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NIMH Announces New Strategic Plan, Approves Concept Clearances

During a public meeting on May 19, the National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC), the advisory body to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), released a new Strategic Plan for Research for the Institute. The strategic plan outlines NIMH’s research goals and intended priorities for the next five fiscal years, and cites four high-level goals to guide the Institute:

  • Define the Brain Mechanisms Underlying Complex Behaviors
  • Examine Mental Illness Trajectories Across the Lifespan
  • Strive for Prevention and Cures
  • Strengthen the Public Health Impact of NIMH-Supported Research

In addition to the strategic plan announcement, NAMHC heard and approved several concept clearances for potential new research, including some that would incorporate social and behavioral science. Summaries of these concept clearances and a recording of the NAMHC meeting will be available on the NIH website shortly.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 26), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

National Institute of Mental Health Requests Information on Draft 2020 Strategic Plan

In December 2019, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) within the National Institutes of Health released a Request for Information (RFI) soliciting public feedback on its draft Strategic Plan for Research. NIMH publishes a strategic plan for research every five years with updates to the Institute’s stated research priorities. The deadline to submit feedback has been extended to January 15, 2020. The draft of the strategic plan and more information can be found on the NIH website.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 7), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

National Institute of Mental Health Releases Update of Strategic Research Priorities

On October 12, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released updates to its Strategic Research Priorities, which provides guidance to potential grant applicants, NIMH grantees, and NIMH staff “for the design and implementation of future research.” The priorities address the four strategic areas outlined in NIMH’s 2015 Strategic Plan for Research. The recently released Strategic Research Priorities highlight the use of common data elements, the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) project, the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, and NIMH’s experimental therapeutics approach.

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Posted in Issue 20 (October 18), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

Joshua A. Gordon Named Director of National Institute of Mental Health

GordonOn July 28, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins announced the appointment of Joshua A. Gordon as director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Gordon is currently an associate professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and research psychiatrist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Additionally, he is an associate director of the Columbia University/New York State Psychiatric Institute Adult Psychiatry Residency Program. His lab studies genetic models of psychiatric diseases from “an integrative neuroscience perspective and across multiple levels of analysis, focused on understanding how a given disease mutation leads to a particular behavior.” Gordon is expected to begin his tenure as NIMH director in September.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 9), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

NIMH Seeks Perspectives on the State of Mental Illness Research

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is inviting “perspectives on the state of mental illness research” and the institute’s role in development of the research. The institute is seeking the input of the extramural community to “develop briefing materials that represent the full diversity of perspectives on mental illness research in preparation for the next NIMH director.” Comments are solicited on such topics as: basic neuroscience, translational, intervention, clinical, and services research; Research Domain criteria initiative (RDoc), global mental health, diversity and training of the workforce; advocacy and outreach efforts; and translational biomarkers. Comments are due June 30, 2016. For more information and/or to provide comments, click here.

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Posted in Issue 11 (May 31), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

NIMH Seeks Input on Tasks and Measures for the RDoC

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is seeking input from stakeholders, the scientific community, and the general public related to its Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) framework. RDoC is defined as a “new way of classifying mental disorders based on dimensions of observable behavior and neurobiological measures.” Specifically, the Institute is seeking input regarding “existing tests with known construct validity, and also general suggestions on the most important criteria to consider when selecting candidate tests.” NIMH’s National Advisory Mental Health Council will convene a workgroup “charged with the task of recommending a list of valid and reliable tests for potential use for each construct.” To support the Council’s effort, the RDoC unit “seeks input and recommendations of tests with: (1) good construct validity as a measure of as a specific RDoC construct; (2) robust psychometrics; and (3) suitability for use across diverse participants.” The Institute is also seeking input regarding the “criteria that should be considered when selecting candidate tests.” Responses are due April 22, 2016.

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Posted in Issue 7 (April 5), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

Senior Leadership Changes Occurring at NIH

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have been experiencing a turnover in the leadership over the past month as several long-term directors have decided to retire and/or move on to new endeavors.

guttmacher In August, Alan Guttmacher, director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), announced his plans to retire at the end of September. The Friends of NICHD paid tribute to Guttmacher on September 15 with a farewell breakfast in recognition of his dedication and leadership in advancing science and improving human health and well-being. COSSA serves on the Friends Executive Committee.

As director of one of the few NIH institutes with a “friends” group, Guttmacher always made a point of expressing his appreciation for the Friends’ ability to collectively advocate on behalf of the Institute despite the breadth of its mission and diverse research portfolio.

Speaking on behalf of the Friends and the social and behavioral science research community in particular, Howard Kurtzman, Acting Executive Director for Science at the American Psychological Association, expressed the community’s appreciation for Guttmacher’s service during his tenure at NIH, which has included the release of NICHD’s Scientific Vision statement (See Update, December 10, 2012). He also noted that many in the social and behavioral science community were “very pleased that this Scientific Vision maintained NICHD’s broad approach to human development, covering topics from pregnancy and reproduction, to neural plasticity and rehabilitation, to population dynamics.”

Guttmacher, a pediatrician and geneticist, also served as NIH director Francis Collins’ deputy director at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and its Acting Director when Collins became NIH’s director. In 2010, Collins appointed him director of NICHD.

Recently appointed NICHD deputy director and former NICHD scientific director Catherine Spong has been appointed acting director of the Institute. A national search for a new director is underway.

inselAlso on September 15, Collins announced that National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) director Thomas Insel would be stepping down on November 1, 2015. Insel will be joining the Google Life Sciences (GLS) team at Alphabet (formerly Google) to lead a new effort that will focus on mental health. GLS’ mission is “to create technology for earlier detection, better prevention, and more effective management of serious health conditions.” Insel’s new role will include “exploring this approach for a wide spectrum of issues in mental health.”

NIMH Acting Deputy Director Bruce Cuthbert will serve as Acting Director. Cuthbert, the director of Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) unit, has held a number of leadership positions at NIMH.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 22), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

NIH: AIDS Research Center/Developmental Research Centers on Mental Health and HIV/AIDS

The Division of AIDS Research (DAR) within the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is seeking applications for Center Core grants to support an HIV/AIDS Research Center (ARC) (PAR-15-197) and applications to support Developmental AIDS Research Centers (D-ARC) (PAR-15-196). ARC supports innovative, interdisciplinary research in the areas of basic research, neuro-AIDS, behavioral and social, integrated biobehavioral, clinical, translational, and implementation science. D-ARC provides infrastructure support that facilitates the development of high impact science in HIV/AIDS and mental health that is relevant to the NIMH mission.

NIMH’s intent is to support research that addresses the most current research priorities in the field. Accordingly, the proposed ARC priorities should align with the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and international research directions outlined in guidance from the NIH Office of AIDS Research (OAR). The Centers must have the potential to support research in a variety of areas: biological, biomedical, behavioral, neuroscience, mental health, prevention, clinical sciences, and implementation science research. ARCs are expected to serve as local, regional, national, and global resources for rigorous HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and implementation science. D-ARCs have the potential to assemble the evidence base critical to health policy decisions-making pertaining to resource allocation, strategic priorities, and best practices.

Applications are due September 14, 2015.

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Posted in Issue 9 (May 19), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

NIMH Releases Strategic Plan for Research

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently released its Strategic Plan for Research which will guide the Institute’s research priorities over the next five years, from basic science of the brain and behavior, to public health impact.  This plan updates the objectives of the 2008 strategic plan. Its aim is to balance the need for long-term investments in basic research with urgent medical health needs. (more…)

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Posted in Issue 6 (April 7), Update, Volume 34 (2015)

Aging and Mental Health Institutes Seek Comments on Draft Strategic Plans

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are seeking public comment on the development of the Institutes’ strategic plans. The plans will guide the Institutes’ research priorities.

National Institute on Aging

The NIA recently released a request for information (RFI) seeking guidance on its strategic plan, Aging Well in the 21st Century: Strategic Directions for Research on Aging. The draft plan outlines NIA’s broad strategic directions for the Institute and “provides a point of reference for setting priorities and a framework for systematically analyzing the Institute’s scientific portfolio and assessing progress.” Its goals falls into three categories: understanding the dynamics of the aging process; improving health, well-being, and independence of adults as they age; and supporting the research enterprise.

The goals include:

  1. Better understand the biology of gaining and its impact on prevention, progression, and prognosis of disease and disability.
  2. Better understand the effects of personal and societal factors on aging, including the mechanisms through which these factors exert their effects.
  3. Develop effective interventions to maintain health and function and prevent or reduce the burden of age-related diseases, disorders, and disabilities.
  4. Improve our understanding of the aging brain, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. Develop interventions to address Alzheimer’s and other age-related neurological conditions.
  5. Improve our understanding of the consequences of an aging society to inform intervention development and policy decisions.
  6. Understand health differences and develop strategies to improve the health status of older adults in diverse populations
  7. Support the infrastructure and resources needed to promote high quality research.
  8. Disseminate information to the public, medical and scientific communities, and policy makers about research and interventions.

Specifically, NIA would like feedback regarding (1) research needs and opportunities that should be added to the plan and (2) emerging research needs and future opportunities that should be included in the plan.

Responses will be accepted until December 15, 2014 and must be submitted via email to the NIA Office of Planning, Analysis and Evaluation at

National Institute of Mental Health

The National Institute of Mental Health’s revised Strategic Plan is intended to guide its priorities from 2015–2020. Accordingly, NIMH is inviting public comment and is specifically interested in receiving ideas for “scientific advancements, new technical capabilities or tools, or major challenge topics that promise substantial change to mental health research if pursued.” NIMH is the largest funding agency for mental health research.

In his message, NIMH director Tom Insel notes “that some scientists reject the concept of ‘directed science,’ believing that science rarely follows a plan.” Conversely, Insel noted, a strategic plan “can identify the most important problems and identify areas of traction.”

The 2015–2020 plan revises the original four high-level Strategic Objectives which are intended to serve as a “broad roadmap” for NIMH’s priorities.

These objectives include:

  1. Define the biological basis of complex behaviors;
  2. Chart mental illness trajectories to determine when, where, and how to intervene;
  3. Strive for prevention and cures; and
  4. Strengthen the public health impact of NIMH-supported research.

According to the revised draft plan, the Institute’s funding strategy is “to support a broad spectrum of investigator-initiated research in fundamental science, with increasing use of Institute-solicited initiatives for applied research where public health impact is a short-term measure of success.”

The revised plan also includes cross-cutting themes that are relevant to each of the objectives. These themes include: transforming diagnostics, accelerating therapeutics, the growing digital enterprise, transforming the trajectory of mental illnesses through preemptive medicine, global mental health, mental health disparities, partnerships, and training future research scientists.

Responses to the draft plan are due by December 11, 2014and can be submitted to: Additional information is available here.

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Posted in Issue 21 (November 17), Update, Volume 33 (2014)


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