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XIV. Role of Public Council Members

Dr. Snow

In response to a request from the public members of Council, Dr. Snow discussed their role on Council, which is to represent the point of view of the public in matters before the Council. Each Council subcommittee has public members, usually in the proportion of two-thirds scientific and one-third public, which also represents the composition of Council. According to the charter, public members may be drawn from the fields of public policy, law, health policy, economics and management. Public members help convey the point of view of voluntary health agencies and individuals who have one of the disabilities in the mission area of the Institute.

Dr. Snow presented a general overview of the Council charter and outlined the specific responsibilities of the Council, emphasizing that the public members bring important insight and points of view to all Council activities.

Dr. Snow stated that the credibility of public members is very good in the advocacy of research. The open session of each Council meeting, usually all of the first day and part of the second day, serves as a forum for the development of policy advice by the Institute; this is done by scheduling presentations by representatives of other units in the NIH to brief the Council on their activities and programs; representatives of other Federal agencies; representatives of scientific and professional societies and voluntary health agencies; grantee scientists who make the scientific presentations; representatives of subcommittees of the Council; and staff review of various programs of the Institute, usually on a yearly basis. By including such presentations on the meeting agenda, the Institute helps keep Council members fully informed about the Institute, its community, its customers, its advocates and critics--not only for the membersí role in policy advice, but perhaps more importantly in the judgment of grants.

Dr. Snow stressed the importance of two-way communication between the Council members and the Institute. The Council members bring the point of view of the scientific community and public to the Institute, and hopefully carry the message of what they learn at each meeting to their constituents. Public members are crucial in this exchange of information.

Dr. Snow also emphasized the value of public members in the judgment of the grants. Possibly the most important role of any Council member is the evaluation of the various peer review groupsí opinions about grant applications submitted for funding. The Council must assure that a grant has been properly evaluated for scientific merit and program relevance. The public member plays a very important role in this process by representing the point of view of the public; describing their personal experiences or experiences with a loved one with a disability; and representing the view of advocacy groups as well as the view of law, economics, management and ethics. Dr. Snow stated that all of these perspectives are important and appreciated by the staff, adding that it would be wrong not to have public members. Additionally, the participation of public members in the work of the Council is ensured by law.

Subsequent discussion affirmed the importance of all Council members and the varied expertise and experiences they bring to the process. A significant role for public and scientific members is to contribute to all issues openly and fully so that the entire Council can benefit.

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