Scientific Stewardship

NICHD values its role as a partner in the public trust. The institute strives to support the scientific workforce and the development of research resources and infrastructure that help investigators advance fundamental knowledge. Over the next five years, NICHD will continue its commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion, strengthening scientific infrastructure, providing transparency on performance, and ensuring public accountability.

Promoting an Inclusive Scientific Workforce That Fosters Research Training

NICHD remains committed to the development and advancement of early-stage investigators in a broad array of disciplines relevant to the institute’s scientific and public health priorities. Training on new methods and technologies will be key to this effort. Through various programs and initiatives, NICHD will continue to cultivate investigators at critical stages of their research careers; a primary focus will be an inclusive workforce with an emphasis on the recruitment and retention of those who are underrepresented in the biomedical, biobehavioral, and clinical sciences. NICHD’s goal to promote a diverse scientific workforce will require the collective efforts of research and training experts across the institute, with a clear emphasis on mentoring and career transitions throughout the training pipeline. NICHD will strengthen its systemic approach to ensure inclusion, diversity, and support of all trainees and awardees through outreach, recruitment, training, and career development.

Facilitating Data Sharing and Access to Biospecimens

Data sharing and access to biospecimens efficiently expands research capacity and maximizes NICHD’s investments by promoting hypothesis generation, increasing the potential for secondary analyses, and encouraging reproducibility. NICHD will continue to support the utility and usability of data collected or created with NICHD funding, with a commitment to safeguarding human participants’ privacy and confidentiality. In alignment with the overall NIH Strategic Plan, enhancing the research community’s access to data and biospecimens is expected and will be a key part of future investments in shared resources.

Partnering to Enhance Science

Partnerships provide the opportunity to enhance existing resources, recruit the expertise and skills needed to benefit science, expand projects, leverage existing infrastructure, and improve recruitment and retention of participants in clinical research. NICHD will augment and strengthen its science by entering into a range of agreements with several public and private entities, including not-for-profits, professional societies, and foundations. Continued leadership of trans-NIH committees, task forces, and consortia will also allow the institute to advance its strategic mission and priorities through collaboration with other NIH institutes, centers, and offices. In addition, partnerships with other federal agencies will allow NICHD to expand its efforts to provide the evidence base for future policies and programs that benefit its stakeholder communities.

Setting Research Priorities

NICHD will continue to set research priorities by balancing scientific opportunities and public health needs and incorporating the specific populations and areas of science reflected in our mission. This strategic plan will help guide these priorities, but the institute will remain flexible to respond to new challenges and/or opportunities. For extramural research, NICHD will continue to rely on peer review, programmatic review from experts and public stakeholders on our advisory councils, and the input of our staff to identify and support meritorious projects and programs. NICHD’s advisory bodies will continue to inform the institute’s priorities, providing input on both intramural and extramural research programs.

Aligning Resources to Support Science

As NICHD implements its strategic plan, there is a need to ensure that its budget can advance strategic objectives while balancing the need to fund science that enhances the breadth of its interests. NICHD will explore a variety of mechanisms and approaches to achieve this goal. As approaches change, NICHD will measure the performance of its programs and identify needed adjustments to advance science. Maintaining flexibility of funding for potential responses to public health emergencies or emerging science will be a component of this objective.

Improving Clinical Trial Oversight and Management

NIH is committed to responsible stewardship, accountability, oversight, and transparency of clinical trials supported by the agency. NICHD will continue efforts in its extramural and intramural research programs to ensure appropriate funding mechanisms and infrastructure, relevant inclusion criteria, milestone planning and progress review, ongoing risk management, and public sharing of clinical trials data. NICHD will also assess the need for new or revised policies to strengthen clinical trials, ensure compliance, and safeguard research participants and their data. Efforts to enhance the rigor and reproducibility of clinical trials are a critical step toward this strategic objective.

Monitoring and Evaluating Programs

NICHD regularly reviews and rigorously evaluates its scientific research and training programs to ensure effectiveness and transparent stewardship of research investments. The institute will enhance its ability to evaluate and track the activities of complex scientific research and training programs; pursue new methods to analyze information on stakeholder participation and perspectives; gather wide-ranging data on the impact of scientific, organizational, and community collaborations; and develop objective assessments of scientific results and public health effects. Program monitoring and evaluation will inform the development, implementation, and reporting of NICHD efforts and accomplishments.

Facilitating Transparency and Communication

NICHD communications activities help convey the goals, results, and health impact of taxpayer-funded research, reinforcing to the public and other audiences the benefits of their continued investment. NICHD will continue to seek new ways to reach its many audiences through an array of vehicles, including interactive live streaming, visual storytelling, media pitching, social media campaigns, podcasts, and other approaches. The institute will also join in NIH-level efforts to streamline Freedom of Information Act processes and improve fulfillment of document requests. NICHD’s legislative and public policy efforts include engagement with and outreach to its many stakeholders about the institute’s wide range of research activities. The institute will convey the significance and value of the research it conducts and supports so that stakeholders and policy makers understand how NICHD’s funds are being used to improve public health, thus allowing new legislation and policy to better reflect and assist in NICHD’s efforts.

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