The purpose of this time-sensitive Request for Information (RFI) is to solicit public input to the NINDS regarding the challenges and opportunities in fundamental neuroscience research to best understand the normal development, structure, and function of nervous systems.
For well over a century, discoveries in basic neuroscience research have been the basis for our understanding of the nervous system and the foundation for developing treatments for neurological disorders. Insights into fundamental neuroscience (FN) have advanced at an ever-faster pace in the 21st century, with remarkable novel discoveries in areas ranging from subcellular mechanisms of action to whole brain activities. FN generates key insights, drives innovation, and underlies many therapeutic breakthroughs that benefit humanity.
The mission of the NINDS is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease. Investigator-initiated research in FN is the foundation for achieving that mission. Therefore, the NINDS has always supported research proposals in areas of FN that may not be immediately applicable to improving human health. The benefits of FN research are often surprising, impactful, and long-lasting.
To best achieve its mission, the NINDS carefully monitors and analyzes how extramural funding is distributed across the spectrum of basic and applied research. To that end, NINDS has developed simple definitions of basic and applied research that can generally be applied in an unambiguous and reproducible way. Each of these categories is further divided into two subcategories—basic/basic, basic/disease-focused, applied/translational, and applied/clinical with individual applications potentially having more than one type of research. Basic/basic research (aka FN research) is defined as studies aimed at understanding the development, structure, and function of the normal nervous system whether performed in vitro, in animals, or in humans. Significantly, the NINDS observed a steady decline in the funding percentage of basic/basic neuroscience research from 1997 to 2014. While there are likely several factors contributing to this shift (e.g., new opportunities to study and treat specific neurological diseases), the need for and value of FN remains high.
To underscore the unique value of FN research, and to encourage new avenues of discovery, in 2016 the NINDS issued Promoting Research in Basic Neuroscience, PAS-15-029 (and the 2018 reissue PAS 18-483). These program announcements provided additional funds to support 100% FN research projects that scored just beyond the pay line. This effort was effective in supporting novel research projects, and part of a larger effort to foster all categories of FN research. Significantly, over the last several years, the NINDS funding percentage for FN research has stabilized, likely due to many factors including these PASs, the NIH BRAIN Initiative and other forms of NINDS outreach. Although the Basic Neuroscience PAS recently expired, the NINDS continues to be highly supportive of FN research and is now looking for additional ways to best foster FN research going forward.
NINDS continues to support FN in a variety of ways. As outlined in its recent Strategic Plan, NINDS has taken several actions to sustain crucial lines of mechanistic and discovery-based research, including targeted funding for fundamental neuroscience of high program priority. NINDS is also one of ten NIH Institutes and Centers that support research via the NIH BRAIN Initiative. Finally, NINDS is a partner in several efforts to provide resources to the research community. Going forward, to best support FN research, the NINDS will directly ask the community for input in a variety of ways including this Request for Information.
This RFI seeks input from the scientific community to provide comments and advice on the opportunities and obstacles for FN research to accelerate our understanding of the normal development, structure, and function of nervous systems. NINDS will use responses collected from this RFI to create opportunities that best support investigator-initiated FN research. NINDS aims to solicit input from a wide range of perspectives and stakeholders who are invested in discovery-based neuroscience questions, and transparently report those findings back to the community.
How to Submit a Response
Reponses to this RFI must be submitted electronically using this web-based form. After providing comments in the boxes below, please click on the submit button at the bottom of the page.
The input sought by NINDS includes, but is not limited to, comments addressing any or all of the following areas of interest:
Responses will be accepted through September 1, 2022
Responses are voluntary and may be submitted anonymously. Responders are advised that the Government is under no obligation to acknowledge receipt of the information received or provide feedback to respondents with respect to any information submitted. Submitted information will not be considered confidential. Responses may be shared publicly on an NIH website. Please do not include any personally identifiable or other information that you do not wish to make public. No proprietary, classified, confidential, or sensitive information should be included in your response.
This request is for information and planning purposes only and should not be construed as a solicitation or as an obligation on the part of the United States Government. The NIH will not make any awards based on responses to this RFI or pay for the preparation of any information submitted or for the Government’s use of such information.