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Home > Institutes, Centers & Offices > Office of the Director > Freedom Of Information Act Office > Selected NIH Institute and Center Director's Meeting Minutes

IC Directors' Meeting Highlights

May 22, 2007

To: IC Directors
From: Kerry Brink, Assistant to the Deputy Director, NIH
Subject: IC Directors' Meeting Highlights — April 12, 2007

Discussion Items

I. Peer Review Redux

High-quality peer review is the cornerstone of the NIH and its scientific productivity. Dr. Tabak explained that the challenge to maintain quality peer review and the need for its full assessment were identified at the September 2006 Leadership Forum, by the Peer Review Brainstorming Group, and at the February 2007 IC Directors’ Peer Review Retreat. The following two working groups (with their focuses) are being established to address peer review and to work in concert with the Center for Scientific Review’s (CSR) leading implementation of improving and streamlining the peer review process:

NIH Steering Committee Ad Hoc Working Group on Peer Review:
  • Solicit and gather peer review input (evaluate past experiments, successes and failures) from the NIH community and report to the NIH Steering Committee;
  • Plan, implement and evaluate peer review pilots focusing on key issues raised by internal and external communities;
  • To be co-chaired by Dr. Tabak and Dr. Berg, members are to be nominated by IC Directors.
Advisory Committee of the Director (ACD) Working Group on Peer Review:
  • Hold a series of consultative regional meetings, serving as both outreach and input with the external scientific community, as well as, hold a meeting for advocacy groups;
  • Report findings and provide recommendations on peer review related issues at the December 2007 ACD meeting;
  • To be co-chaired by Dr. Tabak and an ACD Member.

The working groups will participate in a joint Peer Review Retreat and generate a white paper to synthesize and prioritize overall efforts, and provide advice and recommendations on the development of new peer review policies at the NIH. An integrated communication plan and comprehensive policy analysis will be synchronized with current CSR peer review pilots and other implementations already in progress.

IC Directors emphasized that the goal is not intended to recast the review process, or to address issues pertaining to the structure of the two-level scientific peer review system (established in statute) but to thoroughly analyze and propose new peer review policies at the NIH, including possible ways to integrate a broader understanding of the scientific context into the review process. IC Directors encouraged CSR’s current open house pilot program to be incorporated into the analysis.

II. Scientific Presentation — Behavior Bridges Biology and Society: Toward Systems Integration

In his presentation, Dr. Abrams, Director of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR), emphasized that health is a continuum between biological, behavioral and social factors. In a systems-thinking approach to health, and to identify the ways in which individual and contextual factors interact to determine health status, OBSSR is stimulating research to combine multiple levels of analysis from cells to behavior to society. Dr. Abrams explained a vertical model over the lifespan from the micro biological level (genomic, molecular, cellular, and organ), to the macro social level (individual, family and social, community and work, state, national, global and geopolitical). Examples of vertical integration or connection between levels include:

  • Influence of life stress on depression (including early childhood experience);
  • Stress influences on cancer biology;
  • The increasing importance of epigenetics and measured gene-environment interaction;
  • For many common, complex diseases the influence of genetics may be dependent on context.

The integrative vertical model, connecting biomedical causes of disease with social-ecological-environmental causes of disease, Dr. Abrams highlighted many persistent and emerging public health challenges:

  • Tobacco use, addictions, abuse;
  • Disparities, health care inequality and cost;
  • Toxic built environments;
  • Chronic disease management;
  • High risk communities (eight Americas clusters of risk);
  • Obesity, inactivy, poor diet;
  • Natural and human-made disasters;
  • Aging population — degeneration;
  • Mental illness — stress, depression.

The need to address complex, persistent and emergent challenges to optimal health and well being requires deeper convergence of the biomedical and the socio-ecological paradigms and a move from linear causality to dynamic causal loops. Dr. Abrams emphasized that because of the world’s multi-level complexities and multi-causal loops, research designs, methods and measures should capitalize on advances in computer science, informatics, imaging, knowledge management, networking and communications. Dr. Abrams concluded that behavior is the bridge between biology and society and that there is a person and context to the new vision of personalized, predictive, preemptive (and preventive) and participatory health and health care.

Kerry Brink
cc: OD Staff

This page was last reviewed on May 22, 2007 .

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