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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

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Serving as an Efficient and Effective Steward of Public Resources

Scientific Stewardship

Setting Research Priorities

At the agency level, NIH sets research priorities by managing a dynamic balance among existing and emerging public health needs, scientific opportunities, budgetary considerations, and the range of science in its portfolio. At the institute level, priorities are outlined within the NIMH Strategic Plan for Research. At NIMH, a balanced portfolio starts with excellent science that includes diverse subject matter (basic, translational, and applied sciences), diverse timeframes (research with potential impact in the short-, medium-, and long-terms), diverse study populations, and a diverse workforce. NIMH research priorities are also informed by strategic planning. Strategic planning at NIMH is comprehensive, responsive, and adaptive to the often serendipitous nature of scientific progress. Planning also includes input from a variety of interested parties, including NIMH leadership and staff, the National Advisory Mental Health Council and its workgroups, as well as federal and private partners, both domestic and global.

NIMH also sets priorities in accordance with NIH-wide strategic plans and research plans of partnering organizations. Such plans include the NIH-Wide Strategic Plan , the NIH-Wide Strategic Plan for Research on the Health of Women , the NIH Minority Health and Health Disparities Strategic Plan , the NIH Strategic Plan for Tribal Health Research , the Office of Disease Prevention Strategic Plan , the NIH Strategic Plan for Data Science , and the NIH-Wide Strategic Plan for COVID-19 Research , among others. NIMH also has a substantial investment in supporting HIV research; this investment is guided by the NIH Strategic Plan for HIV and HIV-Related Research , coordinated through the NIH Office of AIDS Research , the National HIV/AIDS Strategy , and the HHS Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative . Additionally, NIMH has contributed to the creation of several strategic plans and reports that include more detail on specific topics, which also inform NIMH priorities. These documents include but are not limited to: the White House Report on Mental Health Research Priorities ; the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) Strategic Plan for Autism Research, Services, and Policy ; the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee Report to Congress ; the Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health  Initiative; A Prioritized Research Agenda for Suicide Prevention: An Action Plan to Save Lives , a collaboration with the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention; and, the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN) Initiative  strategic plan, BRAIN 2025: A Scientific Vision , and Working Group reports and plans , including the BRAIN Initiative 2.0: From Cells to Circuits, Toward Cures  and the BRAIN Initiative and Neuroethics: Enabling and Enhancing Neuroscience Advances for Society .

Monitoring and Measuring Programs

NIMH continuously reviews and evaluates its scientific research and training programs to ensure responsible management of public funds and measure progress toward accomplishing our mission. For example, NIMH regularly conducts portfolio analyses to identify research gaps and opportunities. NIMH’s monitoring and evaluation efforts continue to evolve to keep pace with changing methods to analyze information and new requirements mandated by NIH, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Congress. Program monitoring and evaluation informs the development, implementation, and reporting of NIMH efforts and accomplishments.

Emphasizing Rigor and Reproducibility

Funding excellent science is essential to the research enterprise. As such, NIMH emphasizes the importance of both rigor and reproducibility . Research studies must have a sufficiently rigorous design and be sufficiently powered, such that they can be replicated. This means that sample sizes within studies are appropriate so they are adequately powered for meaningful effect sizes; the statistical analysis plans included in grant applications contain sufficient information for reviewers to properly evaluate them; there exists appropriate expertise in review sections and program staff to properly assess statistical methodologies; and, that there is sharing of data, software, tools, and other resources that can enable third-party confirmation and mega-analyses which consolidate data from multiple studies.

Fostering Resource and Data Sharing

NIMH encourages and supports open science  by investing in resources and programs to enable Findable, Assessable, Interoperable and Reusable (FAIR) data to foster the reuse of NIMH-funded data that is critical for advancing equitable research. Access to biospecimens and data sharing efficiently expands research capacity and maximizes NIMH’s investments by promoting hypothesis generation, increasing the potential for testing novel questions by integrating and harmonizing existing data, and encouraging reproducibility. NIMH continues to support programs that provide access to biospecimens, such as the NIH NeuroBioBank , a national resource for investigators utilizing human post-mortem brain tissue and related biospecimens. Existing NIMH investments in the NIMH Data Archive  and other data archives have made it easier for NIMH applicants to meet NIH expectations for a Data Management and Sharing Plan (NIH Data Management and Sharing policy ). NIMH also strongly encourages investigators to use common data elements, such as those available in the PhenX Toolkit , and requires the use of a small set of common data elements for NIMH-funded research on mental health  and HIV . Finally, NIMH encourages the sharing of software, tools, and other resources in alignment with the FAIR Principles for Research Software (FAIR4RS Principles) to improve the transparency and reproducibility of NIH-supported data.

Enhancing Oversight and Monitoring of Clinical Trials

NIMH is committed to responsible stewardship, accountability, oversight, and transparency of clinical trials . NIMH continues to enhance oversight and monitoring of clinical trials  to strengthen clinical research, ensure compliance, uphold inclusion standards, and safeguard research participants and their data. For example, to ensure studies are meeting their recruitment goals, NIMH expanded the Policy for the Recruitment of Participants in Clinical Research to apply to all clinical trials, regardless of size. Furthermore, the NIH Inclusion Policy and Guidelines  strengthen the commitment to clinical trials being conducted through a health equity lens and that diverse participants are included in clinical trials to better ensure evidence can be generalized back to communities.

Creating and Strengthening Partnerships

Collaborations and partnerships across the research pipeline are vital components of NIMH efforts to achieve its public health mission. NIMH collaborates with other NIH institutes and centers, with other agencies within HHS (e.g., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) , the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) , the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) , the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) , the Indian Health Service (IHS) , the Administration for Community Living (ACL) , the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) , the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) ), and other federal agencies (e.g., the Department of Defense (DoD) , the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) , and the Department of Energy (DOE) ). NIMH also works domestically and internationally with public, private, non-profit, and research partners, including those in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, and other international mental health research funders. To broaden the dissemination and impact of research, NIMH works with interested parties—policymakers, advocacy groups, providers, and people with lived experience, including family members—who are also committed to the prevention, treatment, recovery, and cure of mental illnesses. Collaboration, communication, and coordination occur at various stages of research and continue to improve dissemination and implementation of evidence-based strategies, practices, and programs.

Management and Accountability

Cultivating a Respectful and Inclusive Workplace at NIMH

In alignment with the NIH-Wide Strategic Plan for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) , NIMH is committed to creating and maintaining a work environment that promotes civility and respectful behavior and does not tolerate harassment or discrimination. The contributions of each and every member of the NIMH community are vital to transform the understanding, prevention, and treatment of mental illnesses. An environment where all people feel welcome, respected, valued, and heard is essential for individuals to contribute to their fullest potential. Over the past few years, NIMH completed an in-depth, third-party assessment of its internal workforce and has been actively engaging with staff to improve processes, resources, communication, and accountability with the ultimate goal of enhancing workplace culture and climate. Further, NIMH is involved in NIH-wide efforts, such as the NIH UNITE  initiative, to identify and take actions to address structural racism and other structural inequities within NIH and across the biomedical research community.

Promoting Innovation

The fields of science and technology are constantly evolving. Beyond scientific innovation, NIMH also embraces innovative administrative management practices to ensure the institute can adapt rapidly to changing needs and requirements while managing existing resources in a complex environment. In addition, NIMH is committed to encouraging a diverse research and scientific support workforce equipped with the knowledge and skills required to execute NIMH’s mission.

Enhancing Risk Management

NIMH proactively identifies and mitigates internal and external risks to support the institute's mission. Working with HHS and NIH leadership, NIMH continues to improve procedures to develop standardized, automated, metric-oriented, and consistent business practices to mitigate risk. NIMH will leverage the values of collaboration, transparency, and accountability throughout our functional areas to proactively adapt risk-management mitigation procedures when confronted with emerging issues.

Improving Administrative Processes

NIMH is committed to innovative and agile process improvement and aims to optimize, automate, and streamline business processes to ensure quality and consistency. As an example, NIMH regularly conducts internal workflow analyses to identify opportunities to reduce administrative burden. NIMH strives to implement business process management initiatives to maintain accountability and support our staff. NIMH will also continue to support efforts aimed at leveraging data to manage the needs of the institute and drive decision-making processes.

Promoting Workforce Development and Diversity

NIMH takes an active role in supporting and encouraging the development of an inclusive, diverse, and well-trained research workforce. In addition, to preserve institutional knowledge, NIMH employs innovative approaches to encourage career development, retain expertise, and reward outstanding performance while pursuing equity and inclusion.