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Strategic Research Priorities Overview

The NIMH Strategic Plan for Research provides a framework to accelerate the pace of scientific progress by generating research that will have the greatest public health impact and continue to fuel the transformation of mental health care. The four Objectives of the Plan describe the continuum of mental health research, ranging from understanding basic pathophysiology, to defining the trajectories of mental illnesses, to developing innovative treatment and prevention strategies, to ensuring public health impact.

NIMH has highlighted several cross-cutting themes in the Strategic Plan which investigators are strongly encouraged to consider in proposed studies, including the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) Project, the BRAIN Initiative , and the Institute’s experimental medicine approach, in which ‘targets’ refer to hypothesized mechanisms of action and their ability to modify disease, behavior, or functional outcomes, and in which the underlying assumption is that modification of the target will result in improvement of symptoms, behavior, or functional outcomes. Other cross-cutting themes include the role of the environment, preemption through early intervention, the consideration of sex differences as biological variables, mental health disparities, and the importance of maintaining a global perspective to mental health care.

NIMH strongly encourages investigators to use a standard set of common data elements, when available, to capture phenotypic and genomic data. In addition, NIMH expects investigators to share data and biospecimens through the appropriate databases and repositories, including, but not limited to: the National Database for Autism Research  (NDAR); the National Database for Clinical Trials Related to Mental Illness  (NDCT); the RDoC Database  (RDoCdb); the NIMH Repository and Genomics Resource  (NRGR); and, the NIH Database of Genotypes and Phenotypes  (dbGAP).

For the Institute to pursue its mission of transforming the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses most effectively, we request that all new and competing applications be targeted to the research priority areas within the four Objectives of the Strategic Plan. We invite the scientific community to apply for funding in these priority areas using the NIH Parent Announcements for Investigator-Initiated Applications  NIMH-Sponsored Program Announcements and NIMH-Participating Program Announcements; and, NIMH-Sponsored Requests for Applications and NIMH-Participating Requests for Applications. By using the Plan to guide funding decisions, we hope to accelerate the translation of research findings into public health impact.

NIMH is also committed to supporting research that will address the public health challenge presented by HIV/AIDS. The Institute’s HIV/AIDS program will continue to be guided by the Trans-NIH Plan for HIV-Related Research  coordinated by the NIH Office of AIDS Research .

Strategic Research Priorities are identified for each of the four Strategic Objectives outlined in the NIMH Strategic Plan for Research:

These Research Priorities are further guided by workgroup reports of the National Advisory Mental Health Council and the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee Strategic Plan for Autism Spectrum Disorder Research .

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