BOX ES-1Suggested Criteria for Initiation of Center Programs

Center program may be the right mechanism if…Another mechanism is more appropriate if…
Both Center Infrastructure (Core-Type) and Research Center Programs Should Meet the Following Criteria.
Importance of the problem: Is the area of research important enough to warrant a concentration of resources?The area of research has been declared a high priority by the institute in its planning process.The area of research is a lower priority for the institute.
Need for core resources: Do shared resources in this area provide economies of scale?The area of research relies heavily on specialized resources not provided in normal university services but difficult to include in research project or program project (i.e., R01 or P01) budgets.The area of research can proceed with standard university services, or individual investigators can access the services cost-effectively.
Center Infrastructure (Core-Type) Programs Should Meet the Following Additional Criteria.
Concentrations of projects: Do enough investigators at one university or in close proximity already have funded projects in this area?The proposed program or award can justify in detail that there are enough users for the shared services.The number of documented potential users is well below the capacity of the proposed shared resources.
Research Center Programs Should Meet the Following Additional Criteria.
Sufficient number of investigators: Are there enough people working in the field to support the level of effort proposed?There are, or potentially are, plenty of strong investigators in the area, so that there will be real competition for the center awards.There are few investigators, or little potential for more investigators working in development with noncenter grants.
Need for strategic focus: Does this research area need some coordination among projects to build toward or accelerate important findings?Scattered findings from a number of research groups are leaving critical gaps in the knowledge base. These groups need to articulate a larger-scale, more coordinated research program to make or accelerate progress.Individual grants or P01s are already moving the field forward rapidly based on shared understanding of the critical methods and problems.
Need for interdisciplinary interaction: Would the research problem benefit from an interdisciplinary approach that is not happening now?Current grant-supported research is largely single-discipline, and credible, independent advisors recommend an interdisciplinary approach.Current R01 and P01 research is already interdisciplinary.
Need to identify research problems with translational potential: Does the clinical community perceive that their problems are not being addressed?The clinical or other practice community can provide a significant body of questions that research could address to help them solve problems but is not currently producing. The list of questions should be articulated, and the match against existing knowledge should be documented with a literature search.The clinical or other practice community is already absorbing a high level of research knowledge and has significant influence on the research agenda of basic research related to the problem.
Need to stimulate translational activities: Does the basic science community perceive that their findings are not being taken up?There is a large body of knowledge that is not being translated into clinical or public health practice. The program should be able to quantify the size of that body of knowledge with publications.Basic research related to the problem is already being fully utilized in clinical research, drug development, clinical practice, or public health.
Need to provide distinctive training environmentsResearchers trained in existing modes in the field are being prepared too narrowly to meet the challenges of problemsolving in this area, or are missing critical skills.Existing training is giving Ph.D.s and physicians the key skills and knowledge they need for their career paths.

From: Executive Summary

Cover of NIH Extramural Center Programs
NIH Extramural Center Programs: Criteria for Initiation and Evaluation.
Institute of Medicine (US) Committee for Assessment of NIH Centers of Excellence Programs; Manning FJ, McGeary M, Estabrook R, editors.
Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2004.
Copyright © 2004, National Academy of Sciences.

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