In This Issue
Summer Bridge on Critical Materials
June 15, 2024 Volume 54 Issue 2
The summer issue of The Bridge discusses leveraging new and emerging technologies, infrastructure, innovative approaches, and a resilient supply chain to ensure a stable and reliable supply of critical materials far into the future.

President's Perspective: The Power of Member Engagement

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Author: John L. Anderson and Alton D. Romig Jr.

The raison d’être for the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) is to provide technical advice to the government and public and to promote the profession of engineering. The members[1] of the NAE, elected by their peers, are expected to be role models for engineering and sources of expertise for the public. As officers of the NAE, we are tasked with promoting engagement of our members in activities related to our mission—from service on consensus studies by the National Research Council to the election of new NAE members. Participation by our members in such activities is a strong measure of the health of the NAE.

Prez perspective figure 1.gifWe define participation as the percentage of NAE members who engage in at least one activity sponsored by the NAE or the National Academies generally. Figure 1 shows participation by calendar year. NAE participation includes serving on recurring committees such as those related to membership and awards, as well as newer activities such as planning the annual meetings, presidential initiative committees, or ­writing/­referencing new ­member nominations. The drop in participation rate between 2018 and 2021 could be the result of Covid-19. The upturn in participation through 2023 is promising, especially considering that a net increase of about 70 members occurred during this time.

Prez perspective figure 2.gifFigure 2 shows the percentage of members who participated in various NAE and National Academies activities during 2023. These data show that our members are broadly engaged; however, we would like to have even more members, especially international members, involved. The participation rates by section in 2023 are shown in figure 3. An interesting observation is that some sections with a relatively low US member participa­tion rate had a high international member participation rate.

In an effort to engage more of our members, we established “member-led events” (MLEs) in 2020. These events are led by members rather than the NAE office, but they are sponsored by the NAE with modest financial support. The first official MLE was the Technology for a Quieter America symposium. An MLE can be initiated either by a section of the NAE or by a “community,” which could be a university, a geographic region (e.g., ­Southern ­California), or a group of members from different ­sections with related interests. The MLEs may be online or held in person, often at one of the Academy sites in Washington, DC, or the Beckman Center in Irvine, ­California. We are examining some options to increase the number of MLEs. Virtual events have had, on occasion, several hundred participants (measured by IP addresses). In-person MLEs have had as many as 100 participants.

Prez perspective figure 3.gifIn the past it has been difficult to engage international members because most meetings and conferences were in-person events. However, the development of virtual platforms such as Zoom has made it possible to overcome geographical obstacles and involve participants on a ­global level. There are now several MLEs being planned with other international academies, which will include the participation of our international members who are also members of their home academy. The concept of diversity extends to nationality. The viewpoints of our international members provide important input in our studies and committee deliberations and thus ­strengthen our organization.

An engaged community of professionals is vitally important to the effectiveness and sustainability of the NAE. We thank our members for their volunteer work on behalf of the Academy, the nation, and global ­society. You maintain the excellence and purpose we strive for.



[1] By “members” we mean US members and international members.

About the Author:John L. Anderson (NAE) is president of the National Academy of Engineering and Alton D. Romig Jr. (NAE) is executive officer of the National Academy of Engineering.