Government Relations Update

What are APA’s Main Concerns at the National Institutes of Health?

APA shares concerns about personnel appointments, political attacks on research and other issues with NIH's new director.

By Pat Kobor

In mid-September, Francis Collins, new Director of the National Institutes of Health, invited scientific and health organizations to send him brief lists of each organization’s priority interests at NIH, to help orient him to his new job. Collins promised to share the correspondence with directors of NIH’s institutes and centers.

APA responded on October 2, 2009, with a list of nine important issues. Steven Breckler, APA’s Executive Director for Science, remarked, “It was not an easy exercise to focus on a brief list, because APA has very broad interests at NIH.” The Science Government Relations Office monitors the research portfolios, infrastructure and strategic plans of almost all the 27 institutes and centers, and many of the coordinating offices in the Office of the Director of NIH. The agency’s own figures show that NIH spends approximately ten percent of its budget on behavioral and social sciences research.

Writing for APA, Breckler mentions two important personnel vacancies in positions that are important to psychology: the Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Director of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research. The letter thanks Collins for NIH’s support of OppNet, a new initiative to enhance NIH’s support of basic behavioral and social sciences research, and for the agency’s strong defense of peer reviewed, funded research that has come under political attack. In addition, the letter includes issues to carefully monitor while an NIH governing body investigates whether two NIH institutes—the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – should be merged. Breckler also notes APA’s longstanding advocacy in support of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation of tobacco, which recently became law, and offers assistance and support while NIH and FDA coordinate to support that regulation.

See the letter to Dr. Collins here and let APA know about any additional concerns you have for psychology at NIH ( Science Directorate email).