NIH creates a win-win in analyzing institutes’ structure

Both alcohol and addiction research should benefit from decision

On Friday, November 16, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that it was not going to implement a recommendation made by its Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB) to abolish the National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and replace them with an addiction-focused institute. Under the recommendation, non-addition related research — such as end organ damage research — would have been distributed to various other institutes.

Instead, NIH has adopted a Solomon-like approach. It chose to implement a functional merger in which those addiction-related activities of both institutes will be more closely coordinated when it is scientifically advantageous to do so, but the two institutes themselves will retain their own structures for those areas of research that are not related.

The plan announced by NIH was one of the two solutions recommended by the Working Group of the SMRB tasked with analyzing the issue. CRD Associates, which has been actively involved with this process since the SMRB was first charged by then-NIH Director Dr. Elias Zerhouni in early 2009, helped a variety of organizations present their views to the SMRB. We crafted testimony for witnesses before the SMRB. We convened an informal coalition, comprised of more than 20 organizations, to continue to press for the most advantageous approach to research. This coalition met with a variety of leaders on Capitol Hill, in the Department of Health and Human Services, and at the Office of Management and Budget in the White House leading up to the decision.

The end result was a sound and reasonable proposal that balances the scientific interests of the two institutes, facilitates a strong research portfolio, and assures that the NIH’s limited resources will be used for research over administratively reshuffling. All in all, the decision demonstrated great wisdom by NIH; kept important scientific collaborations intact; and, assured that the addiction and non-addiction research portfolios will remain world-class. CRD was proud to play an active role in the process.

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