Interview

Lana Shekim of the National Institute on Deafness & Other Communication Disorders

NIDCD official highlights funding opportunities for behavioral scientists.

The American Psychological Association is touching base with federal research funding managers over the next few months to learn how their agencies are coping with current budget challenges.  The federal budget for Fiscal Year 2011 was only recently made final, and it is already clear that negotiations over the 2012 budget will be a battleground for funding cuts.  How’s a scientist to cope?  Fortunately, opportunities can still be found.  APA is talking to people who can help scientists navigate these difficult times.

Lana Shekim, PhDLana Shekim is the Program Director for the Voice and Speech Programs at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), a component of the National Institutes of Health.  She earned her doctorate in communication sciences and disorders from the University of Florida and completed postdoctoral training in cognitive neuropsychology at Johns Hopkins University.  Prior to joining NIDCD, she served on the faculty of the George Washington University in Washington, DC, and directed the Speech-Language Pathology Service at the GWU Medical Center.

Dr. Shekim corresponded with Pat Kobor of APA’s Science Government Relations Office by email in late March 2011.  Here are excerpts from their discussion.


Kobor: Are there new or continuing research initiatives at NIDCD that you especially want behavioral scientists to know about?

Dr. Shekim: Communication sciences are by nature behavioral sciences and so behavioral scientists interested in the scientific programs of NIDCD (hearing, balance/vestibular, taste, smell, voice, speech, and language) are encouraged to keep NIDCD in mind.  Like other NIH Institutes and Centers, NIDCD supports a wide range of research from basic to clinical to translational.  The best place to start is to visit our website and contact the appropriate program director.  Some possible examples include: 

  • Accessible and Affordable Hearing Health Care
    NIDCD offers funding opportunity announcements to help increase the accessibility and affordability of hearing health care (HHC) for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss. Potential research areas of focus for NIDCD include understanding factors that influence a patient’s perceived need for HHC and factors that motivate individuals to seek HHC, understanding barriers to HHC access, and evaluating opportunities to use new health care delivery models and methodologies to increase options for accessible and affordable HHC. 

  • Improved Diagnosis and Treatment for Spasmodic Dysphonia
    NIDCD seeks to accelerate basic, translational, and clinical research into therapeutic approaches for spasmodic dysphonia, a voice disorder caused by involuntary movements of one or more muscles involved in the production of voice. In a funding opportunity announcement, NIDCD is encouraging research collaborations between epidemiologists, neurologists, scientists, speech-language pathologists, and clinicians to foster improved diagnosis and treatment for spasmodic dysphonia. 

  • Research on Autism and  Autism Spectrum Disorders
    NIDCD and the other autism-funding institutes encourage research grant applications to support research designed to elucidate the diagnosis, treatment, and optimal means of service delivery in relation to autism spectrum disorders (ASD).  Clinical and applied studies are encouraged. Specific areas of interest include epidemiology, early identification and diagnosis, communication skills, cognitive neuroscience, psychosocial (behavioral) interventions, and support and rehabilitative services across the life-span, including adulthood and the transition to adulthood.

  • Epidemiological Research on Taste and Smell Disorders
    NIDCD will support incorporating standard measures of taste and smell into the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a nationally representative, population-based survey. This project will help determine the prevalence of smell and taste impairment in the United States, as well as to identify risk factors for smell or taste loss and possible associated conditions such as obesity, altered dietary intake, and chronic illnesses (such as asthma, cardiovascular disease, etc.).

Kobor: Are there agency-wide or cross-cutting initiatives that you would encourage psychological scientists to apply for?

Dr. Shekim: NIDCD participates in a number of trans-NIH initiatives pertinent to behavioral and social science research. Some examples include:

Kobor: According to information on the NIH website, NIDCD spent more than $89 million on behavioral and social sciences research in Fiscal Year 2008, and more than $109 million in Fiscal Year 2009 (including temporary ARRA stimulus funds).  Is NIDCD funding any type of behavioral or psychological research that you think our readers would be surprised to know about?  

Dr. Shekim: Readers might be surprised by the sheer breadth of behavioral and social science research sponsored by NIDCD. This includes all of NIDCD’s seven areas of study: hearing, balance, smell, taste, voice, speech, and language.

A few examples of behavioral and social science research funded by NIDCD include:

  • A study on hearing impairment in HIV-infected and HIV/tuberculosis-coinfected individuals in Tanzania

  • A two-year pilot study of hearing in newborn Native American infants (in collaboration with NIAAA and NICHD)

  • Studies on the development of speech and language skills in children with cochlear implants

  • A study on the identification of speech patterns in children and infants who may develop autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and evaluation of the efficacy of certain communication interventions for ASD

Kobor: How about training or career support?

Dr. Shekim: NIDCD funds a variety of research career development programs applicable to psychologists across the career span. Notably, the K08 and K23 programs provide mentored training to early-stage clinical psychologists who seek research career development in fundamental research and patient-oriented research, respectively, within the NIDCD scientific mission areas.  For more information on these and other career development opportunities, visit the NIDCD Career Development Awards page.

Kobor: Is there any specific advice you can offer to readers who are interested in support from NIDCD?

Dr. Shekim: There’s a wealth of information available on the NIDCD and NIH websites for researchers who are interested in applying for funding. On the NIDCD webpage, researchers should click on the “Funding” and “Research” tabs to peruse NIDCD’s research areas and funding opportunities. An important new tool on the NIH website is NIH RePORT, which offers detailed information about how NIH research dollars are spent, including reports, data, and analyses of NIH research activities. Researchers should also be sure to subscribe to Nexus, the NIH Office of Extramural Research’s monthly newsletter, to keep up with the latest announcements. Finally, researchers who have a research project in mind would do well to contact the program officer who oversees that research portfolio to discuss if their research interests mesh with the priorities of the institute. For a list of program staff, visit the NIDCD Staff Contacts page.

See a video interview with Dr. Shekim about research on voice disorders.