WASHINGTON — In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to establish a Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats. The standing committee will provide a neutral forum to convene experts who can engage rapidly with the federal government. It would be prepared to respond on short notice to requests. It will serve as a focal point for discussions on how to integrate science into national preparedness and response decision-making, to explore lessons learned and best practices from previous preparedness and response efforts, and to consider strategies for addressing misinformation. The standing committee will include members with expertise in emerging infectious diseases, public health, public health preparedness and response, clinical care and crisis standards of care, risk communication, and regulatory issues.
In addition to serving as a venue for discussion of topics such as these, the standing committee will consider issues to be examined further in consensus studies by separately appointed committees. It is imperative that evidence-based information from expert sources be freely shared in order to counter the spread of rumors, misinformation, and uninformed speculation.
“COVID-19 is the sort of international health threat that creates a climate ripe for misinformation, rumors, and panic, all of which can lead to poor decisions,” said National Academy of Sciences President Marcia McNutt. “The National Academies stand ready to provide evidence-based advice to protect U.S. citizens in a timely and expedited manner.”
“At times like this, it is important that we make science-based decisions and communicate transparently to the public, drawing upon trusted scientists and experts,” said National Academy of Medicine President Victor J. Dzau. “We look forward to mobilizing experts to assist the federal government with its response to COVID-19 and to future threats from emerging infectious diseases.”
“Not only will we convene experts from a variety of disciplines, we will also bring together representatives from the public and private sectors and other stakeholders as needed,” added National Academy of Engineering President John L. Anderson.