Cover of NIH Extramural Center Programs

NIH Extramural Center Programs

Criteria for Initiation and Evaluation

Editors: Frederick J Manning, Michael McGeary, and Ronald Estabrook. .

Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); .
ISBN-10: 0-309-09152-7
Copyright © 2004, National Academy of Sciences.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) promotes advances in biomedical research primarily by supporting extramural research at colleges and universities and other nonprofit research institutions. Center awards are one mechanism of extramural support, constituting approximately 9 percent of NIH's budget. Centers are very diverse in structure and purpose, and definitions of centers and metrics for measuring their productivity are not uniformly applied across institutes, making it difficult to evaluate their effectiveness. The committee finds, however, that extramural centers offer an attractive mechanism for supporting research that benefits from a multidisciplinary, team-based approach, especially research aimed at understanding complex biomedical systems, and for translating basic scientific discoveries into useful clinical applications. The committee makes recommendations to improve the classification and tracking of center programs, clarify and improve the decision process and criteria for initiating center programs, resolve the occasional disagreements over the appropriateness of centers, and evaluate the performance of center programs more regularly and systematically. The report concludes by noting that recent changes in the nature of biomedical research, which involve opportunities to understand complex biological systems through collaborations among multiple investigators in different fields and different institutions and by assembling large-scale research infrastructures and databases, will probably result in the expanded use of centers and other mechanisms that support collaborative research by interdisciplinary teams.