Academy Bill Passes Senate

The Senate approved a bill today that would exempt the National Academy of Sciences from government rules concerning advisory committees while also requiring the academy to provide more public documentation of its work. The unanimous passage came after at least two senators dropped anonymous objections to the bill that had prevented it from coming to the floor.

"We are delighted with the legislation," NAS President Bruce Alberts said in a statement, pledging to abide by the new rules. The situation had been grim for the academy after the Supreme Court on 31 October let stand a lower court's decision that the academy was subject to the 1972 Federal Advisory Committee Act. Alberts had maintained that aspects of the act, such as opening the advisory panels' deliberations to the public, would damage the academy's ability to advise the government independent of agency influence.

Critics who had brought the court case argued that the academy's cloistered operations raised questions about its ability to produce objective reports. The Senate bill--an identical version of which passed the House on Monday--is a compromise between the two views, congressional staffers say. President Clinton is expected to sign the bill into law.