The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Intramural Research Program (IRP) is one of the largest biomedical research institutions in the world, with over 1000 principal investigators supported by the NIH’s Institutes and Centers to conduct basic, clinical, and translational research in laboratories and clinical facilities located on NIH campuses. Each Institute and Center is responsible for engaging members of the external community to provide input on strengths, opportunities, and challenges of their intramural programs. In addition to the regular Board of Scientific Counselor (BSC) reviews of individual investigators, Institutes also convene Blue Ribbon Panels to conduct comprehensive assessments of their entire intramural programs. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) is assembling its first Blue Ribbon Panel to review the NINDS IRP and provide feedback on how we can build upon the program’s strengths, leverage opportunities, and overcome challenges, with the overall goal of enhancing the program’s contribution within the larger scientific community.
This NINDS Blue Ribbon Panel process dovetails with a broader strategic planning effort for the NIH IRP. Leaders of the NIH are currently crafting a long-term strategy to enhance the program’s ability to catalyze scientific progress and improve human health. As part of this NIH-wide planning process, the Institutes and Centers are each formulating visions for their own programs, which will contribute to the overall long-term plan for the NIH IRP.
The conclusions and recommendations developed by the NINDS Blue Ribbon Panel will guide future activities of the NINDS IRP, and will also be integrated into NINDS’s contribution to the overarching strategic plan for the NIH IRP. The work of this Panel thus represents an important opportunity to provide feedback to NINDS and NIH leadership on the overall quality of our IRP and input on opportunities and priorities for the future.
Purpose of the NINDS IRP Blue Ribbon Panel
The Blue Ribbon Panel will review a set of materials with information on the NINDS IRP, meet with NINDS leadership and intramural scientists, and offer conclusions and recommendations to the NINDS leadership regarding the strengths of the program, opportunities for enhancing the scientific contributions of the IRP, solutions for overcoming challenges, and immediate and long-term priorities. Topics that will be covered in the background material for consideration by the Panel include:
- Organization and resources of the IRP
- Innovation, balance, and productivity of the research
- Composition and quality of the scientific workforce
- Board of Scientific Counselors review process
- Interactions across the NIH, including the Clinical Center and with other Neuroscience Institutes and Centers, as well as with outside collaborators
- Characteristics and outcomes of training and career development programs
During its deliberations, the Panel should consider the following overarching questions:
- Given current strengths of the IRP, what are the most notable opportunities for enhancing the program’s quality and influence moving forward?
- How can the IRP further enhance the value of its role in training and developing the next generation of PhD and MD neuroscientists?
- What kind of investigator / research does the intramural process best enable?
- Are there unrealized synergies that could improve the program’s ability to collaborate, within or outside of NIH, on multidisciplinary and cross-cutting projects?
- Are there barriers that prevent the program from realizing its full potential, or that if addressed would improve the program’s ability to conduct outstanding and influential science? If so, how might those barriers be overcome?
- How can the IRP better leverage opportunities provided by its unique position within the larger scientific community? Are there major long-term scientific or administrative changes that would require five to ten years for implementation that should be considered?
Blue Ribbon Panel Composition
The Blue Ribbon Panel will function as a working group of the National Advisory Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NANDS) Council and be chaired by an NANDS Council member. The group will consist of members from the extramural research community with a broad spectrum of expertise in basic and clinical neuroscience, including members from NANDS Council and the NINDS Board of Scientific Counselors.
Blue Ribbon Panel Activities
The Panel will work closely with NINDS staff members to identify and develop the information and data that will be needed to carry out the charge. NINDS staff members will serve as liaisons to the Institute and provide logistics, information, and other support as requested by the Panel. The Panel’s discussions will occur via conference calls and a meeting on the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD. A final report of the Panel’s conclusions and recommendations will be delivered to the NANDS Council and NINDS leadership, and the findings will be made available to the public on the NINDS website.