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Last month the American Academy of Arts and Sciences announced the creation of the Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences, a national group dedicated to bolstering teaching and research in the humanities and social sciences—fields that are critical to culture, education, and America’s economic competitiveness.

Leading the commission are two cochairs: Richard H. Brodhead, president of Duke University, and John W. Rowe, chairman and chief executive officer of Exelon Corporation. The group also includes prominent Americans from the humanities, the social sciences, the physical and life sciences, business, law, philanthropy, the arts, and the media, including Chuck Close, George Lucas, Emmylou Harris, Billie Tsien, and John Lithgow. Other representatives come from the Institute for Advanced Study, Lockheed Martin, the Association of American Universities, the J. Paul Getty Trust, the American Council of Learned Societies, TIAA-CREF, and Adobe Systems, among others. Many commission members serve as presidents of universities and colleges nationwide.

The commission formed in response to a bipartisan request from the United States government. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) and Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and Representatives Tom Petri (R-Wisconsin) and David Price (D-North Carolina) gave the following charge:

What are the top ten actions that Congress, state governments, universities, foundations, educators, individual benefactors, and others should take now to maintain national excellence in humanities and social scientific scholarship and education, and to achieve long-term national goals for our intellectual and economic well-being; for a stronger, more vibrant civil society; and for the success of cultural diplomacy in the twenty-first century?

The commission’s findings will serve as a companion to a forthcoming report of the National Academies on the future of the research university and on ways to strengthen the American scientific enterprise. The group will draw on past research efforts, data from the Humanities Indicators, and the experience and expertise of a multidisciplinary group of national leaders to recommend specific, actionable steps to maintain the nation’s excellence in the humanities and the social sciences. The commission expects to complete its work over the next eighteen to twenty-four months.

For more information on the Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences, please read the National Humanities Center press release.