NIMH Director Announces Plans for Reorganization

The National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC) met on Friday, May 14, and Director Tom Insel announced plans for a major reorganization of the institute to encourage more translational research.

The National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC) met on Friday, May 14, and Director Tom Insel announced plans for a major reorganization of the institute to encourage more translational research. Currently, the NIMH research portfolio is organized into three major divisions: the Division of Basic Neuroscience and Behavioral Research, the Division of Mental Disorders, Behavioral Research and AIDS, and the Division of Services and Intervention Research.

Insel presented a rough sketch of a new organization for NIMH that would address the current gaps between basic science and clinical research by focusing the institute on translational research. With a new organization, Insel would plan to have new divisions focused on translational science for adults and another division for translational science for children.

The larger question for the behavioral science community is: "Where does this leave basic behavioral science?" Steve Breckler, APA's Executive Director for Science, addressed the Council and reiterated that APA is highly concerned that NIMH continue a comprehensive research agenda that includes a strong commitment to basic behavioral research and replace behavioral research staff with expertise in basic behavioral research. While the reorganization may serve the short-term interest of accelerating the pace of discovery, it poses long-term negative consequences for entire fields of psychology. NIMH's research portfolio should include integrative research, as well as basic research that is focused exclusively on dimensions of individual and group behavior that can help inform us about which individuals are resilient to mental and behavioral disorders, which populations are more vulnerable to mental and behavioral disorders, and how social and environmental factors impact the development, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of mental illness.

Insel indicated that a plan for reorganization will be finalized over the next few months, and implementation will begin in the fall. NIMH will be recruiting for those positions that have been left vacant in the behavioral sciences. He intends to communicate the specifics of his plan to the scientific community through journals such as the American Psychologist and will likely post a statement on the NIMH website explaining NIMH's plans for reorganization.

APA will continue to push the NIMH to maintain its traditionally strong commitment to basic behavioral science.