People close to the NIMH funding process say there is definitely still room within the public health initiative for good proposals that are led by or involve psychologist researchers.
Mary Evans, PhD, chair of one of the two peer review committees for NIMH's new public health initiative, recently told the institute's advisory council that her panel is not yet receiving the number and quality of applications she had expected on topics such as practice, dissemination of findings, quality of care and related areas.
And Ellen Frank, PhD, an NIMH advisory council member, notes that another "phenomenal opportunity" to study psychosocial treatment will come soon when the agency calls for proposals for ancillary studies to be done in conjunction with four large clinical trials. NIMH expects to make that announcement in the next few months.
Through that mechanism, Frank says, researchers can take advantage of study populations of a size previously unknown in treatment research. And the difficult work of gathering participants will already be done.
Researchers interested in the initiative should probably start with the extensive NIMH Web site (www.nimh.nih.gov), particularly under "Funding Opportunities." Each announcement has contact information for program officers, and the agency encourages inquiries.
In addition, topic descriptions and contact information for the various NIMH divisions--including the Division of Services and Intervention Research, where this funding is concentrated--are at www.nimh.nih.gov/about/compon.cfm.
Researchers should also peruse the three NIMH reports that set the stage for the initiative.
Two committees consider public health initiative proposals for funding: the Interventions Research Review Committee and the Services Research Review Committee. All members of those panels are listed at www.nimh.nih.gov/peer/index.cfm.
A variety of professionals serves on both committees. However, Evans says that most members on the services research committee are psychologists. The interventions research committee also has a number of psychologist members, including the chair, Susan Essock, PhD, professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
In other points of advice, Frank tells researchers to talk to the NIMH program officers for tips on writing proposals. They should be able to give more details on what proposals should contain. They should also have information about previously funded proposals. Frank encourages researchers to ask previous recipients of NIMH funds under the initiative for copies of their successful proposals.
Frank also emphasizes that the initiative has changed the factors that will get a proposal funded, so researchers should not rely on dated experience. She urges researchers to invest time in making connections with the community-service providers so any proposal can highlight that advantage.
Evans stresses the importance of making the research multidisciplinary, cooperating with psychiatrists, statisticians, sociologists and others.
She also indicates that proposals should emphasize the public health importance of the topic. In addition, she reminds researchers that the review committees now include "public participants" such as advocates, state and local decision-makers, consumers, journalists and others. She tells researchers to explain the research's importance in terms those members will understand.