Hopkins Appointed Chair for National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Committee to Review USGS Laboratories

October 10, 2018

From VTx News

William A. Hopkins­­, professor of wildlife in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, has been appointed chair to a committee of The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine: The Review of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Laboratories: Processes, Procedures, and Best Practices to Meet National Needs.

Hopkins will chair the committee for the duration of a 30-month analysis of all U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) laboratory facilities.

Hopkins, who has served on several National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) committees in the past, said that he was both flattered by and excited for his selection as chair of the project committee.

“Having the opportunity to serve the country in this way is one of the most impactful things that I can do as a scientist,” said Hopkins, director of the Global Change Center, housed within the Fralin Life Science Institute.

NASEM was founded in 1863 under the leadership of President Abraham Lincoln. The institution provides a nongovernmental mechanism for top scientists and engineers to provide the nation’s decision makers with the best possible information and in a nonpartisan environment. Studies conducted under NASEM often shed light on some of the most important issues that today’s society is facing and have strong influence on public policy.

“We are thrilled that Dr. Hopkins has agreed to serve as chair of our new committee tasked with examining the processes, procedures, and best practices at USGS laboratories. Dr. Hopkins has been an excellent contributor to several past academies’ studies, and we are confident that he will be a strong consensus builder for this important committee,” said Gregory Symmes, executive director, division on earth and life studies at the National Academies.

The USGS is one of the largest scientific agencies in the nation, with more than 400 labs spread across the country and an extensive portfolio of investigation and accomplishments. Their motto, “science for a changing world,” only alludes to the vast breadth of topics that the agency spans, including natural hazards, such as earthquakes and volcanoes; environmental health and pollution; water and land resources; biology and ecosystems; energy; mapping tools and data; and planetary science.

The USGS has enlisted NASEM to convene the review of its laboratories and processes. As outlined in the study’s project scope, the committee is charged with providing recommendations for the best strategies to maintain research integrity across such a diverse institution and to ensure the reliability and accuracy of those results.

“It’s an enormous responsibility and something that I take very seriously. Developing a NASEM consensus report is not an easy task, especially because these committees intentionally involve experts with very diverse expertise and viewpoints.  The process involves site visits around the nation to gather information and learn from an array of stakeholders and other experts, followed by extensive deliberation to reach agreement on our committee’s recommendations,” said Hopkins.

NASEM convenes committees composed of the nation’s top scientists, engineers, health professionals, and other experts to address a defined set of questions for each study project.  Via this process, approximately 200-300 reports are produced by NASEM each year, confronting a vast array of topics, such as invasive plants, the nation’s energy future, transportation safety, the Hubble Telescope, climate change, and more. Prominent scientists are honored with membership and committee members serve without pay.