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Policy Corner: NIH Advisory Committee Finalizes Recommendations on Assessing the Value of Biomedical Research

from By Yvette Seger, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

On December 18, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB) met via teleconference to finalize its report on assessing the value of biomedical research (VOBR) funded by NIH. Charged by NIH Director Francis Collins in 2012 “to identify appropriate parameters and approaches for assessing and communicating VOBR,” SMRB assembled a Working Group to gather information and develop recommendations.

After over a year of extensive information gathering and input from the Review Board, the Working Group presented its six final recommendations to (1) invest in strengthening NIH’s data infrastructure and a funding mechanism to support VOBR assessment projects; (2) conduct assessments that demonstrate connections between the knowledge generated from basic and clinical knowledge and its impact along differing translational pathways; (3) conduct assessments that accurately attribute outcomes and allow sufficient time for discovery to be applied; (4) engage a wide range of stakeholders for an effective assessment; (5) establish a trans-NIH Committee charged with developing a strategy to support assessment activities and determining a process for selecting study topics; and (6) employ diverse dissemination strategies for assessment results to enhance awareness and understanding of the scientific research process among broad audiences.

The Working Group reiterated that, due to the complexity of establishing the value of NIH research, there is no single, “one-size fits all” approach that can be used to effectively measure outcomes. Instead, a multi-pronged, qualitative method will be essential. Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Executive Policy Director, Howard Garrison, PhD, who joined the teleconference as a representative of the Federation, concurred with the Working Group’s approach and commended SMRB for its time and effort put into the report. He also added a note of caution on the over reliance on economic studies as an assessment tool. “The measurement is difficult, and all federal spending has economic impact,” Dr. Garrison said. “What NIH has is something that no one else has. The value of the research that it produces leads to greater understanding and improved health. And at that point we are unchallenged.”

SMRB members voted on the call to accept the report with a few minor modifications. A final report is expected in early 2014.

Click here to access the “Draft Report on Approaches to Assess the Value of Biomedical Research Supported by the NIH.”

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