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National Science Foundation

Selection Process for the National Medal of Science


Group of five people being sworn in

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy established the President's Committee on the National Medal of Science to assist in the process of selecting National Medal of Science recipients. The committee is composed of six to 12 presidentially appointed members, as well as two ex officio members (the president of the National Academy of Sciences and the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy). The committee is encouraged to provide a slate of recommended candidates that represents the breadth and diversity of the nation's scientific community, though there are no requirements for the composition of the group as a whole.

For details about the nomination process, see NSF's nomination information website.



Program cover for 1990 Presentation of The National Medal of Science and The National Medal of Technology, November 13, 1990, The White House

After reviewing the complete list of nominations, the committee members work within their respective disciplines to draft a "short list" of candidates for consideration by the full committee at a final meeting, traditionally convened at NSF. Following this meeting, the committee delivers a list of final candidates--typically between six and 10 individuals--for consideration by the U.S. president. The president has discretion to select medal awardees; he or she can reject candidates recommended by the committee and can choose additional awardees not recommended by the committee who, in his or her judgment, are deserving of the award.

Presidential Committee image: John H. Gibbons, science advisor to President Bill Clinton, swears in new committee members (from left) Kenneth Arrow, Charles Schrieffer, Elsa Garmire, Eric Lander and Joan Steitz, on Oct. 28, 1996, at NSF.
Credit: NSF Collection

Selection Process image: 1990 Program
Credit: NSF Collection

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