NIH SUAA Task Force begins portfolio reviews for SUAA reorganization

APA and other organizations urge the reorganization task force to include external scientific expertise

As reported in the December issue of Psychological Science Agenda, NIH Director Francis Collins has assembled a Substance Use, Abuse, and Addiction (SUAA) Task Force to oversee the planned reorganization of substance use research at NIH. The first meeting of the SUAA Task Force was held on January 11 to discuss the scope of the reorganization and the use of NIH subject matter experts to inform those deliberations. At the February meeting of the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse, a resolution (PDF, 47 KB) affirming the need to include extramural input to the Task Force passed unanimously. Subsequently, APA and four of its sister organizations, the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD), the Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA), the Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM) and the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT) sent a letter to the Task Force (PDF, 194 KB) urging it to include external scientific expertise from the beginning of those discussions and requesting to meet with the Task Force. Although Dr. Tabak has agreed to a meeting with the group, the date has yet to be determined.

Meanwhile at a meeting held on February 11, the SUAA Task Force began to examine the portfolios of NIDA and NIAAA to discuss what parts of the NIDA and NIAAA portfolios should be incorporated into the new institute and what parts of the current institutes might be shifted to other existing institutes and centers. Task Force Co-Chair, Dr. Larry Tabak provided the first public account of those discussions during a recent meeting of the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism on February 17. He also indicated that he expected the Task Force to provide a “straw model” of the reorganization for public comment by late March and that a revised draft, based on comments received in April, would be used by Director Collins to inform a final reorganization decision by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in May. The Secretary’s decision would then be relayed to Congress to begin a 180-day review, which in the absence of opposition, would lay the foundation for a reorganized institute to be included in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget cycle next fall.

As reassurance that NIH had been, and would continue to be, responsive to external feedback, Dr. Tabak made frequent references to the process being used to evaluate and solicit input for another NIH reorganization; the dissolution of the National Center for Research Resources to create the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. A “straw model” (PDF, 730 KB) for that reorganization was posted for public comment on January 16 and 1,256 comments later, a “final vision” for NCATS was posted on the NIH Feedback website on February 23.  Science Government Relations staff will continue to advocate for the inclusion of input from the extramural psychological science community as these reorganization efforts move forward.