Blog Archives

NIH Releases 2021-2025 Strategic Plan

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has released its agency-wide Strategic Plan for fiscal years (FY) 2021-2025,  a roadmap outlining key objectives and themes for the agency for the next five years. The plan organizes its strategy into three major objectives for the agency:

  • Advancing Biomedical and Behavioral Sciences;
  • Developing, Maintaining, and Renewing Scientific Research Capacity; and
  • Exemplifying and Promoting the Highest Level of Scientific Integrity, Public Accountability, and Social Responsibility in the Conduct of Science.

The Strategic Plan also outlines five cross-cutting themes that run through each of the three major objectives and all aspects of the agency’s strategy:

  • Improving Minority Health and Reducing Health Disparities
  • Enhancing Women’s Health
  • Addressing Public Health Challenges Across the Lifespan
  • Promoting Collaborative Science
  • Leveraging Data Science for Biomedical Discovery

Notably, the role of the social and behavioral sciences in NIH biomedical research are highlighted throughout the Strategic Plan, with the report noting “for the purposes of this Strategic Plan, the term biomedical is used broadly to include biological, behavioral, and social scientific perspectives.” Other topics in which the social and behavioral sciences are highlighted include the social determinants of health, maternal health, minority health and health disparities, and strengthening the research workforce. More information about the Strategic Plan is available on the NIH website.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 3), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

NIH and OSTP to Hold Stakeholder Listening Sessions on ARPA-H Priorities

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) have announced the dates for a series of virtual listening sessions to receive feedback from scientific societies, patient advocacy groups, industry, and other stakeholders about potential projects and priorities for Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), the proposed new agency to be housed within NIH dedicated to high-risk, high-reward research applied to solve broad societal problems (see previous COSSA coverage for more details). The listening sessions, which will be broken up by topical focus, may include a variety of formats including large, public discussions and small, invitation-only meetings. The following sessions and dates have been announced so far:

  • July 22: Advocates for Research on Cancer, Disorders of the Heart, Lungs, Blood, and Environmental Health
  • July 23: Advocates for Research on Aging, Arthritis, and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disorders
  • July 26: Advocates for Research on Eye Disease and Visual Impairment, Deafness and Communication Disorders, and Dental and Craniofacial Disorders
  • July 30: Advocates for Research on Minority Health and Health Disparities, and Nursing
  • August 2: Advocates for Research on Addiction and Alcoholism
  • August 3: Advocates for Research on Diabetes, Digestive Disorders and Kidney Disease, Child and Maternal Health, and Complementary and Integrative Medicine
  • August 4: Advocates for Biomedical and Translational Research and General Medicine
  • August 5: Advocates for Research on Allergies and Infectious Diseases, and Global Health
  • August 11: Advocates for Research on Genomics, Biomedical Engineering and Imaging, and Health Informatics, and Medical Libraries
  • August 16: Advocates for Research on Neurology and Mental Health

A list of the listening sessions and registration information is available on the NIH website.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 20), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

NIAAA Requesting Input on 2022-2026 Strategic Plan Outline

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has issued a Request for Information inviting feedback from stakeholders on the outline of the upcoming NIAAA Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years (FY) 2022-2026. The strategic plan outline, which is included in the request, contains several cross-cutting themes including promoting health equity and diversity in alcohol research spaces, identifying unique risks for alcohol misuse, advancing research on co-occurring conditions with alcohol misuse, supporting new technologies on diagnosis of alcoholism, increasing the use of data science in alcohol research, and encouraging collaboration between alcohol research and other topics.

The outline also notes three major goals for the institute:

  • Identify and track the biological, social, environmental, and behavioral causes and consequences of alcohol misuse;
  • Prevent and reduce alcohol misuse and associated developmental effects, health conditions, and acute harms;
  • Advance diagnosis and treatment of alcohol-related conditions.

Comments will be accepted through July 30 and may be submitted through an online form on the NIH website.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 20), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

Eric Lander Active in First Few Weeks as OSTP Director; Community Awaits PCAST Appointments

In the first few weeks since his confirmation on May 28, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Eric Lander has been active in advocating for President Biden’s ambitious science policy agenda, most notably the proposal for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), the DARPA-like research agency proposed to be housed within the National Institutes of Health (NIH). During the June 10-11 meeting of the Advisory Committee to the Director of NIH, Lander presented a more thorough vision of ARPA-H’s role as a high risk, high reward vehicle to address specific societal questions. A recording of the presentation is available on the NIH website.

With Lander’s confirmation behind the Administration, the scientific community now awaits announcement of appointments to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). PCAST, which Lander will co-chair, is the nation’s highest-level advisory body related to science policy issues, advising the President and his Administration on all aspects of the STEM enterprise and ways to apply it to Administration priorities. The last Administration did not reconstitute and appointment members to PCAST until almost three years into its term. With President Biden’s laser focus on science and technology, it is expected that PCAST will be populated sometime this year. We will continue to report on new developments.

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Posted in Issue 13 (June 22), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

House and Senate Appropriators Hold Hearings on NIH Budget for FY 2022

The Appropriations Subcommittees on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) in both the House and the Senate recently held hearings to discuss the fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Since both hearings were held prior to the full release of President Biden’s FY 2022 budget request, much of the discussion focused on the proposed increase to the top-line budget for NIH as well as the proposal for a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) as referenced in the Biden Administration’s “skinny budget” released earlier this year.

The House LHHS hearing was held on May 25 featuring testimony from NIH Director Francis Collins; Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Anthony Fauci; Director of the Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Diana Bianchi; Director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Gary Gibbons; Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Norman Sharpless; and Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Nora Volkow. Appropriations Committee Chair and LHHS Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Ranking Member Tom Cole (R-OK), and many members of the Subcommittee expressed their steadfast support for NIH and for increases to the agency’s research budget. However, Members from both sides of the aisle voiced skepticism about the proposal for ARPA-H due to concerns of duplicating funds for existing NIH research. Other issues raised during the hearing included structural racism in research spaces, gun violence prevention research, NIH research on medicinal marijuana, and the recent work of the UNITE Initiative to promote diversity in biomedical career paths. A recording of the hearing is available on the House LHHS website.

The Senate LHHS hearing was held on May 26 featuring testimony from Dr. Collins; Dr. Fauci; Dr. Bianchi; Dr. Sharpless; Dr. Gibbons; Director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) Eliseo Perez-Stable; and Director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) Bruce Tromberg. Subcommittee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Roy Blunt (R-MO) both expressed support for the proposed increases to NIH but still echoed concerns about the non-specific mission of ARPA-H as proposed. Other issues raised during the hearing included foreign influence in research, the effect of COVID-19 on children, gun violence prevention research, animal testing in research, and the impact of climate change on health. A recording of the hearing is available on the Senate LHHS website.

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Posted in Issue 12 (June 8), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

NIH Working Group Presents Report on Opportunities in Basic Behavioral and Social Science Research

During the May 20-21 meeting of the Council of Councils at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a Working Group on Basic Behavioral and Social Science Research (bBSSR) presented a report analyzing past support for basic research on behavioral and social phenomena related to health and areas ripe for additional study. The working group report, co-chaired by the Director of NIH’s Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) Dr. Bill Riley, looks at the historical trends of basic research at NIH and identifies potential trans-NIH opportunities to fill gaps in the agency’s efforts. The presentation touched on several trends in NIH basic behavioral and social science research, including the proportions of basic to applied research and neuroscientific and non-neuroscientific research at NIH over time. Several research topics were identified as needing more basic research including behavioral, cognitive, and social neuroscience; sleep and sex; epigenetics; infectious diseases; social interactions and health; maintaining behavior change; health processes; and the science of science. Although some concerns were raised by Council members about the absence of research on abuse and neglect, the findings of the report were generally well received. The report is available in full on the NIH website.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 25), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

NIH Launches New Bridge2AI Program

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Common Fund has established a new program, Bridge to Artificial Intelligence (Bridge2AI), which aims to generate flagship data sets and best practices for the collection and preparation of Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning (ML)-ready data to address biomedical and behavioral research grand challenges. The program plans to support several interdisciplinary Data Generation Projects (OTA-21-008) and one complementary cross-cutting Integration, Dissemination and Evaluation (BRIDGE) Center (NOT-RM-21-021). The new program was the subject of a recent post on the National Library of Medicine (NLM) Director’s blog. NIH will also host a series of webinars and virtual events in June to share more information about the program with prospective applications.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 25), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

ECHO Program Seeks Comments on Collecting Pre-Conception Data

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has issued a request for information (RFI) on improving the science of the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program (see COSSA’s previous coverage). NIH is interested in input from the external community on topics including (but not limited to) enhancing the program’s study origins of child health outcomes originating prior to conception, as well as more general strategies for maintaining scientific value while reducing the burden of primary data collection on participants and staff, addressing public health emergencies, enhancing recruitment and retention of diverse populations, and promoting diversity of the workforce related to child health. NIH will hold a webinar on May 6 to provide additional information on the RFI. Comments will be accepted through May 25. More information is available on the NIH website.

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Posted in Issue 9 (April 27), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

Biden Preliminary FY 2022 R&D Proposals Rely on “DARPA” Model

On April 9, the Biden Administration released preliminary, high-level details of its fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget request, referred to as a “skinny budget.” At this stage, details are only available for Cabinet-level departments and a handful of other “major” agencies, with limited details about some agencies within the departments. For example, it includes preliminary details for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but not for the Census Bureau. Full budget details will be released in the coming months. In the meantime, however, Congress is proceeding with the FY 2022 appropriations process without the Administration’s full proposals. Appropriators in both chambers have already held a number of hearings on the FY 2022 budget and are continuing to schedule appearances from federal officials, including the Director of the National Science Foundation, who is scheduled to testify before the House and Senate Appropriations Committees this week.

Unsurprisingly, given the Biden Administration’s early priorities, the request’s most prominent new research initiatives are proposed in the areas of climate change and public health. Two of the largest R&D proposals in the budget aim to replicate the model implemented by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), which aims to catalyze high-risk high-reward projects across government, academia, and industry. The request proposes a $1 billion investment in the existing Advanced Research Projects Agency—Energy (ARPA-E) and in the creation of a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Climate (ARPA-C) within the Department of Energy. These agencies would collectively support “high-risk, high-reward solutions for adaptation and resilience against the climate crisis and enable robust investments in clean energy technology research and development.” In its budget requests, the Trump Administration repeatedly proposed eliminating ARPA-E.

The Biden Administration proposes a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The budget proposes $6.5 billion for this new division, which is intended to “drive transformational innovation in health research and speed application and implementation of health breakthroughs” and would initially focus on diseases including cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. The request also proposes an additional $2.5 billion in funding for NIH’s other institutes and centers, which combined with the ARPA-H funding would be a total of $51 billion for the agency ($9 billion above its FY 2021 level).

The request for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) proposes a total of $8.7 billion, an increase of $1.6 billion above the FY 2021 level. It includes a $100 million Community-Based Violence Intervention initiative that would, in collaboration with the Justice Department, implement evidence-based community violence interventions. The Administration also proposes doubling current funding for gun violence prevention research at the CDC and NIH, which would provide $25 million to each agency in FY 2022.

The Administration’s request for the National Science Foundation (NSF) would provide the agency with $10.2 billion, a 20 percent increase from its FY 2021 enacted level. The request would increase funding for NSF’s Research and Related Activities account, which houses most of its research directorates, including the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE), by $1.6 billion, bringing it to a total of $9.4 billion. The request also repeats the proposal from the Biden Administration’s infrastructure plan (see related article) to establish a new directorate for technology and innovation.

The proposal would provide a total of $100 million in funding (a roughly 50 percent increase over FY 2021) for programs aiming to increase the participation of underrepresented groups in the sciences. According to the proposal, the funding would “support curriculum design, research on successful recruitment and retention methods, development of outreach or mentorship programs, fellowships, and building science and engineering research and education capacity at Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions.” In addition, the Administration proposes a $500 million increase ($1.2 billion total) for climate science and sustainability research. The proposal would fund a portfolio of research including on the “social, behavioral, and economic research on human responses to climate change.”

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 13), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

NIH Releases Minority Health and Health Disparities Strategic Plan for 2021-2025

The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has released its strategic plan for 2021 through 2025 to advance minority health and health disparities research across all NIH institutes, offices, and centers. The strategic plan, which was developed with input across the NIH and the minority health and health disparity research community, lays out goals and strategies for the agency to advance additional scientific research, support research-adjacent activities, and expand outreach and strategic communications on minority health and health disparities. These goals and strategies include:

  • Promoting research to understand and improve the health of racial and ethnic minority populations.
  • Advancing scientific understanding of the causes of health disparities.
  • Developing and testing interventions to reduce disparities.
  • Creating and improving scientific methods to support health disparities research.
  • Supporting trainings and career advancement to enhance diversity and promote minority health and health disparities research.
  • Strengthening capacity to conduct minority health and health disparities research.
  • Ensuring representation of minority and other health disparity populations in NIH-funded research.
  • Promoting evidence-based community engagement of best practices.
  • Cultivating and expanding the community of minority health and health disparities researchers and advocates.

Both the strategic plan and an interactive webpage to explore the contents of the plan are available on the NIH website.

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 13), Update, Volume 40 (2021)

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