Federal advisory committees sometimes address a perennial issue facing an agency, such as review of grant proposals or new drug applications, or focus on a specific issue or particular scientific or technical problem facing the agency or the nation. In addition, several policy-oriented issues have substantial S&T components that require input and advice from the S&T community. Table 1 provides examples of the many types of federal advisory committees. These include
Science for policy—S&T advice helps to provide guidance on a policy issue.
Policy for science—S&T advice provides guidance on the direction that the S&T community itself should take in its research.
Program evaluation or direction—S&T advice is used to evaluate or determine the direction of a federal S&T program.
Proposal review—S&T community provides advice on the quality of a research proposal.
Event-driven—S&T community provides advice on the effects or cause of a major event.
Even the few examples provided in Table 1 illustrate that many issues in S&T and in public policy are unresolved or contentious. It is critical that all legitimate views can be heard, either through committee composition or through the advisory committee deliberative process.
Scientists, engineers, and health professionals feel an obligation to serve on federal advisory committees that help to shape S&T policy. Such service provides the best scientific and technical information to policy makers and serves the S&T enterprise itself. And, for all the challenges that this approach presents, this uniquely American emphasis on public input has served our nation well. The use of advisory committees by the federal government is a critical aspect of participatory government. The depth and breadth of knowledge and expertise that these bodies provide to policy makers expand intellectual resources well beyond those