The American Academy of Arts and Sciences has announced the creation of a national commission with the objective of giving a boost to teaching and research in the humanities and social sciences.

The Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences will be chaired by Richard H. Brodhead, President of Duke University, and John W. Rowe, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Exelon Corporation. It was formed in response to a bipartisan request from United States Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) and Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and Representatives Tom Petri (R-Wisconsin) and David Price (D-North Carolina) who asked the Academy to recommend concrete steps 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 21st century. 

The Commission will draw on past research efforts and the experience and expertise of a multidisciplinary group of national leaders from the humanities, the social sciences, the physical and life sciences, business, law, philanthropy, the arts, and the media, to recommend specific, actionable steps to maintain the nation's excellence in the domain. The Commission will focus on education, research, and the institutions critical to advancing the humanities and social sciences in the nation.

The eroding global competitiveness of American students has of late been consistently linked to an underachievement in Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics and has led to sustained emphasis on ways to develop competence in these subjects and areas; in the process, however, the humanities and social sciences have been ignored to a large extent.

A recent event organized by the Stanford University, which brought together four Stanford deans to defend the humanities in the face of declining interest and enrollment in those subjects, saw only half-hearted participation from a few. However, as Geoffrey Harpham, president and director of the National Humanities Center and author of The Humanities and the Dream of America, quoted from a 1964 post-war policy report during another recent appearance in the same University, the humanities are not merely our, but the world's, best hope.

The launch of the new commission seems to have been guided by similar conviction.

The humanities and social sciences provide the intellectual framework for the nation's economic, political, and governing institutions, said Commission Co-chair Richard H. Brodhead in a release from the Academy. They enrich our lives and our understanding.  Americans already appreciate the importance of math and science to our future; this Commission will remind Americans of the long-term importance of the liberal arts as well.