NICHD vision process statement announced

Behavior and cognition were combined into one scientific theme and an additional theme of population dynamics was added

On Thursday, September 22, the National Advisory Child Health and Human Development Council met to provide their own input on Director Alan Guttmacher’s Vision Process Statement (PDF, 1.1MB). 

The majority of the Council meeting was spent reviewing the main recommendations that emerged from NICHD’s Vision Process. Acknowledging the work of all of the more than 700 scientists, NIH staff and organizations that have participated in the Vision Process, Guttmacher was encouraged by the “creative and ambitious discussions that have been had” since he initiated the process in 2010. Following nine workshops in the spring and a June meeting of additional stakeholders from the broader external scientific community, Guttmacher himself presented the final recommendations to the NICHD Council across eight areas, rather than the original nine. Notably, behavior and cognition were combined into one scientific theme and an additional theme of population dynamics was added.  The other themes are: reproduction; pregnancy; developmental biology; early origins of health, disease, growth, and development; plasticity and rehabilitation; and the conduct of science. The bold ideas across the themes left a few Council members “uninspired,” though perhaps this was inevitable given the time constraints for discussing each section. As an example, the “bold ideas” for the next decade from the behavior and cognition section included the goals to:  

  • Fully understand the neurological basis for five behavioral or cognitive disorders 

  • Identify 5,000 generic variants that influence specific behaviors or cognitive traits 

  • Identify the causes of autism spectrum disorders, and use that knowledge to develop effective intervention 

  • Explore the value to the individual, family, and society of differing abilities

Guttmacher also reminded Council members that while the goal of the Vision Process is to advance the science, the Vision Statement will not include every disease, condition or area of science the institute will pursue in the next ten years.  As most of the institute’s research is still investigator-initiated, Guttmacher made clear that the Vision Statement “will inform what we do, but will not dictate what we fund.”

In his Director’s Report (PDF, 1.1MB), Guttmacher also announced the members of the NIH Blue Ribbon Panel that will be reviewing the NIH rehabilitation research portfolio and making recommendations to NIH on improving the management of rehabilitation research, which is spread across several NIH Institutes and Centers. The Panel’s recommendations are expected to be shared at the June 2012 Council meeting.