Government Relations Update

NIH delays draft plan for reorganizing addictions research

Draft is now expected in late summer.

By Geoff Mumford

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced on March 30 that release of a draft plan for reorganizing substance use, abuse, and addiction (SUAA) research at NIH would be delayed until the late summer of 2011. The plan, which is being prepared by an internal NIH task force and had been expected to be available by early April, is intended to include a proposed description of the scope and structure of a new institute to replace the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

According to a post by NIH Deputy Director Larry Tabak on the NIH Feedback website, “It has become apparent however that additional time will be needed given the complexity and breadth of the research portfolios under study.  Over the next few months, the Task Force will continue to work with the subject matter experts and others within NIH to further refine our analysis. We plan to release a ‘straw model’ at the end of summer. ”

As reported previously, the American Psychological Association (APA) and other scientific organizations have sought greater input of the research community into the reorganization process as well as clearer data on current levels of NIH funding of SUAA research.  APA sent a letter (PDF, 278 KB) on March 24 to the co-chairs of the SUAA task force requesting additional baseline data from which to assess potential changes in the funding and distribution of the SUAA portfolio.  Among other points, the letter asked whether all current NIH funding related to tobacco/nicotine dependence was being considered by the task force and whether the task force’s analyses using NIH’s Research, Condition, and Disease Categorization (RCDC) system provided a sufficiently fine-grained picture of SUAA research.  RCDC data indicate that NIH funded $1.674 billion classified as “substance abuse” in Fiscal Year 2010.  That funding was distributed across 26 NIH Institutes (including the Office of the Director and Roadmap initiatives).  As indicated in the table below, only eight of those Institutes (in bold) had been formally consulted by the SUAA task force at the time APA sent its letter.

Observers both within and outside of NIH have noted that new and emerging tools such as NIH Topic Maps might be helpful in characterizing the NIH portfolio of SUAA research in greater detail.

A joint meeting (PDF, 28 KB) of the NIAAA and NIDA Advisory Councils with the NIH director, Francis Collins,  had been scheduled for April 11 but was cancelled due to the possibility of a federal government shutdown.  As this article is published, no announcement has been made regarding a new date for this meeting.  APA government relations staff will continue to monitor and respond to SUAA reorganization activities.

 Funding distribution table

Geoff Mumford is Associate Executive Director for Government Relations in the APA Science Directorate.