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Development and Comment Process for the NIMH Strategic Plan for Research

This National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Strategic Plan for Research is an update of the 2008 NIMH Strategic Plan, retaining core elements of the earlier Plan and revising as well as adding sections in response to the many changes in the field over the past 6 years.

We began with updating the Institute’s overarching Strategic Objectives; this included identifying knowledge gaps and opportunities for research advancement. The four Objectives are broad goals that capture the diversity of topics the Institute must focus on to achieve its mission. The Objectives successively build in scale from basic neuroscience and behavioral science to research on mental health services. These four Strategic Objectives are:

  1. Define the mechanisms of complex behaviors.
  2. Chart mental illness trajectories to determine when, where, and how to intervene.
  3. Strive for prevention and cures.
  4. Strengthen the public health impact of NIMH-supported research.

We know that the specifics in this Plan may soon be obsolete as science has a way of taking us to places we could never predict. But the process of developing a plan with a diverse community of stakeholders has been valuable and will, we hope, be sustained by a shared commitment to progress even when the specific aims or strategies shift in response to the latest discoveries. Woodrow Wilson famously said, “I not only use all the brains I have, but all I can borrow.” In that spirit, this final Plan was the product of many authors.

An early draft Plan was reviewed by the National Advisory Mental Health Council, which made several substantive suggestions. A revised draft was reviewed and discussed by the NIMH Alliance for Research Progress, a gathering of the major foundations and mental health research advocacy groups. To reach out to the scientific community and professional societies as well as the general public, a further revised draft Plan was published for public comment (comments could be submitted via email or postal address) through an announcement on the NIMH website and a Federal Register Notice from November 12, 2014, to December 11, 2014. In total, the Institute received nearly 600 comments from individuals, groups, and organizations. After numerous edits to address these comments, the penultimate draft was reviewed and discussed by the National Advisory Mental Health Council before finalizing the Plan.

We would like to thank everyone who took the time to review and provide feedback on the draft NIMH Strategic Plan for Research. We look forward to your continued involvement as we strive toward research that will result in the NIMH goals of prevention, recovery, and cure.