A Farewell to NIH


It is bittersweet for me to announce that I am leaving my position as the NIH Deputy Director and will be retiring from NIH and the government to take a new position as Director of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. This is a newly formed foundation that I will lead through its formative first years. This foundation is a non-profit corporation that will focus on important national and international issues of agriculture where expanded investments will generate innovative solutions. This position brings together my experience at NIH and my previous 19 years with the USDA. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to do something completely new, which led to my acceptance of this new position.

It has been an extraordinarily hard decision to leave NIH, an incredible agency with an incredible mission, one of which I have loved being part. Working with the extramural community has been an amazing experience, as your work contributes so much to improving lives around the nation, and around the world, through your research. Writing this blog has been a centerpiece of my tenure as Director of the Office of Extramural Research, and I thank you for reading and participating in the conversation here at Rock Talk and helping us to throw open the doors to what is, at times, the mystery of the NIH decision-making process.

I am going to stay on through mid-September, to allow time for NIH Director Francis Collins to seek my replacement.  I’ll keep on blogging through then, so let’s continue our dialog!


  1. I am sorry to hear that you are leaving and as a consequence that “Rock Talk” will cease to exist. You and your blog have done a great deal to making NIH extramural policies, procedures, changes etc a little easier to navigate. Best of luck in your new position.
    John D. Rioux, Ph.D.
    Professor of Medicine
    Université de Montréal & Montreal Heart Institute
    Canada Research Chair in Genetics and Genomic Medicine

    1. Thank you. While I cannot speak for my successor, I am sure my staff will encourage them to keep the dialog going.

  2. Thank you for taking on this crucial role at FFAR. That Foundation is a tremendous and potentially transformative idea. To have it reach its potential will require getting a million details right and persuading a hundred different interests to coordinate. You are the person who can best do that. Welcome back to agricultural research!

  3. Hi Sally,

    You have been a “rock” on which so many of us have relied on and, for that, I’m sorry to see you leave. All the same, I’m so glad that you have this opportunity to continue to learn and contribute in ways that use all of your skills to meet new challenges. This is something to look forward to and to celebrate! All the best,

    Winnie Ennenga
    Assistant Vice President for Research Administration
    Northern Arizona University

  4. Sally you have been there for so many of us and responded to our issues in ways only you can do best. I am happy you will still be around but only with a different organization.
    Agriculture has become a big part in research and I am sure many of us will continue to reach out to you in that area.
    Congratulations in your new adventure !

    Winnie Nwangwu
    Director, Office of Sponsored Projects
    University of Rhode Island

  5. Dr. Rockey,

    You will be missed. I am so grateful for your willingness to have that dialogue with all folks interested in NIH Extramural Research. You have been a gracious and strong resource.

    Best of luck in your new endeavors,

    Anne Pascucci

  6. Dear Dr. Rockey,

    I am sorry to hear that you are leaving NIH but am glad for your next stage of influence. I have learned much from you and your blog. Best wishes.

  7. Thank you for bringing a new level of transparency with this blog and hanging tough through some hard times. Best of luck in your new role – we all need a change sometimes!

  8. OH NOOO!!!! You will be very sorely missed! Best wishes on your next career, Dr. Rock. You can’t imagine how helpful you were to me. 🙁 But still, ROCK ON!

  9. Very sorry to see you go, these are valuable news items and the tone is perfect. Big shoes to fill for your replacement!

  10. Thank you for your GREAT communications…. Please remember that your NIH experiences with Biomaterials will also apply to foods and other products of agriculture, and the needs for sanitation/sterilization –especially via locovores–will be critical items for your Team to address.

    r.e. baier, Biomaterials Graduate Program, SUNY Buffalo

  11. Dr. Rockey – thank you for opening this dialog and making the experience of dealing with NIH so much more human and collaborative. You will be sorely missed. I hope your successor will continue the work you have started here. And very best wishes on your new position. How exciting!!

    Lesley S. Zajac
    Director, Research Administration

  12. Congratulations and best wishes on your new position. Thank you for your hard work. I also would like to highly encourage your successor to continue these blogs. They were just the right rate/length that I could find the time to learn from them. And the conversational tone was such a refreshing change from the more matter of fact prose of regulations and guidelines.

    All the best,


  13. Dr. Rockey, I join my colleagues in congratulating you both on your new position and for the wonderful work you have done at NIH. Your commitment to the human condition is evidenced by your taking on another big responsibility at this stage of life. Thank you for all that you have brought to the world of NIH investigators. You have been extremely helpful, and we will miss your voice.

  14. Rock talk has been super helpful from day 1 – thank you! The skills you acquired at NIH combined with your friendly and helpful personality will guarantee that you will be successful in your new job.

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