COSEPUP traces its origins back to the very beginnings of modern U.S. science policy. It, and its progenitors, have played a prominent role on a range of critical science policy issues since the Eisenhower and Kennedy Administrations raised scientific issues to the national policy agenda.
It was clear soon after the launch of Sputnik by the U.S.S.R (and the appointment of the first Presidential Science Advisor) that the President and his advisers needed a systematic way to tap the expertise of the U.S. research community on broad policy matters. The NAS at that point, however, had no mechanism for doing so.
Thus, discussions between NAS President Detlev Bronk and former Presidential Science Advisors George Kistiakowsky and Jerome Weisner culminated, in 1961, in the creation of the NAS Committee on Government Relations. Its purpose was to draw on the expertise of the wide range of disciplines represented in the Academy to assist the NAS President and Council in their roles of advising the government at the highest levels on policy matters related to U.S. science and technology. It was envisioned that the Committee would respond to requests of the Presidential Science Advisor and chairmen and staff directors of key Congressional science and technology committees. The NSF supported the new NAS effort at the onset; in early 1962 the Committee sought and obtained a core grant from the NSF, and this arrangement has continued to the present. In 1963 the NAS entity's name was changed to the Committee on Science and Public Policy (COSPUP).
COSPUP had five exceptionally distinguished chairmen during its 20-year existence; former Presidential Science Advisor George Kistiakowsky (1962-65), Harvard University's Harvey Brooks (1965-72), Nobel Laureate Melvin Calvin (1972-75), prominent mathematician I.M. Singer (1975-80), and Robert McCormick Adams -- later Secretary of the Smithsonian (1980-81). It proved to be a most visible and influential committee of the NAS, issuing 49 separate documents on a broad range of science and technology policy issues. Many were at the core of the newly-emerging national discussion of U.S. science policy. Among its landmark publications were "Federal Support of Basic Research in Institutions of Higher Learning" (1964), "Basic Research and National Goals" (1965), "Technology: Processes of Assessment and Choice" (1969), and ten detailed surveys of the health and direction of major fields of science.
From COSPUP to COSEPUP: COSPUP operated as a special committee of the NAS. The National Academy of Engineering, chartered in 1964 after COSPUP was already launched, became increasingly drawn to issues in engineering and public policy in the 1970s, and had established activities that paralleled COSPUP. In 1982, the two programs merged, creating COSEPUP.
COSEPUP was built on the strong foundation laid by COSPUP, and draws its members from both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Uniquely within the Academy Complex, COSEPUP reports directly to the three institution's governing councils. (The Governing Board of the National Research Council oversees most studies that issue from the Academy complex).
In order to ensure that COSEPUP reflect the most senior and most experienced people in the U.S. research community, COSEPUP's charter specifies that a majority of its 16 authorized members be elected members of the various academy Councils (at present, all members are current or former Councilors), and that the presidents of the three academies serve as ex-officio members. Formally, the Committee is charged with the responsibility "to deliberate on initiatives for new studies in the area of science and technology policy, taking especially into account the concerns and requests of the President's Science Advisor, the Director of the NSF, the Chairman of the National Science Board, and the chairmen of key science and technology-related committees of the Congress."