National Institute of General Medical Sciences Strategic Plan
Strategic planning at NIGMS has always focused on identifying broad research themes and opportunities in the biomedical sciences that are either currently available or are likely to emerge in the coming years. In addition to periodic discussions with the scientific community to identify broad research themes, NIGMS routinely sponsors scientific workshops to focus on particular areas of opportunity and develop plans for specific initiatives. The results of these workshops are documented in reports presented to the National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council, which must give approval for Institute-proposed initiatives.
Proposed new NIGMS research and training programs are made public at the open session of advisory council meetings. Council approval of new initiatives (and major changes to existing initiatives) is called "concept clearance." Concept clearance authorizes NIGMS staff to develop plans, publish funding opportunity announcements in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts, and award grants. During the initiative planning stages that follow concept clearance, NIGMS welcomes comments and suggestions from the community.
The research priorities identified by scientific experts in planning meetings such as those convened by NIGMS influence future research activities in several ways. The reports of these meetings are widely disseminated among the community of biomedical scientists who are keenly aware of and attentive to emerging opportunities and the stated priorities of funding agencies. The mere communication of these research opportunities can be a major influence on the direction of investigator-initiated research, as scientists seek to develop successful proposals for research funding.
These stated priorities also influence the Institute's grant funding decisions. While the results of peer review are always a major consideration in the funding of research proposals, the peer review score is not the only factor considered when Institute staff and advisory council members recommend specific grant applications for funding. Among the other factors taken into account is scientific program need. Meritorious proposals, but with somewhat poorer peer review scores, may still be funded if they are designated as being of high program priority. Investigators who have not received prior NIH funding are also given special consideration.
Discussion among scientific experts can also identify areas of research in which a more active role of the Institute is required to stimulate the submission of research proposals. In some cases, NIGMS issues a program announcement or request for applications when needed to extend or enhance the Institute's research portfolio.