Hitchiker’s Guide to the NIH Roadmap—What’s In It For You?

There has been a lot of publicity in scientific publications about the NIH Roadmap. An initiative of NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, the Roadmap is a collection of 28 new research initiatives organized in three themes (Research Teams of the Future; New Pathways to Discovery; and Re-engineering the Clinical Research Enterprise) that are intended to stimulate investment in crosscutting research areas that no one institute could fund on its own.

There has been a lot of publicity in scientific publications about the NIH Roadmap. An initiative of NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, the Roadmap is a collection of 28 new research initiatives organized in three themes (Research Teams of the Future; New Pathways to Discovery; and Re-engineering the Clinical Research Enterprise) that are intended to stimulate investment in crosscutting research areas that no one institute could fund on its own. Each institute and center at NIH has given 1% of its budget to a central pool to provide funds for these initiatives-a total of approximately $35 million for Fiscal Year 2005. The National Science Foundation has long had a trans-foundation pool of research funds, but this is the first time a formal program has been established at NIH.

Research psychologists can be confident that a number of the Roadmap initiatives are focused on or welcoming of behavioral research proposals. In many cases, the Requests for Applications (RFAs) arising from Roadmap initiatives will be reviewed by Special Emphasis Panels rather than by standing NIH study sections.

The NIH web page contains a great deal of information about Roadmap initiatives.
One or more RFAs will be issued for each initiative.

For example, under the theme "Re-engineering the Clinical Research Enterprise," one RFA has been posted. Psychology is explicitly listed as one of the disciplines eligible for career support through the RFA for institutional support entitled, "Multidisciplinary Clinical Research Career Development Programs." According to the NIH Guide, "Career Development Programs supported under this RFA must include a broad representation of clinical disciplines and professions (e.g., internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, dentistry, pharmacy, statistics, nursing, psychology) and their various specialties and sub-specialties. Programs must include a structured core didactic component and a practical training component in various aspects of the design, conduct, and analysis of clinical research. Individuals should be trained in team research settings and will be known as NIH Clinical Research Scholars (CR Scholars).

Several initiatives are being coordinated by the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research in partnership with one or more NIH institutes. One example is a multidisciplinary research training initiative on Behavior, Environment and Biology that was posted on November 19, 2003.

When planning began in earnest for the NIH Roadmap in early 2003, behavioral and social scientists were initially concerned that the initiatives might largely exclude behavioral research. Psychologists and others at NIH worked hard to ensure that behavioral and social scientists were appointed to the trans-NIH working groups developing each of the initiatives, so that psychology and the other social science disciplines could have a voice in, and influence on, the process. APA's Chief Executive Officer Norman Anderson contacted several NIH institute directors personally to discuss the composition of the working groups and the conceptual framework for the Roadmap. As a result of all these efforts, the behavioral and social sciences stand to benefit along with the rest of NIH by an increased investment in trans-NIH research and renewed scientific infrastructure.