Your Input Requested on a Framework for an NIH-wide Strategic Plan


NIH is beginning the process of developing a 5-year strategic plan, at the request of Congress. NIH developed a framework to identify crosscutting areas of research and unifying principles applicable to the priorities of the entire breadth of NIH’s institutes, centers, and offices. The goal of this larger NIH-wide strategic plan is not to outline the myriad important research opportunities for specific disease applications (these are covered in existing targeted strategic plans developed by institutes, centers, office and specialized trans-NIH working groups), but to highlight major themes that cross all of NIH.

I hope you’ll review the strategic plan framework described in this request for information, and provide your feedback. As the completed strategic plan is due to Congress in late December 2015, we need your comments on the framework by August 16, 2015.

As always, while discussion related to this topic is welcome in the comments of this blog, your feedback must be submitted as described in the RFI for consideration.

Note from Rock Talk Blog Team (posted Aug 3., 2015, 4:15 pm)

Today NIH announced a series of public webinars where NIH Principal Deputy Director Dr. Larry Tabak will present the framework for the NIH-wide Strategic Plan. Visit the webinar registration website to sign up and attend.

  • Wednesday, August 5 at 3:00 – 4:30 pm ET
  • Tuesday, August 11 at 3:30 – 5:00 pm ET
  • Thursday, August 13 at 4:00 – 5:30 pm ET


  1. I am pleased to see that the strategic plan calls for new methodologies and technologies. I firmly believe that new technologies drive science. The current review system strongly favors hypothesis-driven research, or “science”. My personal experience has been that proposals for technology development do not fair very well at all, because the feasibility of a new technology (approach) cannot be demonstrated until it is actually shown to work. Unfortunately, once a technology is shown to work, the project is already over. To solve this dilemma, an emphasis on technology in the strategic plan is definitely a good start, but a revamped review criteria/process will also be necessary to implement the plan.

  2. In he current era, many disease associated SNPs will be identified. For the most part, each of these will reflect a correlative relationship to a disease. Therefore, some will merely represent a linkage while others will actually be causal. Also, additional SNPs (or an overall genetic signature) will be required for some of disease-causing SNPs to express this ability. One way to identify a SNP’s role is to perform functional assays, which is still a rare event in the current era. Rather, we are merely generating large data-bases with little, or no, validation or authentic understanding of how the candidate SNPs are causing or modifying a variety of pathologies. In fact, if we don’t begin to understand the underlying roles played by these SNPs, then the stored information might eventually become worthless. I recommend that both extensive effort and funding go into supporting the development and implementation of functional analyses for these SNPs. This effort will allow for the re-purposing of trained scientists to pursue translational goals, and will likely identify new biological pathways and/or previously unimagined roles for known proteins (and many of these might even prove to be species-specific. Most importantly, this proposed line of mechanism-based scientific inquiry will ensure that the new era of precision medicine is more than a dream.

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