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Strategic Research Priorities Overview

Updated: January 2019

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 breadth of mental health research that NIMH supports, ranging from understanding pathophysiology, to defining the trajectories of mental illnesses, to developing and testing new treatments and prevention strategies, to ensuring public health impact. To transform mental health care, NIMH recognizes that this continuum is bidirectional, and strives for innovation within each objective.

NIMH highlights several cross-cutting themes in the Strategic Plan which investigators are strongly encouraged to consider in proposed studies, including rigor and reproducibility (to include sufficient consideration of power in study design) and sex as a biological variable. Investigators are encouraged to consider prevention through early intervention, mental health disparities, and the importance of maintaining a global perspective on mental health in any of the Priority areas. As new tools emerge from the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, NIMH expects these to be applied to advance understanding of the development, maintenance, and recovery from mental illness.

NIMH also encourages work using computational approaches that may provide novel ways to understand relationships among data in complex, integrative datasets to further our understanding of the underlying pathophysiology of our diseases.

NIMH strongly encourages investigators to use a standard set of common data elements, when available, to capture phenotypic and genomic data including, but not limited to: the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement System Information (PROMIS); the NIH Toolbox; the Phenotype and Exposures (PhenX) Toolkit; the Grid Enabled Measures Database (GEM); and, the Science of Behavior Change Measures Repository. In addition, NIMH expects investigators to share data and biospecimens through the appropriate databases and repositories, including, but not limited to: the NIMH Data Archive, which houses the National Database for Autism Research (NDAR), the National Database for Clinical Trials Related to Mental Illness (NDCT), the RDoC Database (RDoCdb), and the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (ABCD); 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 guided by workgroup reports including those from: the National Advisory Mental Health Council, such as the Behavioral Assessment Methods for RDoC Constructs Council Report; Opportunities and Challenges of Developing Information Technologies on Behavioral and Social Science Clinical Research, and the National Advisory Mental Health Council Workgroup on Genomics; the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee Strategic Plan for Autism Spectrum Disorder Research; the National Research Action Plan; the Prioritized Research Agenda for Suicide Prevention; and, the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative 2025 Report.

Questions? Please contact us.