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Director’s Update: Frequently Asked Questions about Funding Basic Research at the NIMH

1. Is NIMH still supporting basic sciences?

The NIMH remains committed to a comprehensive approach to research. This means funding basic, translational, and services research.

2. Is the NIMH still interested in basic behavioral research?

Yes. The methods, skills, and principles of behavioral science provide fundamental knowledge about mental and social processes, how and why certain behaviors occur in specific situations, and the tools by which behavior can be accurately measured, shaped and changed. NIMH has an extraordinary record of achievement in this area.

3. How will NIMH evaluate new applications submitted for funding, especially those proposing basic behavioral research?

Three key factors are being used to evaluate new application submitted for funding: relevance to the mission, traction for making rapid progress, and innovation.

4. Some areas of basic science research are far removed from rapid application to etiology, diagnosis, or interventions, so how will these criteria be applied?

We are looking for basic research that (a) links behavior, brain, and experience and (b) is informed by and, in turn, informs our understanding of etiology, our need for diagnostics, and our quest for new interventions to prevent or treat mental and behavioral disorders.

5. How close does the connection to mental illness have to be, and how does NIMH determine what is relevant?

Successful applications must describe the connection of their effort to the fulfillment of the NIMH mission even if that fulfillment will be in the distant future. To get a better sense of what specific application might be relevant talk to program staff at NIMH.

6. Does every basic science grant have to focus on a specific disorder or include a clinical population? What about including neural or biological levels of explanation?

Every basic science grant does not have to focus on a specific disorder, nor include clinical populations, nor have a disorder named in its title, nor include measures of both brain and behavior. We at NIMH want to avoid constrained science. However, we are placing higher priority on basic research, including behavioral research that is informed by or informs biology or seeks to translate to solving mental health problems.

7. Is the NIMH still interested in studies of normal development or aging?

Yes. NIMH is interested in basic research on developmental and aging processes that have compelling rationale and relevance to understanding the etiology, treatment, or prevention of mental illness. The field is too broad for NIMH to provide meaningful support across all areas, so NIMH works in concert with other Institutes (e.g., NICHD, NIA, NINDS) to have an appropriate and complementary focus.