In a wonderful opportunity to look ahead and steer the course and field of neuroscience research, I am happy to announce the new 2021-2026 NINDS Strategic Plan: Investing in the Future. We are compelled to conduct this exercise every five years as we take stock of our progress and update the strategic plan to reflect our core values, our stakeholder’s needs, and the best ways to go about achieving our mission.
This plan reflects the cumulative efforts over two years of almost 450 people, including external stakeholders and NINDS staff, and provides an exciting and ambitious guide for our work over the next five years. I especially wish to thank NINDS Deputy Director Dr. Nina Schor for tirelessly leading this effort, which she describes in her blog post on The Schor Line.
The strategic plan focuses on six main scientific goals:
- Understanding the Brain, Spinal Cord, Peripheral Nerves, and Neuromuscular System
- Understanding the Basic Mechanisms of Neurological Disorders
- Seeing More Precisely –Biomarkers and Outcome Measures
- Improving Treatments
- Preventing Neurological Disorders
- Advancing Health Equity
The strategic plan covers three additional goals that are crucial for the NINDS mission:
- Training and Workforce Diversity: Fund and conduct neuroscience research training and career development programs to ensure a vibrant, talented, and diverse neuroscience workforce.
- Communications: Promote dynamic communication and diverse stakeholder engagement to accelerate scientific progress and reduce the burden of neurological disorders.
- Workforce Culture: Create and sustain a supportive work culture for the NINDS staff that becomes the model for biomedical research and the neuroscience community.
In the plan you will also find cross-cutting strategies that reflect core values and approaches across all our scientific goals. These include scientific rigor and transparency, the value of investigator-initiated research, commitment to diversity and inclusion, team science, neuroethics resources and research, patient engagement, research access to emerging technologies and experimental research models, data sharing and data science, collaboration and partnership, as well as the unique capabilities of the NINDS Intramural Research Program.
To achieve the goals outlined in our new Strategic Plan, NINDS will continue to rely primarily on investigator-initiated research, which is especially well-suited to discovery research. However, some types of research, such as large clinical studies or preclinical development of therapies, or workforce development, such as enhancing diversity and inclusion, will require targeted funding announcements or programs designed to meet their special needs. Tackling basic neuroscience problems that require large coordinated groups of scientists to achieve laudable goals requires a new approach to training and funding team science research. Other aspects of the Strategic Plan will be best advanced by changing NINDS policies, more effectively engaging our patient and advocacy partners, enhancing our communication strategies within NIH and with the public, and convening workshops or planning efforts focused on specific topics.
I would like to thank everyone who contributed ideas and comments that helped us create this overarching strategic framework for the Institute – your voices are reflected in the new strategic plan as we invest in the future. Over the next five years, we will continue to develop and refine plans and look forward to the implementation that will make them a reality. We will keep you informed on our progress, so please continue to check the NINDS Strategic Plan for updates!