Category Archives: General Topics

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25 Years of the Hubble Space Telescope – What’s Next?

Happy 25th Birthday, Hubble Space Telescope! Launched into orbit on this date in 1990, the Hubble has made a vital contribution to research and inspired the public with its breathtaking images. Its scientific successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, is scheduled for launch in 2018. Our reports informed the development, operation, and research direction for the Hubble, and they also discuss development and promise of the James Webb Space Telescope. All are free to download.

New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics

Driven by discoveries, and enabled by leaps in technology and imagination, our understanding of the universe has changed dramatically during the course of the last few decades. The fields of astronomy and astrophysics are making new connections …


Panel Reports–New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics

Every 10 years the National Research Council releases a survey of astronomy and astrophysics outlining priorities for the coming decade. The most recent survey, titled New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics, provides …


Report of the Panel on Implementing Recommendations from the New Worlds, New Horizons Decadal Survey

The 2010 Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey report, New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics (NWNH), outlines a scientifically exciting and programmatically integrated plan for both ground- and space-based astronomy …


NASA’s Strategic Direction and the Need for a National Consensus

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is widely admired for astonishing accomplishments since its formation in 1958. Looking ahead over a comparable period of time, what can the nation and the world expect of NASA? What will be …


Forging the Future of Space Science: The Next 50 Years

From September 2007 to June 2008 the Space Studies Board conducted an international public seminar series, with each monthly talk highlighting a different topic in space and Earth science. The principal lectures from the series are compiled in …


Assessment of Options for Extending the Life of the Hubble Space Telescope: Final Report

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has operated continuously since 1990. During that time, four space shuttle-based service missions were launched, three of which added major observational capabilities. A fifth SM-4 was intended to replace key …


Sharing the Adventure with the Public: The Value and Excitement of ‘Grand Questions’ of Space Science and Exploration Summary of a Workshop

On November 8-10, 2010, the National Research Council’s Space Studies Board (SSB) held a public workshop on how NASA and its associated science and exploration communities communicate with the public about major NASA activities and programs. The …


Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium

In this new book, a distinguished panel makes recommendations for the nation’s programs in astronomy and astrophysics, including a number of new initiatives for observing the universe. With the goal of optimum value, the recommendations address the …


The Decade of Discovery in Astronomy and Astrophysics

Astronomers and astrophysicists are making revolutionary advances in our understanding of planets, stars, galaxies, and even the structure of the universe itself. The Decade of Discovery presents a survey of this exciting field of science and …


U.S. Astronomy and Astrophysics: Managing an Integrated Program

In its fiscal year 2002 budget summary document the Bush administration expressed concern-based in part on the findings and conclusions of two National Research Council studies-about recent trends in the federal funding of astronomy and …


Deepwater Horizon 5 Years Later

Deepwater_Horizon_offshore_drilling_unit_on_fire_2010Five years ago today, firefighters were struggling in vain to extinguish a fire on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The blowout of the Macondo well caused the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, killing 11 crewmen and igniting a fireball visible from 40 miles away. On 22 April 2010, Deepwater Horizon sank, leaving the well gushing at the seabed and causing the largest oil spill in U.S. waters. It would be nearly three months before the well could be completely killed, during which time, nearly 5 million barrels of oil spilled into the gulf. Reports from the National Research Council, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and Transportation Research Board provided analysis of the spill and guidance for policy making, health care monitoring, and environmental protection. As part of the legal settlements with the companies held responsible, the federal government has asked the National Academy of Sciences to form and administer a 30-year program to enhance oil system safety, human health, and environmental resources in the Gulf of Mexico and other U.S. continental shelf areas where offshore oil and gas exploration and production occur or are under consideration. Reports from the Gulf Research Program focus on research and development, education and training, and environmental monitoring. All are free to download.

Macondo Well Deepwater Horizon Blowout: Lessons for Improving Offshore Drilling Safety

The blowout of the Macondo well on April 20, 2010, led to enormous consequences for the individuals involved in the drilling operations, and for their families. Eleven workers on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig lost their lives and 16 others …


An Ecosystem Services Approach to Assessing the Impacts of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico

As the Gulf of Mexico recovers from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, natural resource managers face the challenge of understanding the impacts of the spill and setting priorities for restoration work. The full value of losses resulting from the …


Assessing the Effects of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill on Human Health: A Summary of the June 2010 Workshop

From the origin of the leak, to the amount of oil released into the environment, to the spill’s duration, the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill poses unique challenges to human health. The risks associated with extensive, prolonged use of …


Transportation Research Board Special Report 309: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Offshore Safety and Environmental Management Systems

TRB Special Report 309: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Offshore Safety and Environmental Management Systems recommends that the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) take a holistic approach to evaluating the …


Gulf Research Program: A Strategic Vision

In 2010 the Deepwater Horizon explosion and fire in the Gulf of Mexico caused the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history, resulting in significant impacts on the region’s environment and residents. Legal settlements with the …


Opportunities for the Gulf Research Program: Community Resilience and Health: Summary of a Workshop

There are many connections between human communities and their surrounding environments that influence community resilience and health in the Gulf of Mexico. The impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on Gulf communities and ecosystems …


Opportunities for the Gulf Research Program: Monitoring Ecosystem Restoration and Deep Water Environments: A Workshop Summary

Environmental monitoring in the Gulf of Mexico poses extensive challenges and significant opportunities. Multiple jurisdictions manage this biogeographically and culturally diverse region, whose monitoring programs tend to be project-specific by …


Opportunities for the Gulf Research Program: Middle-Skilled Workforce Needs: Summary of a Workshop

During the period 1990 to 2010, U.S. job growth occurred primarily in the high-skilled and low-skilled sectors. Yet, one-third of projected job growth for the period 2010-2020 will require middle-skilled workers — who will earn strong …


The Animal-Human Link to Infectious Disease

Long-eared_BatBats are the most populous mammal—with more than 1,200 species representing around 25% of all mammal species—and are found in all parts of the world except for the North and South poles and some remote islands. Although they carry a number of viruses without symptoms (e.g., SARS, Hendra, Nipah, and Ebola), little is known about their response to disease. The Institute of Medicine’s new report Emerging Viral Diseases discusses the use of nontraditional animal models — like bats — to study the development of disease, host-virus relationships, and the nature of the immune responses to particular diseases.

As human and animal populations grow and encroach on each other’s habitats, the likelihood of zoonotic diseases increases. Changes in climate and rapid movement of increasingly more people and goods around the world make infectious disease more difficult to contain. Reports from the Institute of Medicine address the challenges of surveillance and response to these threats. All are free to download.

Emerging Viral Diseases: The One Health Connection: Workshop Summary

In the past half century, deadly disease outbreaks caused by novel viruses of animal origin – Nipah virus in Malaysia, Hendra virus in Australia, Hantavirus in the United States, Ebola virus in Africa, along with HIV (human immunodeficiency …


Achieving Sustainable Global Capacity for Surveillance and Response to Emerging Diseases of Zoonotic Origin: Workshop Summary

One of the biggest threats today is the uncertainty surrounding the emergence of a novel pathogen or the re-emergence of a known infectious disease that might result in disease outbreaks with great losses of human life and immense global economic …


Sustaining Global Surveillance and Response to Emerging Zoonotic Diseases

H1N1 (“swine flu”), SARS, mad cow disease, and HIV/AIDS are a few examples of zoonotic diseases-diseases transmitted between humans and animals. Zoonotic diseases are a growing concern given multiple factors: their often novel and unpredictable …


Infectious Disease Movement in a Borderless World: Workshop Summary

Modern transportation allows people, animals, and plants–and the pathogens they carry–to travel more easily than ever before. The ease and speed of travel, tourism, and international trade connect once-remote areas with one another, eliminating …


Science and the Criminal Justice System

Almost every day, our country’s criminal justice system is being questioned. Part of that is due to the fact that our reliance on imprisonment has not clearly improved public safety and may have had large unwanted consequences for society. A change in course is needed.

The Growth of Incarceration in the United States urges policymakers to reconsider sentencing policies and to seek crime-control strategies that are more effective, with better public safety benefits and fewer unwanted consequences. The video below illustrates the findings of that report.

The Dissemination Toolkit contains resources to help expand the reach of the report. Issue Briefs, Report Briefs, and an update on report activities from the report committee chair, Jeremy Travis, can inform discussion and debate about incarceration in the United States and its effects on individuals, families, communities, and society.

The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences

After decades of stability from the 1920s to the early 1970s, the rate of imprisonment in the United States more than quadrupled during the last four decades. The U.S. penal population of 2.2 million adults is by far the largest in the world. Just under one-quarter of the world’s prisoners are held in American prisons. The U.S. rate of incarceration, with nearly 1 out of every 100 adults in prison or jail, is 5 to 10 times higher than the rates in Western Europe and other democracies. The …


This infographic from the National Academies Press highlights the causes and effects of the increasing rate of incarceration in the U.S., as detailed in the full report.

How to Expand the Water Supply – Evidence-Based Options for Drought-Affected Communities

Last week, California’s Governor Jerry Brown announced the first mandatory water restrictions in the state’s history. After four years of drought, the state is being challenged to cut water output by 25 percent while meeting the competing water needs of residents, industry, and agriculture. This image from the National Drought Mitigation Center shows the severity of the drought.


What options do states and communities have to increase the supply of usable water and protect the environment? Reports from the National Research Council explore water management, water reuse, and environmental management. All are free to download.

Water Reuse: Potential for Expanding the Nation’s Water Supply Through Reuse of Municipal Wastewater

Expanding water reuse–the use of treated wastewater for beneficial purposes including irrigation, industrial uses, and drinking water augmentation–could significantly increase the nation’s total available water resources. Water Reuse


Understanding Water Reuse: Potential for Expanding the Nation’s Water Supply Through Reuse of Municipal Wastewater

In communities all around the world, water supplies are coming under increasing pressure as population growth, climate change, pollution, and changes in land use affect water quantity and quality. To address existing and anticipated water …


Desalination: A National Perspective

There has been an exponential increase in desalination capacity both globally and nationally since 1960, fueled in part by growing concern for local water scarcity and made possible to a great extent by a major federal investment for desalination …


Prospects for Managed Underground Storage of Recoverable Water

Growing demands for water in many parts of the nation are fueling the search for new approaches to sustainable water management, including how best to store water. Society has historically relied on dams and reservoirs, but problems such as high …


Sustainable Water and Environmental Management in the California Bay-Delta

Extensively modified over the last century and a half, California’s San Francisco Bay Delta Estuary remains biologically diverse and functions as a central element in California’s water supply system. Uncertainties about the future, actions …


Toward a Sustainable and Secure Water Future: A Leadership Role for the U.S. Geological Survey

Water is our most fundamental natural resource, a resource that is limited. Challenges to our nation’s water resources continue to grow, driven by population growth, ecological needs, climate change, and other pressures. The nation needs more and …


A Review of the Use of Science and Adaptive Management in California’s Draft Bay Delta Conservation Plan

The San Francisco Bay Delta Estuary is a large, complex estuarine ecosystem in California. It has been substantially altered by dikes, levees, channelization, pumps, human development, introduced species, dams on its tributary streams and …


A Scientific Assessment of Alternatives for Reducing Water Management Effects on Threatened and Endangered Fishes in California’s Bay Delta

California’s Bay-Delta estuary is a biologically diverse estuarine ecosystem that plays a central role in the distribution of California’s water from the state’s wetter northern regions to its southern, arid, and populous cities and agricultural …


Valuing Ecosystem Services: Toward Better Environmental Decision-Making

Nutrient recycling, habitat for plants and animals, flood control, and water supply are among the many beneficial services provided by aquatic ecosystems. In making decisions about human activities, such as draining a wetland for a housing …


Colorado River Basin Water Management: Evaluating and Adjusting to Hydroclimatic Variability

Recent studies of past climate and streamflow conditions have broadened understanding of long-term water availability in the Colorado River, revealing many periods when streamflow was lower than at any time in the past 100 years of recorded …


Fukushima Daiichi Four Years Later – Lessons for U.S. Nuclear Safety

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Four years ago today, the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami initiated a severe nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. Japan continues to work to recover from the resulting loss of life and infrastructure, as well as the economic and environmental damage. If a crisis of this magnitude occurred on American soil, one that exceeded the design of plant structures and led to a loss of critical safety functions of our nuclear structures, would we be better prepared to handle it? Reports from the National Research Council consider lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi disaster and examine the safety of U.S. nuclear plants.

Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety of U.S. Nuclear Plants

The March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami sparked a humanitarian disaster in northeastern Japan. They were responsible for more than 15,900 deaths and 2,600 missing persons as well as physical infrastructure damages exceeding …


The Science of Responding to a Nuclear Reactor Accident: Summary of a Symposium

The Science of Responding to a Nuclear Reactor Accident summarizes the presentations and discussions of the May 2014 Gilbert W. Beebe Symposium titled “The Science and Response to a Nuclear Reactor Accident”. The symposium, dedicated in …


Research on Health Effects of Low-Level Ionizing Radiation Exposure: Opportunities for the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute

It is probably only a matter of time before we witness the next event in which large numbers of people are exposed to ionizing radiation. In the past, planning a response to such an occurrence would have likely focused on the management of …


Best Practices for Risk-Informed Decision Making Regarding Contaminated Sites: Summary of a Workshop Series

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management’s (EM) mission is the safe cleanup of sites associated with the government-led development of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy. While many of these legacy sites have completed …


Wormwood Forest: A Natural History of Chernobyl

When a titanic explosion ripped through the Number Four reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant in 1986, spewing flames and chunks of burning, radioactive material into the atmosphere, one of our worst nightmares came true. As the news gradually …


Safety and Security of Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage: Public Report

In response to a request from Congress, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Homeland Security sponsored a National Academies study to assess the safety and security risks of spent nuclear fuel stored in cooling pools and dry …


Distribution and Administration of Potassium Iodide in the Event of a Nuclear Incident

Radioactive iodines are produced during the operation of nuclear power plants and during the detonation of nuclear weapons. In the event of a radiation incident, radioiodine is one of the contaminants that could be released into the environment. …


Kodak, Fujifilm, and the Changing Nature of Value in the Global Economy

dslr-camera-300x229Interested in how two industry giants responded to change? Here’s an example from the new report Making Value for America:

Twenty years ago, the Eastman Kodak Company and Fujifilm saw a revolution coming that would destroy the market for photographic film. During the rise of digital photography, Kodak experimented with various products to augment its film business, but nothing developed into a major market and the company was forced to declare bankruptcy. By contrast, Fujifilm moved much more decisively into new product lines, and remains a strong and profitable company.

Technologies and global forces, such as expanding access to international markets and workers, change and transform the value associated with a product, service, region, or set of skills. Companies that fare better or worse depend on their ability to make value and take advantage of that value. Individuals, companies, communities, and countries that do not change effectively in response can be left behind. Making Value for America examines ways to pursue opportunities and transform value chains through widespread adoption of best practices, a well-prepared and innovative workforce, local innovation networks to support startups and new products, improved flow of capital investments, and infrastructure upgrades.

Making Value for America: Embracing the Future of Manufacturing, Technology, and Work

Globalization, developments in technology, and new business models are transforming the way products and services are conceived, designed, made, and distributed in the U.S. and around the world. These forces present challenges – lower wages and fewer jobs for a growing fraction of middle-class workers – as well as opportunities for “makers” and aspiring entrepreneurs to create entirely new types of businesses and jobs. Making Value for America examines these challenges and …


Making Value for America: Embracing the Future of Manufacturing, Technology, and Work: Summary

Concerned about the challenges facing US manufacturing–and excited about the prospect of dramatic change in this sector–the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) undertook a study to identify best practices along the manufacturing value chain and to recommend public- and private-sector actions to make the United States an effective environment for value creation. The NAE was joined in supporting this study by Gordon E. Moore, Robert A. Pritzker and the Robert Pritzker Family Foundation, …


Recruiting and Advancing Women in Engineering

StereoTypeLess than 20% of engineering bachelor degrees currently go to women and recent trends have been declining. Reports from the National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council explore the challenges the nation currently faces in developing a strong and diverse workforce. All are free to download.

Seeking Solutions: Maximizing American Talent by Advancing Women of Color in Academia: Summary of a Conference

Seeking Solutions: Maximizing American Talent by Advancing Women of Color in Academia is the summary of a 2013 conference convened by the Committee on Women in Science, Engineering and Medicine of the National Research Council to discuss …


Career Choices of Female Engineers: A Summary of a Workshop

Despite decades of government, university, and employer efforts to close the gender gap in engineering, women make up only 11 percent of practicing engineers in the United States. What factors influence women graduates’ decisions to enter the …


From Science to Business: Preparing Female Scientists and Engineers for Successful Transitions into Entrepreneurship: Summary of a Workshop

Scientists, engineers, and medical professionals play a vital role in building the 21st- century science and technology enterprises that will create solutions and jobs critical to solving the large, complex, and interdisciplinary problems faced …


Blueprint for the Future: Framing the Issues of Women in Science in a Global Context: Summary of a Workshop

The scientific work of women is often viewed through a national or regional lens, but given the growing worldwide connectivity of most, if not all, scientific disciplines, there needs to be recognition of how different social, political, and …


Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty

Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty presents new and surprising findings about career differences between female and male full-time, tenure-track, and tenured faculty …


Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads

In order for the United States to maintain the global leadership and competitiveness in science and technology that are critical to achieving national goals, we must invest in research, encourage innovation, and grow a strong and talented science …


To Recruit and Advance: Women Students and Faculty in Science and Engineering

Although more women than men participate in higher education in the United States, the same is not true when it comes to pursuing careers in science and engineering. To Recruit and Advance: Women Students and Faculty in Science and Engineering …


Messaging for Engineering: From Research to Action

For those in the broad engineering community–those who employ, work with, and/or educate engineers, and engineers themselves–there is no need to explain the importance and value of engineering. They understand that engineers help make the world …


Changing the Conversation: Messages for Improving Public Understanding of Engineering

Can the United States continue to lead the world in innovation? The answer may hinge in part on how well the public understands engineering, a key component of the ‘innovation engine’. A related concern is how to encourage young …


STEM Integration in K-12 Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research

STEM Integration in K-12 Education examines current efforts to connect the STEM disciplines in K-12 education. This report identifies and characterizes existing approaches to integrated STEM education, both in formal and after- and …


Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are cultural achievements that reflect our humanity, power our economy, and constitute fundamental aspects of our lives as citizens, consumers, parents, and members of the workforce. …


Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States

Next Generation Science Standards identifies the science all K-12 students should know. These new standards are based on the National Research Council’s A Framework for K-12 Science Education. The National Research Council, the …


A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas

Science, engineering, and technology permeate nearly every facet of modern life and hold the key to solving many of humanity’s most pressing current and future challenges. The United States’ position in the global economy is declining, in part …


Celebrating Darwin Day 2015


We’re celebrating Charles Darwin’s 206th birthday today! The concept of evolution by natural selection continues to have a profound influence on modern biology. Our books are great resources to communicate and teach evolution accurately and effectively.

This year, we’re offering an extra special deal — enter code DARWN5 at check out for 60% off the list price for the titles below. Feel free to share the code with your friends, family, and colleagues. This offer expires February 19.

Science, Evolution, and Creationism

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How did life evolve on Earth? The answer to this question can help us understand our past and prepare for our future. Although evolution provides credible and reliable answers, polls show that many people turn away from science, seeking other explanations with which they are more …


Darwin’s Gift: To Science and Religion

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With the publication in 1859 of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, Charles Darwin established evolution by common descent as the dominant scientific explanation for nature’s diversity. This was to be his gift to science and society; at last, we had an explanation for …


Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science

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Today many school students are shielded from one of the most important concepts in modern science: evolution. In engaging and conversational style, Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science provides a well-structured framework for understanding and teaching evolution….


Evolution in Hawaii: A Supplement to Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science

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As both individuals and societies, we are making decisions today that will have profound consequences for future generations. From preserving Earth’s plants and animals to altering our use of fossil fuels, none of these decisions can be made wisely without a thorough understanding of life’s …


The Institute of Medicine on the US Measles Outbreak

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MMR – measles, mumps, rubella – vaccination is again in the news as an outbreak of measles that began at Disneyland before Christmas has spread to six states. As of last Friday, 70 people have been diagnosed with measles, and hundreds more have been exposed at schools, doctor’s offices, hospitals, shopping malls and other places visited by infected patients. Arizona reported its first case of measles related to Disneyland when a woman in her 50s was diagnosed. The outbreak has spread to Utah, Washington, Colorado, Oregon and across the border to Mexico. The Institute of Medicine has produced a number of reports on the safety and importance of vaccination. We asked Kathleen Stratton, an Institute of Medicine Scholar and Study Director of several notable IOM reports on vaccines, for her thoughts on vaccination and public health.

“Vaccines save lives. That’s a fact. We need vaccines developed against some very serious infectious diseases, like respiratory syncytial virus, and we need everyone to heed advice regarding existing vaccines, like the measles vaccine.”

The reports below and others on the subject of vaccination are free to download from our website.

The Childhood Immunization Schedule and Safety: Stakeholder Concerns, Scientific Evidence, and Future Studies

Vaccines are among the most safe and effective public health interventions to prevent serious disease and death. Because of the success of vaccines, most Americans today have no firsthand experience with such devastating illnesses as polio or …


Infectious Disease Movement in a Borderless World: Workshop Summary

Modern transportation allows people, animals, and plants–and the pathogens they carry–to travel more easily than ever before. The ease and speed of travel, tourism, and international trade connect once-remote areas with one another, eliminating …


What You Need to Know About Infectious Disease

About a quarter of deaths worldwide–many of them children–are caused by infectious organisms. The World Health Organization reports that new infectious diseases are continuing to emerge and familiar ones are appearing in new locations around …


Adverse Effects of Vaccines: Evidence and Causality

In 1900, for every 1,000 babies born in the United States, 100 would die before their first birthday, often due to infectious diseases. Today, vaccines exist for many viral and bacterial diseases. The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, passed …


Immunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autism

This eighth and final report of the Immunization Safety Review Committee examines the hypothesis that vaccines, specifically the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and thimerosal-containing vaccines, are causally associated with autism. The …