It should be understood by all concerned that the Terms of Reference will serve as the primary benchmark against which final review and approval will be conducted.
The Chairman of the sponsoring standing committee will choose a chairman for the working group in consultation with the secretariat and will invite the appointed chairman to choose additional members in a similar way.
Whenever a working group is formed The Academy will post a notice on its public Web Site which announces the Terms of Reference for the study concerned, giving details of the proposed Chairman and members. Comments or objections will be invited within three weeks. The membership of the working group may subsequently be amended following consultation between the responsible member of the secretariat and the chairman of the sponsoring Standing committee.
At the first meeting of the working group members will be invited to disclose any background, bias or vested interests which are relevant to the study in question. Details will be recorded and summarised in the final report. Members may propose amendments or additions to the working group at this point.
It is recognised that on many issues which are studied by The Academy those who have most to contribute are people with views coloured by experience. It is therefore essential to the acceptability of the final report that the working group is constructed taking into account the nature and sensitivity of the subject matter as well as the need for balance in, and preferably the avoidance of, vested interests. It is also important that the working group contains the competence to address all aspects of its Terms of Reference. For example, economic and social issues associated with an engineering study may require the involvement of appropriate external experts in the working group.
There will be occasions when an issue is very contentious and all Fellows who have experience in the field have strongly vested interests themselves. In consequence the likelihood of achieving balance and a dispassionate consensus is nil. To meet such a challenge an effective solution, which has been employed by The Academy, can be to establish a working group which has no relevant expertise and then to take evidence in a manner similar to a House of Lords committee. This can work very effectively provided appropriate steps are taken to ensure that draft reports are circulated and review is thoroughly undertaken.
It is also important to be aware that on certain issues whilst there may be a consensus among Fellows this may not be shared outside The Academy. In such situations it is important that this is overtly recognised, if not in the composition of the working group, then within the report itself
Underlying these general statements is a challenge to those responsible for establishing any working group, particularly where the ensuing report is intended to influence