NIH Scientific Management Review Board Assesses Progress to Date

On November 13, the NIH Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB) met to receive progress reports from its three Working Groups.

On November 13, the NIH Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB) met to receive progress reports from its three Working Groups (agenda, PDF).  The two of greatest interest to the extramural research community are the Deliberation of Organization Change and Effectiveness (DOCE) Working Group and the Substance, Use, Abuse and Addiction (SUAA) Working Group.  The DOCE summary didn’t provide a great deal of detail but the group has decided on a set of five principles to guide any proposed reorganization which it says should: 1) strengthen the ability of NIH to carry out its mission; 2) create an environment that will enable coordination and collaboration; 3) bring together units where there is synergy for discovery and translation; 4) enhance public understanding of science; and 5) increase operational efficiency. They also said there should be a high threshold for change (i.e., the anticipated benefits must be high and they “shouldn’t be nibbling around the edges”).  The DOCE Working Group is organizing additional meetings to: 1) examine case studies of organizational change in academia and government; 2) hear from former Institute Directors; and 3) hear from experts on organizational change. In the discussion, several board members alluded to high profile failures to reorganize the Health Care Financing Administration and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and so they will be bringing in experts to examine lessons learned from those experiences.

The Chair of the SUAA Working Group summarized the meetings they’ve held to date (previously reported in SPIN) and planned to hold additional briefings to: 1) examine lessons learned from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the former Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Administration (ADAMHA), and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP); 2) hear from former NIDA/NIAAA Directors; and 3) consult with the NIDA and NIAAA Councils.  It’s clear that the Working Group is considering a full range of re-organizational options from minimalist (e.g., joint advisory council overseeing separate Institutes) to full merger.  The archived webcast of the meeting is available here.