research and National Goals" (1965), "Technology: Processes of Assessment and Choice" (1969), and ten detailed surveys of the health and direction of major fields of science.

From COSPUP to COSEPUP: COSPUP operated as a special committee of the NAS. The National Academy of Engineering, chartered in 1964 after COSPUP was already launched, became increasingly drawn to issues in engineering and public policy in the 1970s, and had established activities that paralleled COSPUP. In 1982, the two programs merged, creating COSEPUP.

COSEPUP was built on the strong foundation laid by COSPUP, and draws its members from both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Uniquely within the Academy Complex, COSEPUP reports directly to the three institution's governing councils. (The Governing Board of the National Research Council oversees most studies that issue from the Academy complex). In 2016, COSEPUP was renamed COSEMPUP in recognition of the establishment of the National Academy of Medicine.

In order to ensure that COSEMPUP reflect the most senior and most experienced people in the U.S. research community, COSEMPUP's charter specifies that a majority of its 16 authorized members be elected members of the various academies and that the presidents of the three academies serve as ex-officio members.