NIH Releases Strategic Five-Year Plan

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The National Institutes of Health released a strategic plan covering the fiscal years 2016-2020.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a strategic plan on Dec. 16, 2016 for the fiscal years 2016–2020. The 48-page plan details the agency’s four objectives for advancing scientific discoveries and human health.

Before constructing the plan, the agency canvassed stakeholders and received more than 450 responses. The NIH also held multiple interactive webinars and 21 advisory counsels to solicit feedback. After collecting feedback, the NIH identified four interdependent objectives they plan to focus on for the next five years.

The first objective focuses on accelerating biomedical research. The NIH plans to expand biomedical research through fundamental science, drug discovery, health promotion, and disease prevention. The agency plans on funding more basic biological research, which “generates knowledge of how living systems work at the molecular, cellular, and organismal level,”

The NIH hopes this increase in fundamental science knowledge will aid in the development of new treatments and cures. They also plan on enhancing research into precision medicine (i.e., approaches for treating and preventing disease that take into account genes, lifestyle, and environment).

Another primary goal of the NIH is to “enhance the transparency of its decision process by making public a standard metric for funding each year.” The agency said they plan to become more forthcoming with information about the scientific review process for grants. They will explore other grant programs and funding methods that may be more effective.


In addition to becoming more transparent with funding, the agency said they will work with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to create better tools for the analysis of disease burden on human health. This data will allow them to align their research priorities with public health needs, the NIH said in the plan. The agency said they will also prioritize disease eradication, and funding for rare diseases and orphan drug discovery.

The third objective the organization cites in the strategic plan is enhancing scientific stewardship by strengthening the scientific workforce. These methods include providing training programs for scientists and consistently evaluating the effectiveness of these programs.

The NIH says they will strive to enhance workplace diversity. The current biomedical workforce does not reflect the diversity of the nation in relation to race, ethnicity, sex, gender, socioeconomic status, geographic location, and disability status. This workplace enhancement also focuses on increasing NIH partnerships in the public and private sector.  These partnerships include pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, and non-profit organizations.

The final goal the NIH discusses in the plan is to improve methods for managing outcomes of research and grants. The agency says they will introduce procedures to better evaluate the success of grants and scientific methodology. The ultimate goal, they say, is to increase the organization’s effectiveness nationwide.

Source: NIH